Game day: Notre Dame, Miami renewing an old rivalry
Posted: 10/06/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Rachel Terlep
So forgive the fifth-year defensive end, one of the oldest players on the Irish roster, for not remembering when No. 6 Notre Dame toppled No. 2 Miami 29-20 on Oct. 20, 1990, or any of the other famed “Catholics vs. Convicts” showdowns of the late 1980s.
“Honestly, the only thing I know — in 1988, I think didn’t we beat them when they were ranked No. 1?” Lewis-Moore said this week. “I don’t know too much other than that. I just know it used to get a little heated back in the day.”
The series was deemed too chaotic to continue past the 1990 meeting, though the old rivalry enjoyed a small reprieve in the 2010 Sun Bowl, where the Irish iced the Hurricanes 33-17.
The teams set to face off tonight on Soldier Field aren’t the Notre Dame and Miami teams of a generation ago, but the No. 9 Irish are 4-0 for the first time in a decade and the ’Canes (4-1) are on a three-game winning streak in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“Catholics vs. Convicts” may be a thing of the past, but this is still a marquee matchup. So how do the two teams fare?
Quarterback Stephen Morris set an Atlantic Coast Conference record last week after a 566-yard, five-touchdown performance against North Carolina State.
Morris is a solid quarterback capable of throwing the deep ball. Morris hit receiver Rashawn Scott for a 76-yard touchdown pass against N.C. State and a 62-yard scoring pass to Phillip Dorsett in the same game.
In Miami’s first five games, Morris has a dozen completions of 35 yards or more. He tends to throw a lot — with 45-, 49- and 52-pass-attempt games — but plays relatively mistake-free ball with nine touchdowns and four interceptions on 207 pass attempts.
The Notre Dame secondary will have to replicate its performance against Michigan to keep up with Miami’s speedier, deep-threat receivers.
“They’re a tempo team,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of Miami. “They like to go fast. They’ve caught their last couple of opponents unprepared for that.”
On the ground, freshman running back Duke Johnson burst onto the national radar with a 135-yard, two-touchdown performance in the season opener against Boston College and again with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Bethune-Cookman.
Johnson was held to 19 rushing yards in Miami’s loss to Kansas State but is still averaging 6.9 yards per carry with five rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown and a kickoff-return touchdown.
The true mismatch will be along the lines, where Notre Dame’s dominant front seven is poised to battle a Miami offensive line that doesn’t have any upperclassmen. Kansas State sacked Morris five times, so it could be a busy night for the Irish defense.
Even with Morris’s record setting performance against N.C. State, the ’Canes still only won the game by a touchdown.
The ’Canes defense is on the opposite end of the scale from Notre Dame’s. Miami ranks 100th in the country in passing defense, 112th in rushing defense and 114th in total defense (out of 120 teams).
To put things in perspective, Miami gave up 355 yards total offense against FCS school Bethune-Cookman in Week 3, and that was the only game this season that Miami has given up less than 32 points.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson needs a good game after falling flat against Michigan, and Miami’s defense gives him a golden opportunity. The same can be said for Tyler Eifert, who has had one catch in the past two games, and running backs Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III.
The Irish offensive line should be able to keep Golson protected since Miami is averaging 1.4 sacks per game.
Miami is a team on an upswing, but is substantially weaker than the Irish along both lines.
Combine a 36-degree Chicago night and a crowd at Soldier Field composed of 95 percent Notre Dame fans, and Miami won’t exactly be in its element.
Expect resurgence performances by Golson, Eifert and the tailbacks and a continuation of the Iron Curtain that is the Notre Dame front seven.
NOTRE DAME 35, MIAMI 14