Lesar: Five keys to Notre Dame-Miami

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

RE-GAIN SWAGGER … OR SOMETHING

Before it can stop the losing, Notre Dame has to be able to feel good about itself in some area. Those positive vibes have been hard to come by through the first seven games. Whether it’s quarterback DeShone Kizer finding the magic he had last season, the Irish offensive line coming together to finally put together an effective run game or the much-maligned defense continuing its recovery, something good has to happen for a needed surge in confidence.

BAD ON BAD

The Miami offensive line gave up eight sacks in last week’s loss to Virginia Tech. The Notre Dame defense has generated just six sacks all season, only one of which has come from a lineman. Who will show the most improvement Saturday? The unit that makes the most progress could go a long way toward determining who survives this battle of teams starved for success.

WATCH COLEY

If Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya is able to get a few seconds in the pocket, it’s a good bet that his target is going to be receiver Stacy Coley. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior has 29 receptions for 352 yards and six touchdowns this season. In 43 career games, he has 132 catches for 1,816 yards (10th all-time in Miami history) and 17 touchdowns (tied for seventh). Against an Irish secondary that is loaded with freshmen, he could have a significant impact on the way the Hurricanes move the ball.

QUICK RELEASE

The Notre Dame offensive line has a significant challenge ahead. Miami is No. 1 in the nation in tackles for loss (71) and among the best in sacks (23). The best way for Notre Dame to counter that sort of aggressive assault might be by going with a quick release by Kizer. Those are timing plays that haven’t been used much this season, but it could be a way to help out the offensive line while keeping the ball on the move. That makes quick, precise routes by receivers Torii Hunter, Jr., Equanimeous St. Brown and C.J. Sanders, et al., imperative.

FINISH

Just like has been the case all season, Notre Dame must reverse the trend this season and finally finish a game if it comes down to an offensive – or defensive, for that matter – drive with the game on the line. In six of the last seven losses, dating back to the loss to Stanford last year, the Irish had an opportunity to win or tie the game on the last possession – and failed each time. To help turn things around, someone will have to step up and finally make a play to stop the Irish bleeding.

Miami wide receiver Stacy Coley (3) talks to head coach Mark Richt, during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida State, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, in Miami Gardens. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)