The conversation around a 48-37 victory doesn’t last long when the game was much more lopsided than the score suggests. Those discussions are especially short-lived when the following weekend features a top-10, prime-time, nationally-implicating contest. Such will obviously be the case when Notre Dame visits Miami on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
The Hurricanes (8-0) have won 13 straight, dating back to an Oct. 29. 2016, loss at the hands of … the Irish. Miami then won its next eight games by multiple possessions. Of the opponent Notre Dame faced a year ago, 13 starters remain in the lineup as of this past weekend, including three-fifths of the Hurricanes’ offensive line and all of their defensive front-seven.
Partly due to that veteran unit, Miami is No. 4 in the country in turnover margin at +11 in only eight games. The defense has forced a total of 20 turnovers, highlighted by 13 interceptions.
A quick look at the stats does reveal one notable Hurricane weakness, though. Miami struggles to keep offensive drives alive, converting only 31.3 percent of third downs (43 of 154), ranking No. 117 in the country. To be undefeated despite that type of offensive inconsistency makes the Hurricanes quite an outlier. Of the 12 teams behind them in third down conversion percentage, none have even a .500 record. Combined, the dozen are 23-83 this season.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, has held opponents to converting just 34.9 percent of their third downs. Likewise, it should be acknowledged the Irish have turned over the ball only seven total times this season, including two interceptions thrown by sophomore backup quarterback Ian Book at North Carolina when junior Brandon Wimbush was sidelined with a grade one right foot strain.
Notre Dame nearly set a program record for total yards against Wake Forest. When all was said, done and accurately counted, the Irish gained 710 total yards, falling a 10-yard holding penalty short of tying the record set against Navy in 1969. Expecting a replication of that outburst is outlandish to start with, but it is especially unlikely facing a Hurricanes defense allowing only 367.6 yards per game, No. 42 in the country.
Yet, one more time, let’s recognize the absurdity of gaining 710 yards. That’s a lot.
Let’s also recognize Justin Yoon for unofficially setting a Notre Dame record.
By making two of three field goal attempts Saturday, junior kicker Justin Yoon brought his career field goal percentage to 78.7 percent (37-of-47). If he misses each of his next three attempts, that will drop to 74.0 percent but he will have reached the record minimum requirement of 50 attempts.
Of those with that minimum, John Carney (1984-86) holds the record of 73.9 percent.
Yoon guaranteed himself that mark for at least a moment, provided he tries three more field goals in his Irish career.
And a moment of appreciation from this space to the television programming overlords.
In an effort to kill two birds with one stone, as they say, this scribe will be catching a 7 a.m. flight to Miami on Saturday. The miserably-early departure time allows the fulfillment of previous Friday night commitments and a corporate behemoth to save on a night’s hotel bill. Landing at 10:40 a.m. ET, a 3:30 p.m. kickoff would have fit the schedule, but it would have been tight.
This once and only this once, this space is appreciative of the primetime kickoff. And no, no tears will be shed about being asleep at 35,000 feet during ESPN’s College GameDay, although kudos should be offered to that program for broadcasting from Miami’s campus rather than from Hard Rock Stadium, 20-plus miles away. That decision makes even more sense since the show ends eight hours before the game kicks.