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And in that corner… The Miami Hurricanes

Oct 3, 2012, 3:34 PM EDT

North Carolina State v Miami Getty Images

In the short history of the Shamrock Series, Notre Dame has had the chance to play in some great venues in some terrific cities. Starting the neutral site renaissance with an odd match against Washington State in San Antonio, the Irish exponentially improved the concept when they played the first football game in new Yankee Stadium against Army in 2010, and went to the nation’s capital for a game against Maryland in FedEx Field. This Saturday, the Shamrock Series marries the the best package of opponent and venue thus far, with the Miami Hurricanes joining Notre Dame in Chicago for a night game in Soldier Field.

This may not be the spirited rivalry it was back when Jimmy Johnson and Lou Holtz squared off, but it’s certainly a game that both teams have circled on their schedules for some time. With the ‘Canes entering the game at a surprising 4-1, it’s also a game that’ll garner some of the national spotlight, with the Irish looking to knock off another impressive opponent and Miami hoping to vault into the top 25.

Looking for a little bit more insight into the game, I tracked down Michael Casagrande of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Fresh to the Hurricanes beat after covering Alabama from 2009-2012, Michael was generous enough to find some time for me while spitting out columns left and right before the big game.

I asked, he answered. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy.


1. The ‘Canes seem to have been on the high-wire this season, winning shootouts with Boston College, Georgia Tech, and most recently North Carolina State. That Al Golden’s young squad is 4-1 (3-0 in ACC play) says something about his team. How confident is this Miami team heading into Chicago?

They’re in a much better place than they were three weeks ago. The ‘Canes faced a turning point after the 52-13 pounding at Kansas State. There was no guarantee of anything at that point, but things started to click at Georgia Tech and they’ve played like a different team since. Well, at least on offense. Defense is another issue.

2. The last time most Notre Dame fans saw Stephen Morris, it was in mop-up time against the Irish in El Paso at the Sun Bowl. Morris was the bright spot of a pretty mediocre performance by a ‘Canes team playing without a head coach. Now a junior, he seems to have put the pieces together. What type of challenge will he present to Notre Dame’s defense?

Morris has a cannon for an arm. Coaches even had to ask him to dial it back a bit sometimes and throw with a little more touch. He’s thrown with both recently when fitting deep balls in tight windows. Morris can also move around in the pocket and take off on occasion. A few planned QB runs have been effective this season. He’s also spread the ball around to several different receivers and running backs. So far, the tight ends have been a disappointment in the passing game.

3. On the other side of the ball, the Hurricanes have some pretty ugly numbers defensively. As someone that’s watched every snap this year, how bad is it? What’s been the biggest problem for Mark D’Onofrio’s unit?

It’s pretty bad at times. This is a young group with serious deficiencies in certain places. The defensive tackles aren’t very deep and will likely be without starter Olsen Pierre on Saturday. The most talented players are also the youngest. Sophomores and freshmen play many key roles, but also make the biggest mistakes. It’s a work in progress that might not be complete for another year. Forcing turnover (six of them) was huge last week when allowing 644 yards to NC State.

4. There’s a lot of good young offensive talent at Miami. I imagine we’ll hear plenty from Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett this weekend. Who else should Irish fans be worried about?

Receiver Allen Hurns was having a big season early on, but went down with a head injury (assumed to be a concussion) early at Kansas State. He has the size, speed, and hands to make a difference out there. Running back Mike James has also had a few big games here and there. Having the balance between run and pass will be huge in Miami’s shot at the upset.

5. Two recruits Notre Dame chased hard were Hurricanes Seantrel Henderson and Anthony Chickillo. Now that the recruiting spotlight is off of them, how have they played?

Both should play big roles. Henderson has been all over the map this year. He got in trouble when arriving late for summer classes, then there was a preseason concussion suffered in a car wreck. He missed all of August with that and attending two family funerals. Henderson even played on the scout team in the first week before moving back into the rotation. He’s been at both left and right tackle, but figures to start on the right side Saturday night. Chickillo is battling through almost constant double teams. As the bright spot on the line, he’s drawing much more attention. The Hurricanes need him to get pressure on the quarterback.

6. Vegas has this game with Notre Dame a double-digit favorite. How do you see it? What does Miami need to do to win the game on Saturday?

I have no clue. Seriously. This Miami team is all over the place. My gut says Notre Dame by 10, but my gut has been so wrong so often this year, it’s not worth asking anymore.


