Associated Press

Notre Dame’s Playoff hopes drowned by Hurricanes


MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Notre Dame will not want to return to Hard Rock Stadium for a long time. It will also want to avoid gold necklaces.

Miami trotted out its “turnover chain” three times in the first half Saturday night, which means, more to the point, the No. 7 Hurricanes forced three turnovers and scored 17 points off them, part of a 27-0 first half. No. 3 Notre Dame didn’t get within Miami’s 35-yard line until the closing minutes of the third quarter, finally scoring a touchdown to avoid the shutout in the 41-8 rout.

“Miami was the better team today,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “We didn’t see this coming, obviously. We felt like we were prepared to play at a high level. We did not.”

The Hurricanes stymied the Irish offense all night, but especially so in the first quarter. Notre Dame split 18 plays evenly among rushes and passes, gaining 20 yards on the ground and 30 through the air. Miami, meanwhile, gained 143 yards in the frame, running the exact same number of plays as the Irish.

Notre Dame finished with 130 rushing yards on 31 carries (sacks adjusted), well below its averages and an inconsistent enough output to limit the rest of its offensive approach.

“We never really got into a good rhythm,” Kelly said. “We got behind the chains, we were very predictable, and [the Hurricanes are] really good. Let’s give credit where credit is due.

“We just never really got into the kind of rhythm necessary to sustain.”

The Irish at least found some traction in the second quarter, and their defense continued to keep the score closer than the contest genuinely was. Considering Miami led 27-0 at the break, its total of 194 yards was unusually low. Three turnovers created efficient scoring, efficient and devastatingly disheartening for Notre Dame.

“I don’t know that I ever felt that things get away from you as much as you’re not executing,” Kelly said. “You need to. That’s a really good football team.

“… The makeup of this football team, Miami, is built on turnovers. The one thing we couldn’t do was turn the ball over.”

A total of four turnovers led to 24 Hurricanes points.

“Notre Dame, without a doubt, is a great team,” Miami head coach Mark Richt said. “It’s obvious. It just got away from them. I never would have predicted what happened, but it happened and I’m thank for it.”

Irish junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s second interception came halfway through the second quarter. On a quick drop, he sailed a quick slant route, making it look like Hurricanes sophomore cornerback Malek Young was the intended target. Young ran the gift back to the Notre Dame nine-yard line.

“I think [Wimbush is] still developing as a quarterback and tonight was not a night to run the football over against a quality football team,” Kelly said.

There is no excusing the throw. It could not have been much more off-target. On the next drive, Kelly turned to sophomore quarterback Ian Book in search of a spark, though one might wonder if Wimbush needed at least a few minutes to clear his head, as well.

With Book at the helm, the Irish offense very well may be more consistent, but it also has a much lower ceiling. Wimbush’s ability to fire the ball deep downfield on any play or run equally as far without a moment’s notice keeps a defense at a disadvantage. At least, it does most of the time. When trailing 20-0, some play-making is needed. Every potential piece of it should be on the field.

As soon as Notre Dame felt a need to turn to Book — an understandable one given Wimbush was 2-of-10 for 30 yards with 13 yards rushing to that point, finishing 10-of-21 for 119 yards and one score with 45 rushing yards — its chances of a comeback dropped drastically. Miami made that decision necessary.

Kelly did return to Wimbush in the second half, but by the time he took the field, that lead had expanded to 34-0. Only so much was going to be done.

Wimbush’s second interception spurred a quarterback change. It nearly spurred the night into blowout territory, a scenario eventually inevitable. The Irish defense delayed that decisiveness for a bit with an impressive stand after the turnover.

Miami needed to go all of nine yards for a 24-0 lead.

“We put [our defense] in a bad situation,” Kelly said. “It’s hard to get an accurate picture of them.”

Due to a delay of game penalty, the Hurricanes actually went backward, settling for a field goal and a mere 20-0 advantage.

That defensive stand may not seem like much, and in the end it wasn’t, but it is an example of the defensive performance all night long. Quick changes are especially difficult for most defenses. Allowing a touchdown would have reflected more poorly on the offense than it would have on the defense, in all of reality. Nonetheless, Notre Dame stood its ground.

