Five keys to the Notre Dame-Miami game

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

FOLLOW THE CONVOY

Notre Dame’s rushing attack hasn’t slowed down much even if Josh Adams has been parked on the sideline. That’s because the Irish offensive line consistently provides a path for whoever is trucking behind it. With the fifth-best running game in the country, the Irish have churned out average rushing numbers (324.8 yards per game) that would be season-high goals for some teams. Unfortunately for Miami, stopping the run is one of its small weaknesses on a stout defense. The Hurricanes have allowed nearly 18 more rushing yards per game (170) than a 4-6 Miami (Ohio) team. 

FORCE THIRD DOWNS

Miami’s offense has struggled mightily on third down. Only 12 teams nationally successfully convert third-down attempts at a lower rate than Miami’s 31.3 percent. The Hurricanes have overcome those struggles by avoiding third down as much as possible. Only Arkansas State (91) has attempted fewer third downs than Miami (96). The Irish need to stuff the run and force incomplete passes on first and second down to put the Hurricanes in tough situations on third down.

PROTECT THE BALL

Are you tired of hearing about the “Turnover Chain” yet? There’s only one way Notre Dame can fix that: protect the football. The gaudy necklace awarded for each of Miami’s 20 forced turnovers this season could stay stowed away if the Irish continue to be careful. Notre Dame has given away only seven turnovers all season and hasn’t done so since the North Carolina game with two interceptions thrown by Ian Book. Brandon Wimbush has the other five turnovers — three fumbles and two interceptions — but he’s played five straight games without giving one away. 

BRACKET BERRIOS

Notre Dame might not need to use double coverage on Braxton Berrios, but the Irish secondary needs to keep track of the Miami wide receiver. He leads the Hurricanes in catches (36), receiving yards (474) and most importantly touchdowns (7). The Irish should account for Berrios with an extra cornerback and let the safeties and linebackers help prevent him from finding openings in the coverage from the slot position and making big plays after the catch. 

SILENCE THE ROCK

Hurricanes fans rarely fill Hard Rock Stadium, but they’ll be out in full force Saturday night with Notre Dame coming to town. The Irish haven’t played in a truly hostile environment since the Michigan State game in September, and the Spartan faithful were quieted early by Notre Dame’s 28-7 lead in the first half. Notre Dame needs to follow the same blueprint Saturday night to lessen the game pressure. Miami fans have been waiting since 1989 for Notre Dame to return to their turf and are certain to be raucous.

Miami's Braxton Berrios (8) celebrates his touchdown with KC McDermott (52) during the second half of a win over North Carolina. Berrios has more touchdown catches already this season than in his first three years with the seventh-ranked and unbeaten Hurricanes. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)