For more of Michael’s coverage leading up to the game, you can follow him on Twitter @ByCasagrande and check out the Sun Sentinel’s Miami Hurricanes Blog.

  1. 808raiderinparadise - Oct 3, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    WOW 644 yards surrendered to NCST with 6 turnovers ????????? How is that possible.

    This MIA defense is badddddddd, if ND can just run the ball and get a nice screen game and bubble screen game they can have long drives that eat clock and let Golson pick his spots in play action.

    Excited for this game. 5-0 seems brilliant.

    I hope the defense continues to beat-up on MIA.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Oct 3, 2012 at 6:20 PM

      Matt Fortuna ‏@Matt_Fortuna
      #NotreDame WR Robby Toma on Saturday’s jerseys: Coach said October’s the month everyone dresses up, so let’s have fun.

      Any pictures up yet Keith?

      • 808raiderinparadise - Oct 3, 2012 at 6:29 PM

        Nevermind I remember seeing them earlier. they are bad. But different. I guess its good for the players?

      • 9irish - Oct 3, 2012 at 9:15 PM

        eh….I will avoid the past pissing contests about uniforms that I have participated in….they are soooooooo….un-Notre Dame. So just go win and then burn them and we’ll all be happy.

    • jimbasil - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:09 AM

      You may have a point.

      “IF ND can just run the ball…” So far, they haven’t done that well running the ball.

      • dudeacow - Oct 4, 2012 at 9:39 AM

        We ran the ball well against Navy… and they may have a better D-Line than Miami. Plus, I just read an article the says one of Miami’s starting defensive tackles is doubtful for this game.

    • 1historian - Oct 4, 2012 at 7:35 PM

      “This MIA defense is baddddddd.”

      So far so is our offense.

      If we do not prevail in this game I for one will place about 99.44% of the blame on those HIDEOUS unis the team is being forced to wear.

      Win or not – please, pretty please with sugar on top – please burn them.

      Is that too much to ask? You would make an old man very happy.

  2. seadomer - Oct 3, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    Ok… I’m going to say it

    Their statement: Beat ND

    Our statement: End swagger by leading at half (24-7). Pour it on the the 3rd (34-10). Just one more for good measure (41-17) in the 4th and let TR come in as a sign to breakout the cordon bleu.

  3. bearcatirishfan - Oct 3, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Just end that MIA will be without a starting o lineman that is a 5th year senior. That should help tuitt and the boys get in Morris’s face.

    • stealthy77 - Oct 3, 2012 at 4:37 PM

      That 5th year senior is Ben Jones, and he started the season on the bench. He only played partial duty this year when he did play. The Canes rotate their offensive line two deep every game, so missing Ben Jones isn’t going to help Truitt or anybody else get in Morris’ face. In fact, the strongest unit of the team is the O-line, and it isn’t even close.

      • ndfaithful - Oct 3, 2012 at 11:39 PM

        so, when one guy that starts or always rotates in (2-deep) can’t play – somebody better comes in? I don’t get it. Here’s hoping for 5 or more sacks.

  4. bearcatirishfan - Oct 3, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    Read not end sorry

  5. 808raiderinparadise - Oct 3, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    Never thought A Heismanti could be looming like it is.
    He would have to get at least 1 turnover a game and some double-digit sacks, FF, and big plays to keep it up.
    I would love to see him score a TD, @ Punahou in high school they would just pitch him the ball in the red zone and he would smash on in from RB.

  6. nudeman - Oct 3, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    What is the over/under on # of penalties for Zach Martin this week?

  7. bearcatirishfan - Oct 3, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    Are we counting shoving on the chow line and inappropriate false starts during the national anthem?

    That joke still gets me giggled.

    Sinister, sorry the article on espn said he was a key anchor on the line. Don’t know about their team so…just what I read.

  8. c4evr - Oct 3, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    We should be worried about this game, if for no other reason than ND is favored so heavily.

    • c4evr - Oct 3, 2012 at 6:14 PM

      And this would be a good game to establish a running game. History lesson: of ND teams that contended for a championship over the past 30 years, they consistently had a top 10 rushing game. Of the 5 teams that started 4-0, 2 of them faltered as a result of poor offense. Gerry Faust’s 2nd team started 4-0 and finished 6-4-1and missed a bowl. Willingham’s ’02 team started 4-0 on the backs of the defense and was soundly beaten in a bowl game. Long story short, defense will only carry you so far.