It gave the best it could on that side of the ball, and that might have been plenty if not for the repeated and costly offensive mishaps.

Book’s day ended with an interception returned 65 yards by Miami freshman cornerback Trajan Bandy for a touchdown with only 22 seconds before halftime. Book’s day may have ended during the intermission, anyway, but the telegraphed pass sealed the change back to Wimbush.

“I felt at halftime our best chance at really rallying and really trying to get Brandon to play through it, if you will, was the best course of action,” Kelly said.

On that drive, Book had the Irish offense moving, covering 54 yards in eight plays. There was a viable chance at a touchdown before halftime. Reaching the break trailing only 20-7 would have been a remarkable feat, and one that could have been built upon.

Instead, Bandy erased any thoughts of that, any thoughts of Book leading a historic comeback and any thoughts of now-two-loss Notre Dame making the College Football Playoff.

As much as the Irish defense was not the primary problem Saturday night, it also did not give its offense much to build on. It forced no turnovers. It allowed the Hurricanes four scoring drives of eight plays or more, including a nine-play, 90-yard tour de force to open the second half.

Miami sophomore running back Travis Homer rushed for 52 yards on that drive, including a 40-yard counter that Kelly distinctly remembered after the game.

“Let’s give Travis Homer some credit,” Kelly said. “His acceleration through the hole, he may be as fast as any back that hits the hole that we’ve seen. We were a step behind him.”

Homer finished with 146 yards on 18 carries, leading the way for a Hurricane rushing attack that finished with 237 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries. Once the defense set up a substantial lead, Miami successfully ground down Notre Dame with a running game reminiscent of the Irish approach for much of the season.

“He’s a great competitor, great speed, great vision, really able to make the cuts,” Notre Dame senior linebacker and captain Drue Tranquill said. “When we didn’t fit right and didn’t execute, he was able to make those cuts and get vertical.”

Entering the weekend, the Irish had outscored their opponents in points off turnovers by a margin of 108 to 10.

Miami outscored Notre Dame in points off turnovers 24 to 0.

Combine that with the inability for the Irish rushing attack to find its footing against the Hurricanes’ ability to do exactly that, and this blowout is about summed up.

From Notre Dame fifth-year left tackle, captain and straight-shooter Mike McGlinchey:

“You have to give all the credit in the world to them. Obviously we have to play a lot better than we played tonight, but Miami came out ready to make plays and they made them.

“They played a hard game and they kicked our ass.”


First Quarter
4:01 — Miami touchdown. Braxton Berrios seven-yard reception from Malik Rosier. Michael Badgley PAT good. Miami 7, Notre Dame 0. (8 plays, 58 yards, 3:04)
2:33 — Miami touchdown. Rosier 16-yard rush. Badgley PAT good. Miami 14, Notre Dame 0. (2 plays, 32 yards, 0:36)

Second Quarter
13:27 — Miami field goal. Badgley 23 yards. Miami 17, Notre Dame 0. (9 plays, 48 yards, 2:37)
5:56 — Miami field goal. Badgley 30 yards. Miami 20, Notre Dame 0. (4 plays, -4 yards, 1:24)
0:22 — Miami touchdown. Trajan Bandy 65-yard interception return. Badgley PAT good. Miami 27, Notre Dame 0.

Third Quarter
10:30 — Miami touchdown. DeeJay Dallas four-yard rush. Badgley PAT good. Miami 34, Notre Dame 0. (9 plays, 90 yards, 4:30)
0:12 — Notre Dame touchdown. Alize Mack 14-yard reception from Brandon Wimbush. Wimbush run for two-point attempt. Miami 34, Notre Dame 8. (10 plays, 80 yards, 4:47)

Fourth Quarter
4:00 — Miami touchdown. Dallas four-yard rush. Badgley PAT good. Miami 41, Notre Dame 8. (8 plays, 30 yards, 4:50)

Friday at 4: Notre Dame brings back the most important NFL possibilities in Kareem & Okwara

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This is not to diminish the losses of receiver Miles Boykin and consensus first-team All-American cornerback Julian Love. Notre Dame will miss both of them, Love in particular. But looking at the Irish depth chart, there are avenues to survival without both.

