For one weekend in 2017, the college football universe was focused on a game in Coral Gables. While Miami yearly received attention when they squared off with FSU, no matter what the rankings were, it had been a long, long time since the Hurricanes got this much publicity for a game they would play that didn’t feature the Seminoles. The third ranked Fighting Irish visited Coral Gables and left a shell of their former contender status. Miami was fresh off a wire-to-wire win against no. 13 Virginia Tech, where the Canes never trailed in a 28-10 manhandling.
Despite the most impressive Miami win in sometime, the prognosticators and “experts” didn’t give Miami much of a chance. They were 3.5 point underdogs in their own building, against a highly ranked team who had their biggest win at home against USC. They had already lost once, in South Bend against the eventual national runner-up Georgia Bulldogs.
The ball kicked off and the results weren’t immediately promising. With Notre Dame getting the ball first, Miami’s defense would have to show its toughness. They did just that, bending to the tune of 35 yards against them on the first drive but not breaking. After a 21-yard pass and catch on 3rd and 10, Miami limited ND and shuttered the drive at the Canes’ 35-yard line, forcing a punt. Miami’s offense started well, their first three plays totaling 24 yards. But their next two generated -1, leading to a punt back to the Irish, who gained six yards themselves and were forced to return the ball to Miami.
The Hurricanes started their second drive in good field position after a 17-yard punt return by Braxton Berrios. From their own 42-yard line, the Hurricanes got to work, getting to a 3rd and 7 before the offense started to come alive. The third down pass went to Travis Homer on a perfectly-executed screen pass. 24 yards later, Miami was in ND territory. Chris Herndon gained 10 yards after that, Malik Rosier finding room on the ground to tough out 13 yards for the next two plays. On first and goal, Rosier threw incomplete to Ahmmon Richards but hit pay dirt on second down. Rosier dropped back in shotgun, looked left, then right and lofted a perfect pass into Berrios’ arms. The senior got both feet down and put Miami on the board. The Canes didn’t look back from there.
Knowing their opponent would need to respond, the Miami defense cranked up the heat on Redshirt Sophomore QB Brandon Wimbush. They got to him, unveiling the turnover chain for the first time on the night after Jaquan Johnson pulled in a tipped pass and returned it to the ND 32-yard line.
Miami took over and didn’t waste time putting the Irish in a double digit hole early. Two plays after Johnson’s big interception, Rosier dashed into the endzone on a QB draw, following his blockers to a 14-0 first quarter lead.
With the pressure ratcheted up higher and higher with each passing minute in raucous Hard Rock Stadium, the Notre Dame offense came out flat drive after drive. After a first down sack by Trent Harris, ND gave up, running a QB draw on 3rd and 13. The Canes got the ball back, continuing the put points on the board, in part due to a punt return penalty on the Irish that sent Miami up at their own 46.
DeeJay Dallas showed his enormous potential early in this game, gaining five yards on one carry before 25 on the next, lining up as the QB and shredding the ND defense. Miami moved the ball 18 more yards on three plays before stalling out, kicking a field goal to go up 17-0 and further extending the deficit for the Fighting Irish.
The two teams traded punts next, Notre Dame continuing to look overmatched against a sideline-to-sideline, aggressive Hurricanes defense. After two punts, the Irish held the ball at their own seven. Backed up, Wimbush did the one thing his team absolutely couldn’t stomach; he let Miami bring out the chain again. Malek Young stole Wimbush’s overthrow, taking it to the Notre Dame nine and setting up his offense with a first and goal. Unfortunately, the Miami offense went backward, but still cashed in with a field goal, now leading 20-0 with just under six minutes left in the half.
One punt apiece followed the field goal and Wimbush would be replaced by Freshman Ian Book. Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly hoped a new signal caller would shift momentum. He didn’t. Book’s second and final drive had Notre Dame moving, hoping to score some points to hopefully set up a second-half comeback. The frosh QB completed his first four passes. Then, on his sixth pass, Trajan Bandy read his eyes, stepped in front of the ball and didn’t stop running until he was in the endzone, more than 65 yards downfield. The rout was officially on and Miami entered the half leading 27 to zip.
The second half was not nearly as exciting as the first, though the fans in Miami didn’t know better, still roaring and creating a true home field advantage that had been rare since the old Orange Bowl was torn down. Miami didn’t waste any time, driving 90 yards on a near-perfect nine play drive, Travis Homer accounting for 40 of them on one play, before DeeJay Dallas punched it into the endzone. Dallas’ first career TD was a work of art, a spectacular leaping effort to put the ball over the pylon and give Miami a 34-0 lead.
Wimbush was back in for Notre Dame but it didn’t change very much. The Miami defense was too much for this usually-explosive offense, smothering the running game and continuously pressuring Wimbush. The Irish got the ball back, took three snaps, lost five yards, and gave it right back to Miami. The Canes finally had a lackluster drive, moving 17 yards before giving it back to the visitors. ND drove downfield, getting what equated to a garbage-time TD to make the score slightly more respectable and, at least, they could say they weren’t shutout. 34-8.
Miami put the rest of the performance in cruise control, easily moving the ball against the downtrodden Notre Dame defense, stopping themselves only when they missed a field goal. They would get the ball back just five plays later, following a fumble, and give DeeJay Dallas his second career touchdown, and cementing him as the offense’s player of the game. Rosier played maybe his best game of the season and Homer was effective as usual, but Dallas’ speed, agility and toughness shone through amongst the offensive playmakers.
Notre Dame turned it over on downs after the Dallas touchdown, leaving the Hurricanes’ offense to take the field one last time, in victory formation, and celebrate a 41-8 smackdown over one of Miami’s most hated rivals.
UM had a hit list in 2017. FSU, UNC, VT and finally Notre Dame. Miami had beaten the three former and finally, with a complete and utter thrashing of the Fighting Irish, had completed their vengeance tour. 2017 would end bitterly but there is no doubt that a blowout against Notre Dame, in primetime, is one of our favorite Miami games of the 2000’s.