Hur­ri­canes take fight right out of the Ir­ish

Chain of turnovers twists retro show­down into rout

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY CHUCK CULPEP­PER

mi­ami gardens, fla. — As peo­ple do say from time to time around the greater Mi­ami area: Dude, what just hap­pened here? This psy­che­delic re­gion and the foot­ball-ad­dled na­tion atop it pre­pared to wake Sun­day with a re­al­ity that seemed lost at sea for years and that was dec­i­mated only two au­tumns ago.

It’s this: The time has come again to take the Mi­ami Hur­ri­canes very se­ri­ously. They took a per­fectly at­trac­tive match with No. 3 Notre Dame on Satur­day night, and they ran that match off the rails un­til it be­came un­rec­og­niz­able. Surely no­body among the 65,303 at Hard Rock Sta­dium pre­dicted the fi­nal score. Mi­ami 41, Notre Dame 8. Look at that wacko thing. Most of the 65,303 rev­eled in the happy hints of retro pro­vided by a team most of the na­tion doesn’t know all that well any­more. The No. 7 Hur­ri­canes (9-0) not only bounced Notre Dame (8-2) pretty much out of con­sid-

er­a­tion for the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off while mak­ing them­selves a big, elec­tric con­tender, but they looked like their many mighty pre­de­ces­sors with their zeal, speed, brash­ness, smarts, a de­fense that seemed at times to have 15 play­ers on the field and that os­ten­ta­tious turnover chain they put around the necks of turnover-mak­ers.

Tellingly, they spent the first half Satur­day night putting it around the necks of tal­ented, hard-work­ing lo­cals. In a game that pit­ted the No. 4 team in the coun­try in per-game turnover mar­gin (Mi­ami) against the No. 5 team in that same cat­e­gory, Mi­ami wound up putting the gaudy neck­lace around Jaquan John­son from Mi­ami, Malek Young from Fort Laud­erdale and Tra­jan Bandy from Mi­ami. Those men helped a de­fense that quashed Notre Dame’s ex­cel­lent run game and picked it off at the pass, help­ing Mi­ami to a 27-0 half­time lead that ef­fec­tively short­cir­cuited the game.

Epit­o­miz­ing the kind of home- grown skill that led to Mi­ami’s five na­tional cham­pi­onships and four run­ner-up fin­ishes be­tween 1983-84 and 2002-03, John­son in­ter­cepted Notre Dame quar­ter­back Bran­don Wim­bush af­ter a tipped ball in the first quar­ter, help­ing ar­range a touch­down. Young in­ter­cepted Wim­bush on an over­thrown pass and re­turned it 13 yards to the Notre Dame 9-yard line, help­ing ar­range a field goal.

Bandy, a true fresh­man, wreaked the clincher 22 sec­onds be­fore half­time. When Notre Dame backup quar­ter­back Ian Book threw to­ward the right side­line and wide re­ceiver Kevin Stepher­son, Bandy hid and read Book’s tele­graph. He stepped into the pat­tern and the ball, ram­bled 65 yards for a score and made sure the sec­ond half would be filler, no­table for glee from fans, such as the guy kiss­ing a Jen­nifer Lopez card­board cutout.

The fi­nal turnover score be­tween the turnover kings: 4-0, home or­ange.

Those plays bloated an ad­van­tage that was pro­nounced any way. Notre Dame, which had rushed for 515 yards against Bos­ton Col­lege, 182 against Michi­gan State, 341 against North Carolina, 377 against South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, 318 against North Carolina State and 380 against Wake For­est, trick­led for 76 in the first half here, even­tu­ally 109 for the game. An en­tity so com­pellingly phys­i­cal as it routed, for ex­am­ple, USC, came to look meek.

“Over­rated!” the fans chanted at the visi­tors.

Just enough sparkling Mi­ami plays added to the mix. Quar­ter­back Ma­lik Rosier, grow­ing and grow­ing in his first full year as a starter, di­rected a di­verse 58yard drive to start the scor­ing, loft­ing a flaw­less seven-yard touch­down pass to a wide re­ceiver, Brax­ton Ber­rios, who made a smash­ing catch at the last edge of the back right cor­ner of the end zone. From John­son’s in­ter­cep­tion, which set up Mi­ami 32 yards from the goal, Rosier took off on a 16-yard touch­down run up the mid­dle that had him race through Khalid Ka­reem’s right hand, Greer Mar­tini’s left hand and Nick Cole­man’s right hand, then past Ju­lian Love’s both hands and into the end zone. Travis Homer, a run­ning back from West Palm Beach, got away of­ten enough for 146 rush­ing yards.

The sta­dium, de­serted to a de­press­ing de­gree on the af­ter­noon of Oct. 24, 2015, went berserk. It seemed as if it were some other struc­ture, and it had it­self such a night only 25 months af­ter a 58-0 loss to Clemson. That nadir left Mi­ami a ple­beian 60-48 across nine sea­sons, an old dy­nasty tired and rot­ted out. It has­tened the fir­ing of then-coach Al Golden. It en­abled the even­tual hir­ing of sec­ond-year Coach Mark Richt, a for­mer Hur­ri­canes quar­ter­back cast out of Ge­or­gia af­ter win­ning of­ten but not of­ten enough.

Now, the peo­ple from here to the Pa­cific wake on a Sun­day in Novem­ber of 2017, need­ing to scratch their heads and have a look at Mi­ami. Darned if it hasn’t reawak­ened. Look at all that or­ange.

LYNNE SLADKY/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jaquan John­son sports Mi­ami’s turnover chain Satur­day night af­ter his in­ter­cep­tion, which led to the team’s sec­ond touch­down.

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