Riding high after three consecutive wins, including back-to-back thrilling triumphs over Georgia Tech and N.C. State, many saw this Miami team building momentum the way a hurricane picks up speed as it crosses the Atlantic.
But on Saturday night, it was nothing more than a tropical depression.
The Hurricane offense was shut down, and the Notre Dame rushing attack exploded for 376 yards as the Fighting Irish defeated Miami 41-3 at Solider Field in Chicago. The Canes (4-2, 3-0 ACC) lost for the second time against a ranked non-conference opponent this season. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is now 5-0 and has kept its last three opponents out of the end zone entirely.
“We had two penalties, I don’t know if they were back to back, but certainly we aided them on that first drive, and that’s a team that doesn’t need a lot of help,” coach Al Golden said. “We didn’t play smart enough, we didn’t play disciplined enough and didn’t make enough plays. It’s that simple. Give Notre Dame a lot of credit.”
The Hurricanes tried to make a statement straight out of the gate. After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, junior quarterback Stephen Morris found Phillip Dorsett wide open down the field, but the surefire touchdown fell right through his hands.
Four plays later, Dorsett was again uncovered in the end zone, where he dropped Morris’ second pinpoint pass.
Miami did not find another chance to score for the remainder of the game. Golden rejected the notion that the Canes were affected by the big-game atmosphere.
“I think we were ready to go. We prepared all week,” Golden said. “We had a guy who drops two right off the bat that doesn’t normally do that. He’ll be the first to tell you that he’s not going to make an excuse for it.”
For the first time in more than 10 years, Notre Dame had two running backs surpass 100 yards each in a single game. Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III led the way with 241 combined yards and three touchdowns as Miami’s defensive woes persisted.
A week after giving up 664 total yards in a wild win over N.C. State, Notre Dame picked Miami apart for 587 of its own. The Fighting Irish also won the possession battle, holding onto the ball for more than 39 minutes.
“It’s bad. You know it’s not good,” Golden said. “Again, give them credit; they ran the ball effectively, got a veteran offensive line. They rotated three running backs in there and I thought they blocked well on the perimeter. And as I said, we compounded by not making any progress on offense with the football.”
The Hurricanes will be back at home for their next three matchups after starting with four of six games on the road. North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia Tech will visit Sun Life Stadium for three critical ACC contests. Miami is still undefeated in the conference, so the chance to play in the school’s first ACC championship game is still within reach.
Golden is eager to put the blowout loss aside to focus on the long term.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to grow up someday, and that’s a tough task,” he said. “We are not going to get negative. We’re not going to go that route. There’s too many kids in that room that have bright futures and that really played hard. We just didn’t play well enough and we got beat by a really good team, simple as that.”