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Head to head: Notre Dame vs. Miami (OH)

| Friday, September 29, 2017

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Miami (OH) has an established starting quarterback in Gus Ragland. The RedHawks started last season 0-6, and head coach Chuck Martin turned to Ragland. And Ragland delivered. The redshirt junior led Miami to six straight wins and finished the year with 1,537 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and only one interception. The RedHawks do have mutliple wide receivers Ragland feels comfortable throwing to in Jared Murphy, James Gardner, Luke Mayock and Sam Martin. Each of the four has recorded a game with 65 receiving yards or more, and that’s not to mention running back Alonzo Smith’s 98-yard, two-touchdown performance against Marshall in Week 1.

In 2017, Ragland is averaging 220 yards per game through the air on an offense that has put up 26 points a game on average. In addition, Ragland comes in with eight touchdown passes on the year.

The Irish secondary made a big step versus Michigan State, as sophomore cornerback Julian Love took an interception to the house for a touchdown and junior cornerback Shaun Crawford forced a fumble at the goal line.

Ragland’s numbers indicate Miami may protect the ball better than Michigan State. Ragland has thrown just three interceptions in his 11 starts, so turning Miami over will prove to be a tough task. However, the RedHawks don’t possess the talent outside to threaten the Irish corners on a consistent basis.



Miami (OH) is one of the most balanced offenses Notre Dame will see this year. The RedHawks are averaging 220 passing yards  and 132 rushing yards per game. Redshirt junior Alonzo Smith is listed as the starting back, but redshirt junior backup Kenny Young will see a fair amount of carries, as Young’s 55 rushing yards per game and two rushing touchdowns leads the team this season.

The most encouraging stat for Irish fans is Miami (OH)’s 3.2 yards per carry average despite 41 attempts per game. Miami’s strategy centers around tiring out opposing defensive lines, which plays into Notre Dame’s willingness to rotate out eight or more players throughout the course of a game. The Irish front seven has been stout all season against the run, even keeping Georgia’s star duo of seniors Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in check at under 75 yards each.



Miami is coached by Chuck Martin, who is in his fourth year with the school. Martin is no secret to Notre Dame, having coached in South Bend for four years as a defensive backs coach before switching to the offensive side of the ball and taking the position of offensive coordinator in 2012-13. As offensive coordinator, Martin helped Notre Dame reach the national championship game in 2012.

On the Irish sideline, first-year defensive coordinator Mike Elko is hoping to make Martin’s return to South Bend a bad one. Elko’s squad is coming off of an impressive showing at Michigan State where it tallied three key turnovers. The Notre Dame defense is allowing 18.5 points per game in 2017 and looks like a completely revamped unit from the year before.



RedHawks sophomore kicker Sam Sloman has made five field goals on the year, with his long standing at 42 yards.

The Irish return teams haven’t had a breakout return yet, and junior punt returner Chris Finke seems averse to calling for fair catches when returning punts in crowded areas of the field.



While Ragland has received praise for leading Miami (OH) to a bowl game last year after starting 0-6, first-year Irish starter Brandon Wimbush has received less kind reviews in his first four starts. Wimbush’s critics who were discouraged by his accuracy in the Boston College game have been silenced for now after a 14-of-20 showing against Michigan State that included accurate passes downfield to Equanimeous St. Brown, Chase Claypool and Durham Smythe.

Claypool’s game versus the Spartans is encouraging, as the Irish have been looking for a clear No. 2 option behind St. Brown for Wimbush to go to. Once regarded as one of the deepest positions for Notre Dame coming into the year, the receiving corps has shrunk in the past weeks. Graduate student transfer Freddie Canteen is out for the year with a torn labrum, and Kelly announced he will redshirt sophomore Javon McKinley. The status of sophomore Kevin Stepherson is unknown heading into Saturday, as his supposed suspension (originally reported by WNDU) should be over after four games.

Miami (OH) comes into Saturday allowing under 200 passing yards per game, and six RedHawks defender have recorded an interception in 2017.



The bread and butter of Notre Dame’s offense in 2017 has been the ground game. The Irish tallied 422 rushing yards in the season’s opening match versus Temple and then topped that with a 515-yard performance against Boston College.

Junior Josh Adams leads Notre Dame’s rushing attack, averaging 124 yards per game. Adams leads the team with seven rushing touchdowns with junior Dexter Williams not far behind at four. Wimbush is also a formidable runner in the open field, and he has the second-most rushing yards on the team through four contests. With third-string sophomore back Tony Jones Jr. sitting out of the Michigan State game with an ankle injury, fourth-string running back Deon McIntosh picked up his first career touchdown for the Irish on a nine-yard scamper.

Miami’s run defense has let up 118 yards per game, but expect that average to go up, as Notre Dame will run early and often behind its elite offensive line.



As the cries for Ian Book came in on Twitter during the Boston College game, Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long went to what was working: the run game. After Wimbush’s shaky afternoon passing against the Eagles, Long and Brian Kelly deserve credit for Wimbush’s more-settled showing in East Lansing, Michigan. Wimbush didn’t throw for 300 yards, but he didn’t need to.

After the 38-18 win over the Spartans, Notre Dame’s offense looks well-balanced, with a strong run game and a short screen-game setting up longer passes downfield. How good the Irish offense can be will largely depend on Long, Kelly and quarterback coach Tom Rees’ ability to coach Wimbush through his growing pains.



Notre Dame’s kickoffs looked suspect once again at Michigan State. Freshman Jonathan Doerer has had trouble keeping the ball in-bounds, and junior Justin Yoon doesn’t have the strongest leg in college football.

On field goals, Yoon has largely succeeded this year. Yoon missed two attempts versus Temple, but since then has hit all five of his tries, including a 46-yarder versus Michigan State.


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