Notre Dame and Miami square off in the regular season Saturday for the first time since 1990. The Shamrock Series game at Chicago’s Soldier Field will serve as a trip to the gold assayer for both programs.
Miami junior QB Stephen Morris is coming off a record-setting game against N.C. State
For the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish (4-0), which are coming off a bye week, it’s an opportunity to truly test their inexperienced secondary and try to find a more potent balance on offense. For the Hurricanes (4-1), it will be a chance to see if their offense can stand up to one of the most dominant front sevens they’ll face all year and if their defense can move from bad to respectable.
Miami has rolled up more than 600 yards of offense in each of its last two games, putting up a combined 86 points in victories over Georgia Tech and N.C. State. It has allowed 1,083 yards and 73 points in that same span.
Meanwhile, a rested Notre Dame outfit heads to the Windy City boasting just nine points allowed per game after holding its last three opponents to an average under 300 yards.
Junior quarterback Stephen Morris set school and Atlantic Coast Conference records by throwing for 566 yards in Miami’s 44-37 victory last week over North Carolina State. He tossed five touchdown passes, including a 62-yard strike to Phillip Dorsett with 19 seconds remaining, helping the Hurricanes win their third consecutive game for the first time since 2009.
“As you can imagine, as coaches, we kind of live in a perfect world and in a consistent world,” Miami second-year head coach Al Golden said Sunday. “And we’re anything but consistent right now. So that contrast or that dichotomy has been interesting to negotiate. But when they’re playing as hard as they’re playing, and they’re resilient as they are, it is fun to coach. They play hard. They’re nowhere near flawless, to say the least. But they keep competing.”
Like it did the previous week in an overtime win against Georgia Tech, Miami went on a 23-0 run, this time in a span of just over four minutes in the first quarter. It’s a far cry from the 52-13 bludgeoning it received from Kansas State in Week Two.
Saturday’s contest marks the beginning of a three-game series between the two old rivals, with home-and-home meetings scheduled for 2016 and 2017. They last met in the 2010 Sun Bowl, which the Irish won 33-17 in El Paso, Texas.
Miami has dropped six of its last seven games against top-10 opponents and will compete against the Irish without Ben Jones (foot), a fifth-year senior offensive tackle that was rapidly emerging after a disappointing career up until this fall. What the Hurricanes still have is Dorsett, a 5-9 sophomore wideout that has caught 16 passes for 375 yards over the last two games.
“For our guys, it just has to be business as usual,” Golden said. “I want to see us improve, take care of business every day and just trust the process. And we’ve got to get healed up. This is our fourth road game in six weeks so we’ve got to get healed up and healthy and get ready for obviously a great Notre Dame team in Chicago.”