Irish fall in blowout to Hurricanes, ending Notre Dame’s playoff hopes
Marek Mazurek | Sunday, November 12, 2017
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — It was supposed to be a top-10 matchup reminiscent of the old Notre Dame-Miami rivalry of the late 1980s.
Catholics vs. Convicts. In South Beach. In primetime. With College GameDay on hand.
But the game — if you want to call it that — was over almost as soon as it started.
On Notre Dame’s third drive of the game, junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush threw an interception, beginning the transfer of the famous Hurricane “Turnover Chain.” Miami (9-0, 6-0 ACC) scored two plays later to give the Hurricanes a 14-0 lead.
On Notre Dame’s sixth drive of the game, down 17-0, Wimbush overthrew another receiver and Miami picked it off again deep in Irish territory.
Right before halftime, down 20-0, sophomore quarterback Ian Book — playing in place of Wimbush — threw a pick-six, sending the Irish (8-2) into the locker room down 27-0.
The Irish were not able to overcome the early deficit, and Miami romped to a 41-8 victory at Hard Rock Stadium.
“They kicked our ass,” Irish graduate student offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey said after the game.
The contest opened with the two teams trading punts. Senior Tyler Newsome’s second punt only made it to the Miami 42-yard line, however, giving the Hurricanes good field position. A 25-yard screen pass to sophomore running back Travis Homer got the Miami offense rolling, setting up a seven-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios.
On Notre Dame’s next possession, Wimbush fired a pass on third down that was too high for junior wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, who tipped it to Hurricanes junior corner Jaquan Johnson for an interception. Miami took the ball back to Notre Dame’s 32-yard line on Wimbush’s first interception since Sept. 16 at Boston College.
With a short field, the Hurricanes took just two plays to reach the endzone, as redshirt-junior quarterback Malik Rosier broke numerous tackles on his way to a 16-yard touchdown rush to put Miami up 14-0.
The Hurricanes backed the Irish up all the way to the goal line on their next drive as well, but Notre Dame held and deflected a third-and-goal pass to hold Miami to a field goal.
Down 17-0, the Irish forced a three-and-out to take the ball back at their own 7-yard line. But Wimbush overthrew his receiver for his second interception of the game. The defense held to keep Miami to a field goal, and Irish head coach Brian Kelly went with sophomore quarterback Ian Book on Notre Dame’s next possession.
Book seemed to ignite the Irish offense temporarily, leading the Irish on a nine-play, 59-yard drive before the half. But he also fell prey to Miami’s opportunistic defense, as freshman cornerback Trajan Brandy jumped a slant pass and scored on the pick-six.
Notre Dame trailed 27-0 at the half, the largest half-time deficit since the 2012 national championship game versus Alabama.
The three interceptions were the most visible signs of Notre Dame’s offensive struggles, but the Irish ground game was lackluster all night as well. Notre Dame managed only 109 rushing yards in the game, and the lack of a consistent ground attack put the Irish in long-yardage situations.
“In its totality, when you’re talking about our run game, it’s a little bit about getting into a good rhythm, and we never really got into a good rhythm,” Kelly said. “We got behind the chains, we were very predictable and they’re really good — let’s give credit where credit is due. We just never really got into the kind of rhythm necessary to sustain [the run game].”
Star junior running back Josh Adams exited the game in the third quarter and did not return, suffering from what Kelly called “a sprained neck.”
If there was any doubt about the outcome of the game at halftime, the Hurricanes quickly snuffed it out.
On its first drive out of the locker room, Miami faced a fourth-and-nine and completed a 28-yard pass to Notre Dame’s 8-yard line. A few plays later, freshman running back DeeJay Dallas took a four-yard end-around for the touchdown to give Miami a 34-0 cushion.
“It was pretty apparent to me that that drive was pretty much a back-breaker,” Kelly said.
The Irish managed to avoid the shutout, as Wimbush led the Irish on a 10-play, 80-yard drive at the end of the third quarter, which culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Alize Mack. Wimbush rushed in the two-point conversion attempt to make it 34-8.
Miami would score again off of a turnover. This time, it was a strip-sack by freshman defensive lineman Jonathan Garvin, and the Hurricanes punched it in the endzone to make the final score 41-8.
The normally explosive Irish offense was held in check all night, with only three of Notre Dame’s 13 drives making it past midfield. McGlinchey attributed that to Miami’s speed on the defensive side of the ball.
“I think they were able to just control the game a little bit,” McGlinchey said. “I think they got around on the perimeter very well, better than a lot of teams we’ve played. They contained our offense, and you have to give credit to them. Obviously, we have to play a lot better than what we played tonight. Miami came out ready to make plays, and they made them.”
On the other side of the ball, the Hurricanes rushed for 237 yards, with Travis Homer rushing for 146 of those yards on just 18 carries.
“[Homer]’s a great competitor, great speed, great vision, was really able to make the cuts,” senior Irish linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “And when we didn’t fit right and didn’t execute, he made those cuts and was able to make those plays and get vertical.”
Now sitting at 8-2, Notre Dame has two games remaining on its regular-season slate. The challenge in front of Kelly and the Notre Dame leaders is to refocus without the playoff buzz.
“I don’t think we readjust any goals,” Tranquill said. “Our mission from the start has been to restore the pride and tradition of Notre Dame football. That’s what we’re going to continue to do. This one hurts. It hurts when you’re a competitor and a team smacks you in the mouth like Miami did tonight. There’s a lot of pride in that locker room, a lot of guys who love and care for one another. I expect us to come back next week and punish Navy and play well.”