Something special is going on with this team this season.
Earlier in the day, the Canes officially locked up the Coastal Division with Virginia’s loss to Louisville, but it was clear Miami had loftier goals on their mind tonight.
Everyone doubted this team from the very start. Too many close games against inferior opponents, they said. Notre Dame’s offensive line, they said. Mark Richt doesn’t win big games, they said.
None of that mattered tonight in a wildly packed Hard Rock Stadium that saw the press box windows shake in big moments. As sophomore linebacker Zach McCloud said on College GameDay today, this team has a hit list... and they’re crossing opponents off one-by-one.
With the College Football Playoffs on the line, and in a city and for a fanbase long-starving for a winner, the #7 Miami Hurricanes were shot out of a cannon from the opening kick and never looked back, absolutely trouncing the #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 41-8.
Notre Dame, averaging 324.8 yards rushing a game, was supposed to be the team that ran all over Miami’s #67 ranked rushing defense, but the Canes flipped the script on that one real quick. UM’s offense imposed their will on an overmatched Irish defensive front all night to the tune of 237 yards rushing and 3 TD’s.
Miami head coach Mark Richt threw a wrinkle into the offense by lining up DeeJay Dallas in the Wildcat for multiple snaps, and he scampered for 53 yards along with his first two career touchdowns that featured pure effort by the true freshman, both times stretching the ball over the goal line at the last second. His counterpart Travis Homer shed arm tackles and broke free into the secondary numerous times, racking up 146 yards on 18 carries.
While UM was having their way on offense, a fast and furious Hurricanes’ defense corralled Notre Dame’s Heisman Trophy candidate Josh Adams and held him to 16 carries for 40 yards. As a team, ND finished with 109 yards rushing, over 200 (!) yards below the season average for the nation’s #5 running game.
The Hurricanes, known for their slow starts in the first quarter, seemed to put those problems in the past, throwing up 14 points in the opening stanza behind the arm and legs of Malik Rosier. First, it was Rosier finding Braxton Berrios in the back corner of the endzone; Berrios went full extention to haul in the pass and just got a foot down for the touchdown. Berrios finished with two catches for 10 yards and his 8th touchdown of the season.
Then, after ND’s first of four turnovers on the game, Rosier had nothing, pulled the ball down, and got free for a 16 yard TD run. Miami’s junior QB didn’t need to do much on a night where the defense and running game carried Miami; Rosier went 15-24 for 137 yards passing, adding 44 yards rushing and 2 total TD’s.
The Fighting Irish tried to fight their way back into the game, but this Hurricanes defense was just too fast, too athletic. Driving just before halftime, QB Ian Book, in for an ineffective Brandon Wimbush, telegraphed his pass all the way, and Trajan Bandy read him like a... book. Bandy stepped in front of the pass and was off to the races for a 65 yard interception return for a TD, to push UM’s lead to 27-0 and completely demoralizing the ND faithful.
While the shutout was broken on a Wimbush to Alize Mack touchdown pass late in the third quarter, the Canes defense, they of 5 sacks and 9 TFL, made sure their presence continued to be known. On the Irish’s next drive, Wimbush dropped back and didn’t see Jon Garvin coming on his blindside; for the second straight week, the true freshman knocked the ball free from an unsuspecting QB and recovered his own forced fumble, which set up Dallas’ second touchdown run to make the score 41-8 and ended any slim hopes of an ND comeback.
No doubt about it, the mentality of the team this week was “Us against the world”: almost every player talked about being “disrespected” by the media and the nation in post-game interviews.
“We just wanted to go out and prove everybody wrong,” senior offensive lineman Kc McDermott said. “All we heard this week was how great their offense was, and we wanted to say ‘Hey, we got a pretty damn good offense too.’ I think we showed that tonight.”
Yes you did Kc, yes you did. So, after all that, the one question everyone constantly wants to know: is “The U” back?
“Nah, we gotta get a ring first,” replied sophomore linebacker Shaquille Quarterman.
Notre Dame got the ball to start. After Miami forced a quick ND 3rd-and-10, it looked like Brandon Wimbush’s pass to Kevin Stepherson would be short of the line to gain. However, Malek Young went for the big hit and did not wrap up, allowing Stepherson to stay on his feet and turn upfield for a gain of 21. On the next down-and-distance, pressures by Miami’s front seven forced some errant Wimbush passes and ND was punting to end their first possession.
The Canes took over at their own 11. On the first play, Jeff Thomas caught a short out route from Malik Rosier for 8 and Travis Homer picked up the first on the next snap with a 10 yard burst up the middle. Soon after, Te’Von Coney broke through the UM line untouched to shutdown a Rosier draw on second down, and a Rosier pass to a double covered Ahmmon Richards fell incomplete. Miami brought on Zach Feagles to punt it away.
