When we peel away the obvious—that Miami not only was flat-out better, and that Notre Dame was not ready for this big a stage—what did we learn from the Hurricanes’ 41-8 blitz of the Irish?
Start with the most important: Speed kills.
Notre Dame couldn’t block Miami’s quicker defense. Which meant it couldn’t run.
I thought the Irish, with Josh Adams running behind a line that features two likely first-round NFL draft picks, would impose their will on the ground.
Notre Dame managed only 109 rushing yards on 36 carries, including just 40 yards on 16 carries from Josh Adams, who had gained at least 60 yards on a single rush in six of ND’s wins. Maybe Adams, who had some kind of mystery headache problem last week, wasn’t 100 percent. The Irish weren’t going there, though. Let’s just give the Miami defense the credit. A ton of credit.
What the absence of a running game meant was, the Irish had to lean too hard on their first-year quarterback, Brandon Wimbush. And that was a recipe for disaster.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Wimbush had made progress throwing when the running game was opening up the passing game. But with the heat on in South Florida, and the bright lights of his first big-time road game, it was asking too much, to expect Wimbush to be a marquee passer.
He completed just 10 of 21 for 119 yards and one TD. He lost a fumble, and he threw two interceptions. When coach Brian Kelly turned to green backup Ian Book to give Wimbush a break, Book threw a killer pick-six that put ND in a 27-0 hole just before halftime.
Not that it would have mattered.
The Irish simply weren’t ready for this. They fooled us—well, they fooled me. They had shown stout defense, a physical and explosive running game and an improving passing attack.
Miami had posted an impressive win the week before, against Virginia Tech. Before that, though, the Hurricanes had been scraping past opponents.
They hadn’t shown what we saw against Notre Dame. Which is a team that can compete at the highest level. The Hurricanes will have to run a gauntlet against Clemson and two College Football Playoff opponents to get where they want to go.
I don’t know if they’ll get there. I don’t know that they won’t get there, either.
Miami has forced four turnovers in each of its last four games, the first FBS team to do that since 2011. It leads Power 5 teams with a plus-15 turnover margin. ND had come to South Florida at plus-12, ahead of Miami. It left Hard Rock Stadium at plus-8.
I’m happy for Mark Richt. He was so down-to-earth, such a good guy, when I was first around him in his Florida State offensive-coordinator days. At Georgia, he always seemed to be weighed down by the burden of expectations.
Back at his alma mater, he’s loose. And so is his team. I won’t under-estimate the ‘Canes the rest of the way.
As for Notre Dame, it just wasn’t ready. There’s no shame in being 8-2, even though there’s a lot of hurting going on right now.
What ND needs to do is realize it was asking too much of Wimbush, to be an elite quarterback this quickly. He’ll improve. It was just too soon.
``First big-game atmosphere,’’ Kelly said Sunday. ``He obviously didn't perform at the level that he wants to perform at, and that he quite frankly needs to perform at. You never like to learn lessons in losses. But I think he gained a lot of understanding of what he needs to do to lead this football team.’’
I thought the Irish would be able to mask Wimbush’s inexperience through their running game. They had done it all fall, except in the Georgia game. I thought the Miami quarterback, Malik Rosier, would be the one who wasn’t ready for prime time against what had been a dominant, aggressive Notre Dame defense.
Turned out the other way around.
What the Irish need to do now is shake off the disappointment and take care of business against Navy and Stanford, two teams that are very capable making things difficult for ND.
Notre Dame still has a lot to play for. If it wins out and gets to 10-2, it’s tracking for a New Year’s Six game like the Cotton Bowl, against a quality opponent.
All of those things would have looked awfully good in August, when Kelly and the Irish were trying to pick up the pieces after last year’s 4-8 disaster.
It may not feel that way right now. But this can still be an excellent year for Notre Dame.[/membership]