Irish blow away Canes
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org October 6, 2012 10:10PM
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 06: Cierre Wood #20 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish scores a touchdown against the Miami Hurricanes at Soldier Field on October 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: November 8, 2012 12:22PM
CHICAGO — It was Notre Dame’s best rushing performance in 13 years, and its most dominant offensive effort of the season.
And as far as Everett Golson is concerned, it was only the beginning.
“I think today we showed a glimpse of what we can be,” Golson said after the Irish ran Miami out of town with a 41-3 shellacking at Soldier Field. “Just to think about it, to me, it’s kind of scary.”
This ever-evolving Notre Dame team took another step forward on Saturday night, annihilating the Hurricanes with not only the usual lockdown defense — a unit that held its third straight opponent without a touchdown — but with an offense that ran roughshod over a young, beleaguered Miami defense, leaving them gasping for breath in the second half while the Irish defenders tried to keep warm on the sidelines.
Next up for the 5-0 Irish is Stanford, yet another big test, with ESPN GameDay descending on South Bend. So the hype, like Notre Dame’s offense, apparently, is only getting started.
Notre Dame racked up 376 rushing yards — the most since a 380-yard effort against Boston College in 2000 — and held the ball for 39 minutes, 8 seconds. Normally, Irish coach Brian Kelly is a guy who likes to score quick and often. He’s anything but a time-of-possession guy.
“I am on these days,” he said with a smile.
Cierre Wood (18 carries, 118 yards, two touchdowns) and George Atkinson III (10 carries, 127 yards, one TD) — who combine with Theo Riddick to form “RB3”, as Golson called them — turned a 13-3 halftime lead into a blowout with a third quarter for the ages. Notre Dame ran 21 plays in that quarter. Nineteen of them were runs, and they went for 197 yards and three touchdowns, with Wood and Atkinson doing the heavy lifting while Riddick nursed an elbow bruise.
“I was past overdue,” Wood said. “It’s just a matter of when I get the ball and stuff like that. I know I can ball out. I know I can make plays almost every play, it’s just a matter of when the opportunity presents itself.”
And the Irish hardly were plodding their way down the field. Miami entered the game as the big-play threat, but against Miami’s sieve-like defense, it was Notre Dame’s sputtering offense that found its groove, posting a whopping 20 plays of at least 10 yards or more.
Golson — after being benched for the first three snaps of the game for being late to a team meeting on Friday — had his best game in a Notre Dame uniform, completing 17-of-22 passes (all but two of them in the first half) for 186 yards. He also got in on the rushing fun, scrambling and using the newly installed zone read for 51 yards on six carries.
“It showed us what we were capable of as an offense,” Golson said.
It was already well known what the Irish defense was capable of. But the game got off to an unnerving start for the Irish secondary — still a relatively unproven commodity, with three first-year starters.
On the very first snap of the game, Morris reared back and fired the ball deep down the middle. And as receiver Phillip Dorsett got three — no, four; no, five — yards behind the Irish secondary, all of Notre Dame’s fears came to a head. But Dorsett dropped the sure-fire 72-yard touchdown — setting the tone for an evening full of Miami miscues. And the Irish defense caught up quickly.
“It’s Miami; they have some speed,” linebacker Manti Te’o said. “We knew that, but for us to actually see it, it was like ‘Whoa. All right, keep everybody in front of us.’”
Who knows if the game would have been different had Miami not dropped at least five balls that would have gone for first downs — including a second certain touchdown for Dorsett on that opening drive? Or if the Hurricanes hadn’t committed four personal fouls, leading to two Irish touchdowns?
Frankly, it might not have mattered. Not with the way the Irish offense manhandled the beleaguered Miami defense. They treated the young Hurricanes — coach Al Golden said 34 freshmen and sophomores played — the same way they treated a young Navy defense in the season-opener.
And they insist it’s all still a work in progress. Scary, indeed.
“We feel like we can do that against any team,” center Braxston Cave said. “We showed it in Week 1, and we’ve left a lot out there the last couple weeks. We knew we had it in us, and we knew if we put it all together, we could do it.”