The day began with concerns of Brian Kelly going back on his word of making Everett Golson his starting QB. The game itself began with worries that Miami would torch the Notre Dame defense all game long and that Tommy Rees’ first nightmare drive would ensure the Irish offense would sputter.
Then Miami roughed Ben Turk, Everett Golson ran onto the field, and the worries were gone.
Golson’s 17-22, 186 yard performance wasn’t even the story, the 376 rushing yards on 51 attempts by the Irish were. In fact, Golson only threw two passes in the second half as the Irish rushed for 270 yards on 21 carries, resulting in a simply absurd 12.9 yards/carry.
The rushing attack was spearheaded by Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III who added another chapter in the “Irish haven’t had X in a decade” book as they gave the Irish their first 100+ rushing yard duo in that time-frame. Despite being banged up, Theo Riddick managed to gain 21 yards on 5 carries and Texas native Cam McDaniel got in on the act late with 55 yards on 11 carries, capping off the evening with a TD.
All Irish rushers, including Golson and Toma, had over 4 yards/carry, with Theo’s 4.2 being the lowest.
The offensive line was simply dominate and as this week’s ICON showed us, Kelly gave clear orders that they needed to keep their focus and “keep running the damn ball”:
On the defensive side of the ball, we were all given heart attacks to start the game. Miami WR, Phillip Dorsett, burned the Irish secondary immediately, but failed to finish as he dropped seemingly every deep ball that went his way. The Irish pass rush was unable to get any pressure on Miami QB, Stephen Morris, in the first half and he seemingly had all day to throw the football.
However, as we have seen so often this season, the Irish were able to adjust and Diaco’s defense got better as the game went on. While the pass rush wasn’t able to get a sack, they were able to put consistent pressure on Morris for the entire second half. As Brian Kelly would say after the game, the rest of the secondary was able to adjust to the speed of the Miami receivers and kept plays in front of them.
The result: the third game in a row in which the Irish did not allow a TD and the Irish still remain the only team in FBS to not trail all season.
And now, here we are. The Irish are 5-0 for the first time since 2002. This time though, the Irish have held all of their opponents to under 40 points combined — 39 to be exact (in 2002, the Irish gave up 64 points and that included a shutout). In comparison, Alabama has given up 35 points this season to Michigan (14), Western Kentucky (0), Arkansas (0), Florida Atlantic (7), and Mississippi (14) — a schedule that is arguably easier than the Irish have faced thus far.
Now, I’m not trying to say Notre Dame is as good as Alabama. What I am saying is that this year has the potential to be something truly special. You have to go back to 1976 to see this kind of defensive performance — and the Irish lost their first game 31-10 that season. Being mentioned in the same sentence as the defending national champion and current consensus #1 is nothing to sneeze at either.
Of course, there are still many tests ahead, starting this weekend against Stanford. Golson still has to continue to improve and show he can perform against good defenses. The running game needs to show it can be a weapon against such teams as well.
However there are definitely plenty of reasons to be justifiably optimistic and we should definitely enjoy this victory and this start. As College Gameday rolls into South Bend, the Irish will have a chance to shine in the national spotlight once again.
I wonder if Rick Reilly will come along for the ride…