Notre Dame left to pick up the pieces after 41-8 demolition by Miami

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

MIAMI GARDENS — A bottle thrown at one of Notre Dame’s team buses cracked a window as the Irish football team arrived Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium. The spider-webbed window remained in place, allowing the team to pull into the stadium safely.

The bus held up better than the Irish did on the field.

Notre Dame had no answer for Miami as the Hurricanes shattered the Irish playoff hopes with a 41-8 demolition in a matchup of Top 10 teams.

“Miami came out ready to make plays, and they made them,” Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “They played a hard game, and they kicked our ass.”

The No. 3 Irish (8-2) were left with only damage-control duty in the second half in a game that felt far-too-similar to Notre Dame’s last trip to Miami Gardens, a 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game to cap the 2012 season.

The Crimson Tide built a 28-0 lead in the first half on the Irish that night. No. 7 Miami (9-0) pulled ahead 27-0 against Notre Dame before halftime, and it could have been worse.

“We didn’t see this coming,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said. “We felt like we were prepared to play at a high level. We did not.”

Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush threw two interceptions in the first half and was replaced by sophomore Ian Book, who threw an interception of his own in the final minute of the second quarter. Miami cornerback Trajan Bandy returned Book’s interception 65 yards for a touchdown to stretch the lead to 27 points.

Wimbush, who Kelly said wasn’t limited by the injury to his left hand from last week’s game, looked shaky from the start. Before Wimbush was intercepted for the first time Saturday night, by Jaquan Johnson late in the first quarter, he threw three passes that were nearly caught by Miami defenders.

Wimbush hadn’t thrown an interception since the Boston College game on Sept. 16 and had just two for the season coming into the game.

Wimbush barely missed on what would have been a 35-yard throw to Equanimeous St. Brown on the game's first drive. The Irish wouldn’t get that close to a score for the rest of the half.

Notre Dame didn’t find much success with its typically dominant running attack, either. The Irish chose to run the ball on nine of their first 18 plays — for 22 rushing yards — and fell behind 17-0.

Notre Dame dedicated itself to the run on the next drive, with all seven plays coming on the ground while only netting 19 yards. A false start by freshman right tackle Robert Hainsey on fourth-and-1 led the Irish to end that series with a punt.

“We never really got into a good rhythm,” Kelly said of the running game. “We got behind the chains. We were very predictable. And they’re really good. Let’s give credit where credit is due. We just never really got into the kind of rhythm necessary to sustain anything.”

Wimbush threw his second interception on the first play of the next drive, and the game started to spiral out of control. He returned in the second half to finish 10-of-21 passing for 119 yards and one touchdown to tight end Alizé Mack with 12 seconds left in the third quarter. Wimbush converted a two-point conversion on the ground. Book completed three of his six passes for 33 yards.

Miami’s "turnover chain" found the spotlight plenty with the necklace dangling on Bandy, Jaquan Johnson and Malek Young for interceptions and Jonathan Garvin for a fumble recovery. No celebrations came for turnovers by Notre Dame’s defense. For the first time all season, the Irish failed to force a turnover.

“We put them in a bad situation,” Kelly said of the defense. “(Miami) made 24 points off of turnovers. It’s hard to get an accurate picture of them. There were some plays that weren’t fit the way they have been.”

Miami moved the ball on the ground for 237 yards and found plays in the passing game when needed. Running back Travis Homer led the Hurricanes with 18 carries for 146 yards. Running back DeeJay Dallas scored two rushing touchdowns, and quarterback Malik Rosier scored once. The Irish had previously allowed only four rushing touchdowns all season.

Wide receiver Braxton Berrios scored the first touchdown of the game on a seven-yard pass from Rosier, who finished 15-of-24 passing for 137 yards.

A week after giving way to 37 points from Wake Forest, the Irish defense couldn’t find enough stops to prevent the first-half onslaught.

“We didn’t execute well in either of the games,” rover Drue Tranquill said. “We have to execute better. That’s the bottom line. We haven’t played the defense we want to play the last two games.”

The “33 Trucking” campaign designed for Irish running back Josh Adams to make a run at the Heisman Trophy may soon be headed to the junkyard. Miami limited Adams to 40 yards on 16 carries, with his longest rush totaling 12 yards. In the two Notre Dame losses, he’s run for a combined 93 yards and been held out of the end zone.

The Irish only mustered 109 rushing yards as a team against Miami. Like it was against Georgia, defensive speed provided a counter for Notre Dame’s running game.

“They got around on the perimeter very well, a lot better than a lot of the teams we’ve played,” McGlinchey said. “They contained our offense. You have to give all the credit in the world to them."

Another trip to Florida ended with a Notre Dame loss. The program hasn’t won a game in the Sunshine State since a 34-24 victory over Florida State in Tyrone Willingham’s first season as head coach, in 2002.

The Irish may be able to end the 15-year drought with a bowl in Florida. Games against Navy and Stanford will dictate where Notre Dame will finish its season.

No victory will be able to mend how a potential trip to the College Football Playoff fell apart, but the Irish will be left trying to put the pieces back together.

“It’s about how we respond now, individually and collectively — as a group – after a tough loss,” Kelly said. “The challenge right now is about bouncing back.”


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame’s Durham Smythe (80) gets hit by Miami’s Dee Delaney (3) during ND's 41-8 loss to Miami, Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)