      • nudeman - Oct 3, 2012 at 7:59 PM

        Hard to disagree with any of that. They just HAVE to run the ball if they’re going to go anywhere with this QB tandem

        Funny … remember how before the year started we were so high on the OL and the great running game we were going to have? Just breathe, baby; just breathe

      • jimbasil - Oct 4, 2012 at 8:14 AM

        Yep, you need to have an offense that can keep the ball and score. ND hasn’t had that Offense this year. This is a good team work the offense on. The UMiami team is young athletic and undisciplined (so far). ND O needs to challenge them and not with trick plays.

      • c4evr - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:07 AM

        Sorry for the 2 of you out there that don’t like the facts… I prefer to think it’s the messenger and not the message you dislike so as to not impugn the credibility of the board.

      • irish4006 - Oct 4, 2012 at 3:01 PM

        ’02 team did win 8 straight on defense and special teams; but there is ’02 defense and then there is real defense, a.k.a. ’12 defense.

        That was the weirdest season. A mediocre team with a slightly better than average defense and no offense no quarterback (Carlyle Holiday and Pat Dillingham don’t really count as quarterbacks) just kept winning until BC came to town.

  9. jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 3, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    No way we have a letdown this week vs the convicts. The venue of a pro stadium, a de facto home crowd, the new uni’s and the unbridled excitement that is Shamrock Series football will all combine to produce a convincing win. ND by 20 pts and the watchword will be offensive production this weekend. So it is written, so it shall be told.

    • Jennifer - Oct 3, 2012 at 7:42 PM

      Great closer there, jerseyshorendfan.

  10. mtndguy - Oct 3, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    Miami has a piss poor defense. Golson will get it going and ND will win big. My prediction, by 3 touchdowns. We may even see Reese in mop up time.

    • mtndguy - Oct 3, 2012 at 6:44 PM

      I accidentally hit “post” before I was finished. Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Navy’s defense are all ranked in the top 51. Miami’s defense is ranked 117. ND’s offense is ranked poorly, but compare ND’s opponents to most of the other top 25 teams schedule.Naturally ND is going to put up fewer yards against the schedule they’ve played thus far than other teams who have out of conference games against cupcakes. ND can put up 32 against Bethune Cookman (ala Miami) or 65 against a team like Louisiana Lafayette (ala Oklahoma State), but they chose not to play them.

      Offensive and defensive rankings are skewed this time due to the cupcake schedules that some teams chose to play early in the season. ND is a better defensive, and yes offensive team than their rankings indicate. Is the offense “elite” yet, no way, but they’re not as bad as their 95th ranking either.

  11. seadomer - Oct 3, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    To: All haters and trolls,
    After watching Espn and various articles,
    I declare that ND will be on “upset alert” for the rest of the season.

    To: Domers, Alumni, Friends and family of Domers,
    Just read “Upset Alert” as a compliment cos you got to be MUCH better to experience an upset.

  12. NotreDan - Oct 3, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    Sometimes I wonder what all the normal people who don’t read this blog think.

    Yanno I like it cuz it’s all my Irish, but for fuck sakes lets just see what happens Saturday and and THEN pretend we know everything. (Not you KA)

    • Jennifer - Oct 3, 2012 at 7:52 PM

      methinks you might just get bleeped there, NotreDan. (I’m pretending that I don’t know everything….wait …, I don’t know somethings…..wait…now, ….I forget….?)

      • nudeman - Oct 3, 2012 at 8:02 PM

        Huh? Who? Where? I know NOTHING!!!

    • seadomer - Oct 3, 2012 at 8:09 PM

      All the normal people who don’t read this blog are watching baseball

      • don74 - Oct 3, 2012 at 10:00 PM

        and the semi normal are watching the debate.

        I hope Jim Lehrer asks them about the starting QB at ND…..

      • papadec - Oct 4, 2012 at 2:13 AM

        GO YANKEES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. bearcatirishfan - Oct 3, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    I don’t think nd will cocky. And what are normal people?

    • Jennifer - Oct 3, 2012 at 7:56 PM

      I’ll channel Aristotle and try to get back with ya on that one, bearcat.

  14. seadomer - Oct 3, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    In case any Miami fans need reminding of ND’s defence. ND fans note Prince Shembo coming out with a bike stem sans bike seat. (btw, I love the song too)

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Oct 3, 2012 at 9:23 PM

      Good video but the music just accentuates how spastic Rees’ TD celebration looked. It looked like a white guy trying to dance to a rap song. I

      • seadomer - Oct 3, 2012 at 9:44 PM

        haha … give the junior a break, his First rushing TD … plus I would imagine him letting it out with what Denard did to ND last year.
        If it was me, I’ll take a picture with the ref whose arms raised signaling the TD

      • dmac4real - Oct 3, 2012 at 11:28 PM

        Dont hate on MGK, hes a lyrical genius. His talents compared to Rees is a massive insult to MGK.

