Notre Dame Football: Canes-Irish-100612

CHICAGO -- Allow Cierre Wood to explain the difference between the defense that Notre Dame faced early on Saturday night and the one he faced in the second half.

"They were all upbeat and jumping and all that stuff in the beginning," Wood said of Miami, which held the Irish to 28 rushing yards in the first quarter.

And then?

"But when you smack a team so many times in the mouth, eventually they're going to want to stop playing, and that's what happened today."

This city's official marathon does not start until 7:30 local time Sunday morning, but Notre Dame got a running head start mid-way through its convincing 41-3 win over the Hurricanes at Soldier Field, a contest in which the Irish rushed for 376 yards.

A 10-point halftime lead gave way to a 31-point advantage to start the fourth quarter, and the Irish have their ground game to thank for that. Notre Dame rushed the ball on 19 of its 21 plays in the third quarter, amassing 197 yards on the ground. Exactly 100 of those yards belonged to Wood, who eclipsed the century mark for the first time this season and for the fourth time in his career.

The returning 1,100-yard back finished the day with 118 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, and he was not even the Irish's leading rusher.

That title belonged to George Atkinson III, whose 55-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter highlighted his 123-yard day and gave the Irish two single-game 100-yard rushers for the first time in 10 years. Theo Riddick had five carries for 21 yards but sat much of the second half with a bruised elbow.

"We feed off big runs, physical runs, things of that nature," Atkinson said. "It makes us want to one-up each other."

The evening started with more quarterback drama, as Notre Dame announced that Tommy Rees would be starting in place of Everett Golson, who violated a team rule.

Rees and the Irish appeared to go three-and-out on their first drive, but a roughing-the-punter penalty gave them a re-do, and Golson was the man afterward. He, too, got in on the ground fun, breaking off several big runs that illustrated why, despite several rookie mistakes, he is the long-term answer for the Irish under center.

Coming off what coach Brian Kelly called his best week of practice, Golson rushed for 51 yards on six carries, and he completed 17 of 22 passes for 186 yards, shortly after being late for a team meeting that cost him the chance to take the game's first snap.

"I want our guys to be accountable," Kelly said. "He was accountable. He knew that he's got to do a better job of communicating. Look, he was meeting with a professor and he lost track of time, and he knows he's got to communicate with us and do a better job of that. But he took full responsibility for it, accountability for it; I thought he came in and played very well. I was proud of him today."

Said Golson: "I didn't handle it in the way I should have."

Kelly is not a big time-of-possession guy, but even he took pleasure in his team's domination of that category, with the Irish holding the ball for 39:08. Their 34 first downs were two shy of a team record.

"College GameDay" will be on the scene in South Bend next Saturday when the Irish look to improve to 6-0 against Stanford, but no one in the Irish locker room was ready to party just yet.

Yes, this is an offense that desperately needed to prove it can make plays. By not turning the ball over and netting 587 total yards against the porous Miami defense, it did jsut that, but the players are not getting ahead of themselves just yet.

"We've still got a lot of work to do," Wood said. "We had a great game today, but we're nowhere near where we want to be. We're nowhere near how good we can be. So people looking at us now, that's not really anything yet because we've still got a lot of work to do."

Video: Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o

October, 7, 2012

The senior captain talks about the Irish's 41-3 victory over Miami.
CHICAGO -- No. 9 Notre Dame handled Miami 41-3 on Saturday night at Soldier Field. Here is a quick look at how the Irish won.

It was over when: Notre Dame racked up 197 yards rushing and 21 points in a decisive third quarter to put the game out of reach. The Irish led 13-3 at halftime, but Miami never had a chance to get into the game in the third quarter because the Irish were so dominant on the ground. On their three scoring drives in the quarter, Notre Dame attempted a total of two passes. One of those drives went 12 plays -- and all 12 were runs.

Gameball goes to: George Atkinson III and Cierre Wood. As the Irish surpassed the 300-yard rushing mark in the game, both Atkinson and Wood went over 100 yards. It was the first time Notre Dame had two 100 yard rushers in the same game since 2002. Notre Dame ended up with season highs in first downs (34) and rushing yards (379).

Stat of the game: Notre Dame's 379-yard rushing total. The Irish had their way on the ground in this game, impressively chewing up chunks of yards while also breaking one tackle after another. This was a new low point for the Miami defense, which has played poorly all season. Miami has allowed five of its six opponents to run for more than 200 yards this season. The previous season high came on the road at Kansas State, when the Wildcats racked up 288 total rushing yards.

Video: Miami-Notre Dame pregame

October, 6, 2012

Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna preview tonight's matchup at Soldier Field.
CHICAGO -- Greetings from a chilly Soldier Field, where temperatures are much colder than what Miami left behind in Florida.

Forty degrees colder to be exact.

Cold weather and Florida teams generally do not work well together, and temperatures are expected to hover in the upper 30s and low 40s as the game goes on tonight. That is just one intangible to keep an eye on as the Hurricanes take on No. 9 Notre Dame.

The other, of course, is what a win like this could do for Miami.

No question there remains a lot of skepticism about the Hurricanes. Though they have won back-to-back games in heart-stopping fashion, there are still plenty of flaws Notre Dame could exploit. Flaws that we saw clear as day the last time Miami played a nonconference game on the road, against Kansas State.

That game is not far from people's minds. In fact, it is a question that has been asked repeatedly this week. How do we know Miami is any better than the team that got worked at Kansas State in Week 2? Two comeback wins in ACC play are great, but those two teams are not exactly the cream of the crop in the ACC.

Beating a Top 10 team -- and Notre Dame at that -- would validate Miami. And it would make the ACC look much better than it does today. The Coastal Division is an absolute trainwreck. Virginia Tech gave up 48 points today; North Carolina is ineligible for the postseason; Virginia is a mess. That leaves Miami and Duke as the class of your Coastal.

Now back to the larger point, more than appearing to be the class of the Coastal. Miami would instantaneously elevate the ACC. Rather than talk about the misery that is the Coastal, folks would talk about Miami being "back," and just in time, with No. 3 Florida State being "back." The ACC desperately need Florida State and Miami to be good, with all their history and tradition and national championship.

And national name brand recognition.

Miami is not a perfect team. But it doesn't take a perfect team to win a game. We'll see if Miami can pass this test.

QB Tommy Rees to start for Irish

October, 6, 2012
CHICAGO -- Notre Dame's never-ending quarterback controversy took another interesting step shortly before kickoff Saturday night.

Tommy Rees will start for the No. 9 Irish against Miami at Soldier Field after Everett Golson was benched for a violation of team rules.

Golson has started all four games for the undefeated Irish, but Rees replaced him in two of the games. Golson threw two interceptions and completed just three passes in his last outing against Michigan before Rees took over.

To read more, click here.


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