Notre Dame will return two starting receivers in rising senior Chase Claypool and fifth-year-to-be Chris Finke (speaking of which, see below). A number of options exist to replace Love, though obviously none will match his shutdown abilities. Either rising sophomore TaRiq Bracy will put on the necessary muscle to compete with receivers at this level or rising senior Donte Vaughn will return reinvigorated with health after recent surgery to repair a torn labrum surgery or rising sophomore Houston Griffith will move from safety to get his talent on the field or fifth-year Shaun Crawford will recover from an ACL tear quicker than expected or … or … or … If one of those pans out, the Irish defense should be comfortable in its coverage, buoyed by the stalwart safety combination of Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott. (Imagine sincerely saying “stalwart safety combination” just six months ago.)

Look again at the depth chart, and such luxuries do not exist at defensive end. If rising seniors Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara had not opted to return, Notre Dame’s 2019 dreams would have hit a lowered ceiling nine months before the season began. By no means were they certain high-round draft picks, but the allure of athletic and talented defensive ends may have easily led to some outsized draft hopes.

Their backups are certainly more than capable — rising seniors Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji — but a talented second-unit is as important at defensive end as dangerous starters are. To replace the latter with the former is to diminish the entire enterprise outright.

The Irish could not have recovered from losing both Kareem and Okwara, at least not to the extent where Playoff talk would be viable again. Lose one and it would have still been dubious, at best.

Take a look at the teams expected to be in the mix for the Playoff. Using current championship odds … Clemson at 2-to-1, Alabama at just less than 3-to-1, Georgia at 6-to-1, Ohio State at 8-to-1, Michigan at 16-to-1 and then Oklahoma also at 16-to-1. Those first five have been known for their defenses more than anything else in recent years. Bookmakers put some faith in their ability to reload on the fly.

Notre Dame has not earned that trust, and its roster does not indicate it should have. As well as Justin Ademilola performed as a freshman in four games, inserting him into a pivotal role in 2019 would likely be a recipe for a mediocre season. He is another year of development away from being ready for that role, barring a Matt Balis-induced excellent offseason.

The Irish will need Kareem and Okwara to survive the losses of defensive tackles Jerry Tillery and Jonathan Bonner, but if they play as they did in 2018, that is a reasonable ask. If they continue to develop, it becomes a probability more than a Notre Dame leap of faith.

The Irish will miss Boykin’s back-shoulder reliability and everything about Love, but Brian Kelly and his coaching staff coaxed back the two most-pivotal pieces from NFL draft consideration.

Speaking of Finke, he confirmed his intent to return for his final year of eligibility Thursday evening. And he did it in a way only befitting a man comfortable in his own skin.

And for the sake of context: Notre Dame is currently listed at 25-to-1 for the 2019-20 national championship, tied with Florida and Washington, just behind Texas at 20-to-1.

Notre Dame’s defensive depth chart, a touch lighter with D.J. Morgan’s intended transfer

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With the Wednesday announcement of current junior linebacker D.J. Morgan’s intention to transfer this summer as a graduate with two years of eligibility remaining, Notre Dame’s roster drops to 87 scholarship players expected this coming fall. Included among them, at least 12, possibly 14 linebackers. Before explaining that …

Morgan finishes his Irish career with two tackles in two 2017 appearances as a safety. He moved to linebacker during 2018’s spring practices, but never came particularly close to playing time. It remained difficult to see him cracking into the rotation moving forward given the quality of recruiting classes at the position in the last two cycles.

“I would like to thank the University of Notre Dame for everything they have done for me,” Morgan wrote on Twitter. “When I decided to come here, my main goal was to get my degree from this prestigious University, and I am proud to see that I will be completing that goal this summer!

“During this time I will be searching for a new school to attend as a graduate transfer to finish off my last 2 years of eligibility.”