    • ndfaithful - Oct 3, 2012 at 11:48 PM

      sweet. the boys did some good work! GO IRISH!

    • mattnef - Oct 4, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      Great video. Two things:
      1. Tuitt is a beast.
      2. Spond’s pass interference call is a highlight? Nice hit, but that is a bit much.
      Can’t wait for the convicts. Pulling out the vintage t-shirt.

    • chisports14 - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:48 PM

      Where are the Golson highlights?

    • tampadomer - Oct 5, 2012 at 4:43 AM

      Looks like you have found johnificationfootbal youtube page. He does a lot of great work and covers all the ND games. I highly recommend you check out his page on youtube, his videos are really good. Since you stumbled upon him, I would like to share my hidden gem. His name is cameronxcrazy on youtube. Absolutely great videos. I HIGHLY suggest you take a look.

  15. sinister23 - Oct 3, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    ND PUKES!!
    1. Teo WILL NOT WILL NOT WIN THE HEISMAN…it takes a special player to win that award playing defense, a michigan man if u will..#Charles Woodson
    2. Miami SHOULD win…but im saving my trash talk for a stronger team.
    3. Lindsay Lohan has A BETTER CHANCE of being President of the United States than ND has of winning a National Title..not just this year…EVER.

    • c4evr - Oct 3, 2012 at 10:39 PM

      ‘ND Pukes!!’. Just for clarity, did you intend Pukes to be a verb or a noun?? And are you softening in your old age by saving your trash talk. Or don’t you trust you can come up with enough good material week in and week out? Either way, welcome back, we missed you.

    • papadec - Oct 4, 2012 at 2:17 AM

      sin – thanks for my LAUGH OF THE DAY!

      • ndgoldandblue - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:19 AM

        I know. I love this guy. His comments are like those jokes your friends tell that are so dumb that they’re funny. And c4evr, I thought that sinister meant it as a noun at first, but now that I look at it, I could see how he might have intended it to be a verb. I doubt it, though. Calling someone a puke is, at least, a 3rd-grade insult, while saying that someone is puking (or pukes on a regular basis) isn’t really an insult at all. It’s just stating a fact. It would be like me saying, “Sinister poops.” Yeah…no real impact there.

    • 1historian - Oct 4, 2012 at 7:49 PM

      lefty vingt-trois:

      1) something I bet you didn’t know – ‘Sinister’ is a Latin word meaning ‘left’.

      2) The Heisman – in October 1916 Cumberland College played Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The score after the 1st quarter was 63-0 GT. At the half it was 126-0 GT. After 3 quarters it was 180-0 GT. At the end of the game it was 222-0 GT.

      A bit of a blowout wouldn’t you say?

      The Georgia Tech on that day (the worst rout in college football history) was John Heisman.

      • 1historian - Oct 4, 2012 at 7:50 PM

        whoops – the Georgia Tech COACH


  16. loadofwash - Oct 3, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    ND is like Romney, no substance just a bunch of unsubstantiated bull.

    • dmac4real - Oct 3, 2012 at 11:26 PM

      Considering Romney just cleaned Obama’s clock, Ill take that comparison for now.

      • nudeman - Oct 3, 2012 at 11:46 PM

        I guess you get Hannity’s RSS feed.

      • ndgoldandblue - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:22 AM

        I agree with dmac. I consider myself to be more of a democrat than republican, and even I’ll admit that Romney took Obama to the woodshed last night. If we can do something synonymous to Miami, I’ll be happy.

  17. sinister23 - Oct 4, 2012 at 1:43 AM

    @loadofwash…..i troll this blog!!!! Get your own!!!!

    ps…i never run out of material…im just not 100% sure miami will pull it off.

    • papadec - Oct 4, 2012 at 2:22 AM

      sin – is it the 13 point spread that has you nervous?

    • c4evr - Oct 4, 2012 at 7:29 PM

      First rule of trolling, you are always right. If ND loses, they’re overrated and irrelevant. If they win, they’re overrated and irrelevant. Didn’t you learn anything from the Presidential debates last night?? Never abdicate!!

