Notre Dame wallops Miami 41-3 at Soldier Field
It was Notre Dame’s best rushing performance in 13 years, and its most dominant offensive effort of the season.
And as far as Everett Golson is concerned, it was only the beginning.
“Today we showed a glimpse of what we can be,” Golson said after the Irish ran Miami out of town with a 41-3 shellacking at Soldier Field on Saturday night. “Just to think about it, to me, it’s kind of scary.”
This ever-evolving team took another step forward, annihilating the Hurricanes with not only the usual lockdown defense — a unit that held its third consecutive opponent without a touchdown — but with an offense that ran roughshod over a young, beleaguered defense, leaving it gasping for breath in the second half while Irish defenders tried to keep warm on the sidelines.
Next up for the 5-0 Irish is Stanford, yet another big test, with ESPN GameDay descending on South Bend. So the hype, like Notre Dame’s offense, apparently, is only getting started.
Notre Dame racked up 376 rushing yards — the most since a 380-yard effort against Boston College in 2000 — and held the ball for 39 minutes, 8 seconds.
Normally, coach Brian Kelly likes to score quick and often. He’s anything but a time-of-possession guy.
“I am on these days,” he said with a smile.
Cierre Wood (18 carries, 118 yards, two touchdowns) and George Atkinson III (10 carries, 127 yards, one TD) — who combine with Theo Riddick to form “RB3,” as Golson called them — turned a 13-3 halftime lead into a blowout with a third quarter for the ages. Notre Dame ran 21 plays in that quarter. Nineteen were runs, and they went for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Wood and Atkinson did the heavy lifting while Riddick nursed an elbow bruise.
“I was past overdue,” Wood said. “It’s just a matter of when I get the ball and stuff like that. I know I can make plays almost every play. It’s just a matter of when the opportunity presents itself.”
The Irish hardly plodded their way down the field. Miami came in as the big-play threat, but against a sieve-like defense, Notre Dame’s sputtering offense found its groove, posting a whopping 20 plays of at least 10 yards.
Golson — after being benched for the first three snaps of the game for being late to a team meeting on Friday — had his best game, completing 17 of 22 passes (all but two in the first half) for 186 yards. He also got in on the rushing fun, scrambling and using the newly installed zone read for 51 yards on six carries.
“It showed us what we were capable of as an offense,” Golson said.
It was well known what the Irish defense was capable of. But the game got off to an unnerving start for the secondary — still a relatively unproven commodity, with three first-year starters.
On the first snap of the game, Miami quarterback Stephen Morris reared back and fired the ball deep down the middle. As receiver Phillip Dorsett got three — no, four; no, five — yards behind the Irish secondary, all of Notre Dame’s fears came to a head. But Dorsett dropped the sure-fire 72-yard touchdown — setting the tone for an evening full of Miami miscues. And the Irish defense caught up quickly.
“It’s Miami; they have some speed,” linebacker Manti Te’o said. “We knew that, but for us to actually see it, it was like, ‘Whoa. All right, keep everybody in front of us.’ ”
Who knows if the game would have been different had Miami not dropped at least five balls that would have gone for first downs — including a second certain touchdown to Dorsett on that opening drive? Or if the Hurricanes hadn’t committed four personal fouls that led to two Irish touchdowns?
Frankly, it might not have mattered. Not with the way the offense manhandled the beleaguered Miami defense. It treated the young Hurricanes — coach Al Golden said 34 freshmen and sophomores played — the same way it treated a young Navy defense in the opener.
And the group insists it’s all a work in progress. Scary, indeed.
“We feel like we can do that against any team,” center Braxston Cave said. “We showed it in Week 1, and we’ve left a lot out there the last couple weeks. We knew we had it in us, and we knew if we put it all together, we could do it.”