The Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish is one of those rare programs in college football that seem to reload year after year, and be among the most talented in the nation every season. The Miami RedHawks knew this ahead of Saturday’s tilt in South Bend — Coach Chuck Martin likened the game to a recess pick-up game where Notre Dame gets the first 85 picks, leaving Miami with the leftovers.
With that in mind, the ‘Hawks came out with a game plan to aggressively throw the ball and hope the Irish were overlooking their Mid-American Conference opponent. Unfortunately for the Red and White (2-3, 1-0 MAC), the Irish (4-1) came to play and walked away with a 52-17 victory.
“We came in with a crazy aggressive plan,” RedHawk head man Chuck Martin said postgame. “We’re going to try to attack and whip it around, hopefully catch them in pressures and get the ball on the seam and try to get them back on their heels, which I thought we did early.”
In games like this, the favored team tends to come out flat while the underdog plays inspired football to give themselves momentum early. This was not the case in this game, as it was evident from the opening series that the Irish were not interested in playing a tight game.
On just the second play from scrimmage on the game, Notre Dame junior running back Josh Adams busted a 73-yard run to the house, setting the tone for the rest of the game. Adams would finish with 163 yards on just eight carries after seeing his game cut short due to injury.
“He would have had 350 [yards] if he played in the second half,” Martin said. “He’s been really good here. He tends to break off big runs if you give him — he’s big and strong, but he runs through those — you can’t really make him miss.”
However, the RedHawks answered Adams’ opening blow by stringing together a few passes down the seam. A Gus Ragland interception inside ND territory led to the Irish offense going right back down the field in seven plays to take a quick 14-0 lead.
Though the RedHawk offense was able to move the ball for 377 yards, the turnovers doomed the ‘Hawks against an opportunistic Notre Dame offense which scored Miami 28-0 off of takeaways.
“We were able to move the ball on them pretty much the whole game,” Miami quarterback Ragland said. “Other than a couple turnovers, which were on me, we had a great game.”
The biggest bright spot for the ‘Hawks offensively was receiver James Gardner who snagged five passes for 115 yards with two touchdowns. Both touchdowns — the only ones on the day for Miami — came in response to Irish scores in which Gus Ragland floated passes high in the air, trusting his man would make a play.
“It’s awesome having James out there,” Ragland said. “Obviously he’s a huge playmaker. Any time I see him one-on-one, I know there’s probably a good chance we’re going to come down with it.”
Gardner reiterated the confidence the pair have in each other, explaining the work it takes to develop such a strong pass catching duo.
“We put in work all summer,” Gardner said. “We trust each other. He trusts me and I trust him to make the right throw. When the game’s on the line, my team trusts me to make the play, and that’s all I do.”
Defensively, the Red and White had trouble quelling the Irish attack. On the ground, the physical front of the ND O-line controlled the RedHawk front seven, rushing for 333 yards on the day.
Notre Dame junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush struggled to complete deep passes early. As time went on, the Irish signal caller was able to capitalize on the overmatched Miami defensive backfield that was going without senior defensive back Tony Reid. Wimbush completed 8-of-17 passes for three touchdowns while also rushing for 46 yards.
As the game progressed, the Irish talent proved to be completely overwhelming — the halftime score sat at 45-14, putting the game out of reach. However, Martin was not completely disappointed with his team’s showing.
“I think there’s 10 to 15 guys that could really play with the guys from Notre Dame,” Martin said. “I’m not saying outplay them. I’m not saying they’re better, but I’m just saying they belonged on the field. We didn’t have enough, obviously, and we had some positions that got really exposed.”
The RedHawks will look to build off the positives as they head into MAC-play for the rest of their season with the goal of a MAC title very much in sight. The ‘Hawks will return home to Yager Stadium to host the Bowling Green State University Falcons. The game is set to kick off at 2:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3 or heard on Miami Sports Network.