  18. yaketyyacc - Oct 4, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    Irish, beware the Trojan Horse. remember the hype about USC last year: hobbled by injuries, hogtied by NCAA sanctions. Remember the results!
    Now, it’s poor MIami, struggling with a young defense. oh, don’t pay attention to the few yards and touchdowns the offense has accomplished, that has MORE then made up for the defense. If you don’t pay attention, desite the cold, it will be Notre Dame, leaving Soldier Field, with a third degree sun-burn, delivered by that poor MIami team.

  19. dnice024 - Oct 4, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Best summary of season to date that I’ve heard so far by T. Prister @IrishIllustrated:

    “In a perfect world, No. 9/10 Notre Dame (4-0) continues to play great defense while the offense grows and matures at a steady if not an accelerated pace. Before you know it, you have a defense that opponents can’t score against and an offense that stands on its own two feet.

    The Irish aren’t there yet, not with a sophomore quarterback who was yanked from the Michigan game midway through the second quarter, and not with a junior quarterback whose 2012 sample size is still too small to assure that he’s put last year’s turnover problems behind him.”

    It is a “process,” you know – he continues:

    “… means going back to Golson as the starter, who has done more positive things in his playing time than negative, although the most recent performance is the one that sticks in the mind until new data alters the perception. Rees remains Kelly’s security blanket.

    In Golson, the Irish have a dynamic athlete with a big arm, the ability to extend plays, and a good feel for the game – after the football has been snapped. In Rees, the Irish have the lock-down closer with 16 games of starting experience.”

    I would have posted this on previous QB article, but I think the comment limit was reached (you guys had a blast with that one!) So, here’s to accelerating the pace of the offense’s progress and maintaining the strong defensive performance. GO IRISH!

    • c4evr - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:01 AM

      Anybody else cringing at the ‘security blanket’ statement?? Kelly needs to move past what most first graders have given up and start to show the evidence that he can do the very thing at which he supposedly excels.

      • bernhtp - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:20 AM

        While the term is not what I would have used to describe Rees, it doesn’t get me cringing. Kelly is doing exactly as you suggest: developing the QB he would like to have all he can while using the one he does have to win games when needed. Kelly and Martin are doing all they can for Golson. It’s time for Everett to step up and show some real progress and consistency. If he can’t do it, Kelly will need to find another developmental project.

      • c4evr - Oct 4, 2012 at 7:25 PM

        At what point does it not fall on the QB’s. That makes Crist, Hendrix, Rees, and Golson that have now been put through the grist mill. After Kiel, Kelly will have to look to the walk-ons until Malik arrives – assuming he does. I find it very hard to believe that 4 and 5 star athletes are having that hard a time adjusting to collegiate football and that a 3 star (marginally) QB has the best grasp of Kelly’s offense after 2+ years. This is ND, but you just don’t lose confidence walking on the campus after a stellar high school career. There’s more going on here than meets the eye.

  20. derekfoster87 - Oct 4, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    I think this will be the defense’s toughest challenge so far this year. Michigan proved that it is truly a 1 dimensional team this year (or should I say one man team) and if you limit Denard, then Michigan is in trouble. I remeber this Morris kid coming in and looking pretty sharp as a freshman in the Sun Bowl. With another year of experience under his belt, he has grown into a very good player. Our inexperienced secondary will be the deciding factor in this game- especially if Miami’s O-line can limit ND’s front 7. The only problem for Miami is, I don’t see them stopping the front 7 for ND. ND’s 4 sacks (Shembo forces a fumble on one) will be too much for Miami to overcome.

    ND 27 Miami 20

  21. arodr101 - Oct 5, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    Not trolling…

    ND secondary is suspect. If Miami Oline can give Morris time they might just put up some big numbers. Watch out for Duke Johnson and his quick scores.

    It’s no secret Miamis D is bad. This may be a shoot out if Miami can get the passing game going.

  22. seadomer - Oct 6, 2012 at 1:03 AM

    Here is the not so simple answer,

    I caught the BYU vs Boise state and am watching them right now vs Utah state, they are playing like ND, stylistically speaking.
    This Boise state is not the Kellen Moore-led squad but BYU only gave 7 points.
    Also BYU allowed 10 ppg thru 5 games and if the current score hold (BYU 6 – Utah state 3), technically its 53/6 which will be slightly under 9 ppg thru 6 games

    Plus they are probably a bowl bound team BUT whoever they play will not have the glam of ND. If I was a BYU player, my bowl game will be on OCT 20

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