Before facing Louisville on Labor Day, the Irish will need to be down to 85 scholarship players. At 87 now, that does not include incoming freshman J.D. Bertrand, who had a recruitment handled in a deliberate fashion so as to make him eligible for an academic scholarship. Notre Dame also continues to chase two defenders — consensus four-star linebacker Asa Turner and consensus four-star defensive end Isaiah Foskey — who could balloon the roster count further.

RELATED READING: Notre Dame’s offensive depth chart entering the 2019 offseason

Keep that necessary attrition in mind as realizing how many players are at certain positions.

Julian Okwara — Senior in 2019-2020 — 1 year of eligibility remaining.
Khalid Kareem — Senior — 1
Daelin Hayes — Senior — 1
Ade Ogundeji — Senior — 2
Justin Ademilola — Sophomore — 4
Jamir Jones — Senior — 1
Kofi Wardlow — Junior — 3
NaNa Osafo-Mensah — Early-enrolled freshman — 4
Howard Cross — Incoming freshman — 4

If not for Ademilola’s impressive 2018, it would be easy to presume a four-man rotation next season, but appearing in the Cotton Bowl all-but guarantees Ademilola will be in the mix.

Kurt Hinish — Junior in 2019-2020 — 2 years of eligibility remaining.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa — Junior in 2019-2020 — 3
Jayson Ademilola — Sophomore — 3
Ja’Mion Franklin — Sophomore — 4
Jacob Lacey — Early-enrolled freshman — 4
Hunter Spears — Early-enrolled freshman — 4

Lacey will need to be ready for at least four games next season, especially with three of these six returning from injury: Tagovailoa-Amosa with a broken foot, though he did at least take some snaps against Clemson; Franklin from a torn quad that will limit him through the spring; and Spears from a torn ACL that could conceivably cost him 2019.

Asmar Bilal — Fifth-year in 2019-2020 — 1 year of eligibility remaining.
Jordan Genmark-Heath — Junior — 2
Jonathan Jones — Senior — 2
Bo Bauer — Sophomore — 3
Jack Lamb — Sophomore — 4
Drew White — Junior — 3
Jack Kiser — Early-enrolled freshman — 4
J.D. Bertrand — Incoming freshman — 4

It was always going to be a long-shot for Morgan as soon as Bauer and Lamb arrived.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — Junior in 2019-2020 — 3 years of eligibility remaining.
Shayne Simon — Sophomore — 3
Ovie Oghoufo — Sophomore — 3
Marist Liufau — Incoming freshman — 4
Osito Ekwonu — Incoming freshman — 4

Owusu-Koramoah lost 2018 to injury, making this something of a toss-up between him and Simon for a spring competition chasing the starting role, presuming Bilal does indeed move inside as expected.

Alohi Gilman’s 18 tackles in the Cotton Bowl loss should set him up for an offseason of further development and possible captaincy. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Alohi Gilman — Senior in 2019-2020 — 2 years of eligibility remaining.
Jalen Elliott — Senior — 1
Devin Studstill — Senior — 1
Houston Griffith — Sophomore — 3
Derrik Allen — Sophomore — 4
Paul Moala — Sophomore — 3
Kyle Hamilton — Incoming freshman — 4
Litchfield Ajavon — Incoming freshman — 4

Troy Pride — Senior in 2019-2020 — 1 year of eligibility remaining.
Donte Vaughn — Senior — 1
TaRiq Bracy — Sophomore — 3
Shaun Crawford — Fifth-year — 1, with possibly another after that if the NCAA grants a medical waiver.
D.J. Brown — Sophomore — 4
Noah Boykin — Sophomore — 4
Isaiah Rutherford — Incoming freshman — 4
K.J. Wallace — Incoming freshman — 4

Someone needs to be Notre Dame’s second cornerback, be that Vaughn, Bracy or a healthy Crawford. Someone also needs to be the Irish nickel back, perhaps Bracy, Crawford or a converted safety.

The questions at cornerback have multiple talented answers, if unproven or uncertain. They should prove to be the most pivotal to Notre Dame’s 2019 success or failure.


