Hurricanes take fight right out of the Irish
Chain of turnovers twists retro showdown into rout
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.
Jaquan Johnson sports Miami’s turnover chain Saturday night after his interception, which led to the team’s second touchdown.