Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson breaks away from Hurricane defender Anthony Chickill Saturday at Soldier Field. Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Miami Hurricanes of old who used to flash pride and swagger were nowhere to be found Saturday as Notre Dame turned in a 41-3 victory at Soldier Field in Chicago. So much for the “Catholics versus Convicts” rivalry that we knew and loved in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Notre Dame finally had its first 100-yard rushing game by running back Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III after Theo Riddick and Atkinson came a yard shy of that accomplishment in the season opener against Navy. This was the first 100-yard rushing duo for Notre Dame in a decade.
The quarterback merry-go-round also returned for Notre Dame with Coach Brian Kelly starting Tommy Rees after Everett Golson was penalized for a team rules violation (punishment for being late for practice). Golson came off the bench to play the majority of the game while Rees returned again at the end of the night. Notre Dame fans are still unsure as to who the leader of their team will be. Hopefully as Golson gets more and more playing time under his belt he will fill the role of starter.
If the Hurricanes had scored on their initial drive, the tone could have been much different. “We didn’t play smart enough, we didn’t play disciplined enough and we didn’t make enough plays. It’s that simple,” Miami Coach Al Golden said after the game.
The win pushed Notre dame to 5-0 for the first time since 2002. The 587 yards of offense that the Notre Dame put up against Miami were a season high total, and their 376 rushing were their most since Nov. 11, 2000. Wood rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns while Atkinson added 123 yards and another score. Golson completed his first six passes and finished the game 17-of-22 for 186 yards while adding 51 yards of rushing.
Kelly explained his team’s strategy of a ball-control offense that limited Miami’s time of possession. “We felt like we found a way to run the football today,” Kelly said. “Our game plan was situated on running the football, which equals time of possession for us. We felt like if we could keep them from getting the big plays, and we could run the football, that was going on our recipe for success.”
The Notre Dame defense held Miami (4-2) to 285 yards of offense after the Hurricanes had racked up 1,260 yards and 86 points in their previous two games. Too many dropped passes, including two drops by wide receiver Phillip Dorsett that would have almost certainly been touchdowns if caught, didn’t help either. Notre Dame had a large advantage in time of possession, holding on to the ball for nearly 19 more minutes than the Hurricanes.
Defense is a big reason why the Irish are undefeated through five games, but the offense took a big step forward against Miami. “I think this game was needed,” Golson told reporters after the game. “I don’t know necessarily about my confidence but just for the team’s confidence, the offense’s confidence.”
Miami’s only points came on a 28-yard field goal by Jake Wieclaw late in the first quarter. The Hurricanes had another scoring opportunity late in the fourth quarter, reaching the Notre Dame 7 before the drive stalled.
“It was really lopsided in terms of them having the ball, and we didn’t really have much opportunity. The times we do have opportunities, we were on the field and we were off,” Miami quarterback Stephen Morris told reporters after the game. “We can’t win games like that.”
Back in the 1980s, the Notre Dame-Miami rivalry was one of the nastiest in college football. It didn’t hurt that both teams were ranked in the top 10 when they met in 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1990, or that the 1987, 1988 and 1989 winners went on to claim the national championship. There was no love lost between those Notre Dame-Miami teams.
Former Irish coach Lou Holtz urged his team to avoid any on-field incidents against the Hurricanes. “After we win the game, if Miami wants to fight, fine, we’ll meet ‘em in the alley,” Holtz recalled saying to his team. “And if they do, you save Jimmy Johnson’s (butt) for me.”
The Irish stormed out of the locker room that year (1988) and edged Miami 31-30. Many Fighting Irish fans still consider that “One Shining Moment” game to be the best home win in Notre Dame history, not to mention that it propelled the Irish to their eighth — and most recent — national championship.
The rivalry was discontinued after their meeting in 1990 because Notre Dame officials felt “it brought out the worst sides of fans.” It would be 20 years before the teams met again at the 2010 Sun Bowl. Fans who were hoping for a renewal of the old rivalry may have been disappointed.
“There’s no excuses,” Golden said. “We had too many penalties, too many drops. We lost our poise at times. We didn’t play well enough in this environment against a really good team, and that’s my fault. I’ve got to get it fixed.”
The Fighting Irish head back home to face the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday, hoping to keep their undefeated streak alive while trying to keep themselves in the national spotlight.