Leftovers & Links: Brandon Wimbush heads to Central Florida for his final season

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Former Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush will continue his career at Central Florida. Wimbush announced his graduate transfer destination Tuesday morning.

“The journey continues on …,” Wimbush wrote on Instagram. “A sincere thank you to Notre Dame for giving me endless opportunities on and off the field. Words truly can not (sic) describe what this incredible University and the PEOPLE mean to me and always will mean to me. I’m truly thankful. Cannot say it enough.

“With that being said, I am excited to announce that UCF has granted me an awesome opportunity to play my last year of collegiate football for their great University.”

Wimbush will enter into a starting opportunity, although an unfortunate one and a competitive one. The late November horrendous knee injury to three-year starter McKenzie Milton will almost-assuredly sideline him through the 2019 season. If not for the injury, Milton would either be starting 2019 for the Knights or headed to the NFL.

In his first year of any action, sophomore Darriel Mack played in 10 games for Central Florida, completing 51 of his 100 pass attempts for 619 yards and three touchdowns, including going 35-of-71 for 526 yards and three scores in the two-plus games Milton missed.

In other words, Mack put up Wimbush-esque numbers, despite Heupel’s high-scoring offense.

Wimbush finishes his Irish career with a 13-3 record as a starter, including four wins during 2018’s unbeaten regular season. After the Notre Dame offense failed to break 24 points in the first three games of the season, offensive coordinator Chip Long turned to Ian Book for a spark, one Book provided and then some.

Wimbush’s role became non-existent after that, aside from a Senior Day start in place of an injured Book, throwing for 130 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 68 yards.

RELATED READING: The quarterback Notre Dame needed, Brandon Wimbush

In the lead-up to the Cotton Bowl, word broke Wimbush would seek a graduate transfer, confirming what had long been obvious. It had been so clear, it did not faze anyone within the Irish locker room.

Mustipher and Co. will now have reason to keep an eye on the Knights in 2019. After going 25-1 in the last two seasons, Central Florida will want to keep the momentum rolling, particularly with Stanford arriving in Orlando on Sept. 14, a week before the Knights head to Pittsburgh. The Knights genuinely entering the College Football Playoff conversation remains unlikely, but topping those two before rolling through the American Athletic Conference would at least start the discussion, especially if a former Irish quarterback headlines the way.

A consensus three-star prospect out of Virginia, Mack held offers from eastern schools in the Big Ten (Maryland), Big 12 (West Virginia) and ACC (Virginia, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh).

Named 2018’s Next Man In, Wimbush finishes his Irish career with 2,606 yards on 193-of-382 passing with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions along with 1,155 rushing yards and 16 additional touchdowns.

Early Heisman odds came from an online sportsbook Tuesday, Irish rising senior Ian Book was given 16-to-1 odds, tied for ninth on the listing. Given the names ahead of him, Book’s realistic chances of winning the Heisman Trophy are slim. Only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa have odds lower than 12-to-1, at 7-to-2 and 4-to-1, respectively.

Then come two Notre Dame opponents — Georgia running back D’Andre Swift and quarterback Jake Fromm, both at 12-to-1. Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson checks in at 25-to-1, just ahead of Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello at 33-to-1.

If nothing else, Book can count on some early-season hype if the Irish top Swift and Fromm on Sept. 21.

Even the ‘way-too-early’ 2019 polls already respect Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s offensive depth chart entering the 2019 offseason
Claypool’s return welcome news for Notre Dame
Program-record 10 early enrollees mark the beginning of Notre Dame’s 2019
Autry Denson leaves Notre Dame to take over at Charleston Southern
Notre Dame’s Opponents: Early NFL departures hit Georgia, Michigan and Stanford hardest

Brandon Wimbush and UCF are a promising match for a pivotal 2019
The three biggest questions in college football for the 2019 season
2019 NFL draft underclassmen tracker: Who has declared?
Stanford’s Bryce Love ‘on the path to recovery’ from torn ACL
College football’s 100 best games 2018-19

Notre Dame’s Opponents: Early NFL departures hit Georgia, Michigan and Stanford hardest

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A sign of a strong program is one that loses players to the NFL before they exhaust eligibility. In that vein, Notre Dame lost a consensus first-team All-American cornerback, its leading receiver and a long-time tease of a tight end. The last of those (Alizé Mack) was never expected back for a fifth season; replacing Miles Boykin’s production is certainly within reason; and a consensus first-team All-American should be expected to take the route junior Julian Love has.