It didn’t take long for Miami to get the ball back though. A Jaquan Johnson tackle for loss on third down set up a nice 17 yard punt return by Berrios to give Miami their first great field position of the night, at their own 42. A screen pass for 25 yards to Homer on third down had Miami on the move. After a few Rosier scrambles moved the ball down to the ND 6, Rosier lofted a B-E-A-UTIFUL ball to the right corner of the endzone, and like he has all year, Braxton Berrios ran under it, tapping one foot in just before his momentum took him out of bounds. 7-0 Canes.
Then, it was TURNOVER CHAIN time. A Wimbush pass was too high for his intended target and the ball went off the receiver’s fingertips up into the air... right into the arms of a waiting Jaquan Johnson. First down Miami on the Irish 32. Rosier connected with Thomas for a 16 yard pick up, then did the rest himself, sprinting to the endzone on a QB keeper to put Miami up 14-0.
Struggling to get their offense untracked, Wimbush tried to scramble right on first down, but was sacked by a fast-closing Trent Harris. The next two plays went nowhere for ND, and the Irish punt team was on again.
Starting on their own 46, DeeJay Dallas broke free to the outside for a long gain of 25. A quick bubble screen to Chris Herndon picked up a short 3rd down, and UM had first-and-goal on the ND 7. But Homer was stopped for a short gain on first down, and two Rosier passes fell incomplete. Mark Richt called for the field goal team, and Michael Badgley knocked a short kick through the uprights. 17-0 Miami.
On their next drive, Notre Dame was faced with a fourth and inches from their own 35. ND head coach Brian Kelly elected to go for it, and Josh Adams was just able to stretch his frame across the sticks. The Irish tried three straight runs, totaling 9 yards, bringing up another fourth down decision for Kelly from his own 45. He kept the offense out on the field, but a ND false start before the snap killed the drive and the Irish had to punt it away.
Miami moved the ball near midfield, but a Dayall Harris drop on 3rd and 4 ended the drive. On the very first play on ND’s next possession, Wimbush dropped back and overthrew his receiver. The ball sailed into the chest of Malek Young, who returned it down inside the ND 10 yard line. After a delay of game and an ND tackle for loss, the Canes couldn’t fully capitalize and had to settle for a Badgley 30 yard field goal. 20-0 UM.
Ian Book replaced Wimbush at QB on the Irish’s next series, and they started moving the ball a bit. Book hit Stepherson to pick up 3rd and short, then threaded a nice ball in between zone coverage for 23 to Equanimeous St. Brown. Scrambling away from pressure, Book used his legs for a gain of 9 to move the sticks again. The Irish’s good feels ended as quickly as they started, though. On 3rd and 6, Book telegraphed his pass all the way and Trajan Bandy read him like a... book. He stepped in front of the receiver and raced 65 yards the other way to send the crowd into an absolute frenzy. 27-0 Miami.
I guess like Book couldn’t...— Barstool Sports (@barstooltweetss) November 12, 2017
Read the defense pic.twitter.com/ePOYOk0HFd
With only 16 seconds left in the half, an Adams 10 yard run saw ND take the game into halftime. Total yards: UM 194 ND 139. Miami is 57-0 when leading by 20+ points. The rout is on.
The Canes received the ball on their own 10 coming out of half. Big chunk runs of 14 and 40 by Homer moved Miami out of their own endzone. Three subsequent Miami runs went nowhere, but Richt nixed a long field goal attempt from ND’s 35 to go for it on fourth and 10.
Dropping back, Rosier had pressure coming from the left side and was hit as he threw, but was able to float a jump ball for Lawrence Cager running down the right sideline. Cager went up and over the Irish DB that never turned his head around; Cager mossed him for 28 yards and a first down Hurricanes. Inside the Irish 10, a facemask penalty on ND set Miami up at the 4. Then, Dallas took a handoff from Rosier in the shotgun running left, got around the edge, and, falling out of bounds, dove for the pylon for his first career touchdown! 9 plays for 90 yards on that drive. 34-0 Canes.
The tough sledding for the Notre Dame offense continued; ND went backwards on two of their three plays, with TFL’s coming combo style from Joe Jackson/Chad Thomas, and RJ McIntosh/Zach McCloud.
After trading punts, the shutout was broken on a Wimbush to Alize Mack touchdown pass late in the third quarter, but the Canes defense made sure their presence continued to be known. On the Irish’s next drive, Wimbush dropped back and didn’t see Jon Garvin coming on his blindside; for the second straight week, the true freshman knocked the ball free from an unsuspecting QB and recovered his own forced fumble, which set up Dallas’ second touchdown run and ended any slim hopes of an ND comeback. After an unsuccessful Irish drive, it was “Victory Formation” time. Final: Miami 41 ND 8.
No hot takes from me tonight. I’m celebrating this win!
The Coastal Division champion Hurricanes stay at home to take on the Virginia Cavaliers next week.
What an amazing win from these Canes tonight. All season, Miami has been building and grinding for a complete team performance, and they had one in the most important game of the season to this point. Hats off to all the staff, players, and fans. Love my “U” family. #2 in the CFP Rankings. Take it to the bank.