PASS OFFENSE: B+
A week off was just what Everett Golson needed after a shaky performance against Michigan. Golson didn’t find the end zone, but he did complete 6 of 6 passes in the first quarter for 76 yards and finished 17 of 22 for 186 yards. Golson probably could have done more damage, but the Irish switched its focus to the run, and Golson only threw two times in the second half. Credit to the offensive line: Golson wasn’t sacked at all and was only hurried once.
RUN OFFENSE: A+
This is the Irish ground game we’ve been waiting for: 376 yards and an average of 7.4 yards per carry. After a modest first half, Cierre Wood tore out of the gates with a 37-yard run – his longest of the year – and followed up with two touchdowns – his first and second of the year. George Atkinson put up a 55-yard score and 127 yards total, and Cam McDaniel chipped in a touchdown and 55 yards of his own in clean-up time. Of Notre Dame’s 18 offensive plays in the third quarter, 16 were running plays.
PASS DEFENSE: B+
The football gods showed mercy on Notre Dame early on when Miami receiver Phillip Dorsett slipped behind the secondary twice for guaranteed touchdowns — but then dropped both passes. Freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell continues to improve, with a six-tackle performance second to only Manti Te’o’s. A week after Miami quarterback Stephen Morris set an Atlantic Coast Conference record with 566 yards and five touchdowns, Notre Dame held him to 201 yards and no touchdowns.
RUN DEFENSE: A
Miami came to Chicago Saturday averaging 33.4 points per game. Notre Dame gave them three. After hearing about the potency of Hurricane running backs Duke Johnson and Mike James all week, the Irish responded by holding them to 22 yards and 28 yards respectively. Notre Dame didn’t force any turnovers on Saturday, but the Irish also finished their third consecutive game without allowing a touchdown from the opposing team. If Te’o wants to stay in the Heisman talk, this is how he does it.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Kyle Brindza nailed two field goals from 22 and 32 yards to give Notre Dame the early advantage, but missed from 34 yards. Despite that miss, Brindza continues to be a reliable asset for the Irish. Ben Turk muffed a punt deep in Notre Dame’s own territory that could have set up Miami for a touchdown — but the Irish defense bailed him out. Miami’s Phillip Dorsett ran back a 37-yard kickoff return, but that might be nitpicky.
Head coach Brian Kelly sat Everett Golson for the first three snaps after Golson violated team rules on Friday. Kelly said the punishment was meant to be a teaching moment, and that he knew putting Golson in early in the game would send the message that the coach trusted his quarterback. It worked, and Golson had his best game at Notre Dame. Kelly also made the right call to turn to his running backs in the second half, resulting six- and seven-minute drives for the Irish and keeping the Hurricane offense off the field.