Even with that expectation, losing Love — and to a lesser extent, Boykin — alters the natural roster cycle, the inherent design intended during recruiting. Reloading is always the hope, the next intention, but very rarely is the young backup comparable to the near professional, even by the end of the coming season.

Nonetheless, the Irish got off easy this cycle compared to four of their 2019 opponents …

GEORGIA: Junior running back Elijah Holyfield, the Bulldogs’ second-leading rusher, departs after gaining 1,018 rushing yards with seven touchdowns on 6.4 yards per carry this season. Frankly, that is the least of Georgia’s losses. Three of quarterback Jake Fromm’s four favorite targets will leave eligibility on the figurative table:

— Junior receiver Riley Ridley: 44 catches for 570 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018.
— Junior receiver Mecole Hardman: 34 catches for 532 yards and seven touchdowns.
— Junior tight end Isaac Nauta: 30 catches for 430 yards and three touchdowns.

Without running back Karan Higdon, Michigan will presumably rely on its passing game more in 2019, quarterback Shea Patterson’s second season as a Wolverine. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

MICHIGAN: The Wolverines got good news when quarterback Shea Patterson opted to return for 2019, but losing leading-rusher Karan Higdon (1,178 yards, 10 touchdowns, 5.3 average) will be an issue head coach Jim Harbaugh undoubtedly hoped to avoid. Junior tight end Zach Gentry, Patterson’s third-most prolific target with 32 catches for 514 yards and two scores, will also head to the next level.

On the flip side, Harbaugh could have hoped linebacker Devin Bush (team-leading 80 tackles with 9.5 for loss including five sacks), defensive end Rashan Gary (44 tackles with seven for loss including 3.5 sacks) or linebacker David Long (17 tackles with one interception) might return, but no such luck for Michigan.

Duke junior quarterback Daniel Jones will head to the NFL after his third season as a starter, immediately lowering the Blue Devils’ 2019 expectations. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

DUKE: Junior linebacker Joe Giles-Harris paced the Blue Devils with 81 tackles, including seven for loss with one sack, doing so in only nine games. But losing Giles-Harris is hardly the concern for Duke. The decision to turn pro from quarterback Daniel Jones is.

In his third year as a starter, the junior fought through a broken collarbone to still play in 11 games in 2018, completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 2,674 yards and 22 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He added 319 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Jones’ decision may come as a surprise, but it is one that should work out well for both him and Notre Dame. Some mock drafts project him as a top-10 pick. In a draft light on quarterbacks — partly because Oregon’s Justin Herbert returned for another season, yet already somewhat counteracted by the Monday draft entry from Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray — Jones could end up being the third or fourth passer picked.

BOSTON COLLEGE: The Eagles will say farewell to junior cornerback Hemp Cheevers after he notched seven interceptions this season, returning one for a touchdown, to go along with 39 tackles.

STANFORD: This will seem like the Cardinal lost a lot to the NFL draft, but it could have been worse: As the departures mounted, so did speculation junior quarterback K.J. Costello might follow them. He opted not to.

Stanford will be without running back Bryce Love after his prodigious two seasons as the starter. Consider that a loss akin to the Irish Love, the inevitable price of enjoying the success in the first place.

Junior receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will capitalize on his breakout season of 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns, depriving Costello of his favorite jump-ball threat.

Junior tight end Kaden Smith will also head to the next level, in large part thanks to his 47 catches for 635 yards and two touchdowns this past season.

Louisville, New Mexico, Virginia, Bowling Green, USC, Virginia Tech and Navy all did not lose anyone early or pseudo-early to the NFL draft.