Something’s got to give on Saturday when Miami enters Notre Dame Stadium to take on the Fighting Irish. Both teams are struggling mightily and are in desperate need of a victory.
South Bend, Indiana, is a place where the ‘Canes (4-3) have had little success. In order to break their current three-game skid, they’ll need to win for just the second time in nine games in South Bend. Their only victory there was in 1984. The ‘Canes, who trail in the all-time series 16-7-1, haven’t beaten Notre Dame since a 27-10 triumph in 1989.
“Catholics versus Convicts” is a distant memory in this series, which began in 1955 and most recently was rekindled in 2012 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, a 41-3 rout for the Irish.
Miami head coach Mark Richt is no stranger to Notre Dame Stadium. He didn’t fare much better in that venue either as a player or an assistant coach. He was the starting quarterback for The U in the 1982 game in South Bend, a 16-14 victory for the Irish on a late field goal. It’s a memory Richt still holds today.
“Had a chance to keep a drive going and got stuffed on a short-yardage play, quarterback sneak, and then I think we punted it away, and if I’m not mistaken, Blair Kiel was the quarterback who drove the team down (for a) field goal,” Richt said in his weekly teleconference on Wednesday.
Richt started that game for the injured (shoulder) Jim Kelly. A fifth-year senior, Richt started while ‘Canes freshmen Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde watched and learned.
In 1993, as an assistant coach at Florida State, he was on the sidelines for the “Game of the Century.” The No. 1 Seminoles went into South Bend only to fall, 31-24, to No. 2 Notre Dame.
“I remember that game was just brutally, not so much cold, it was cold, but it was windy,” Richt recalled. “That was the windiest game I’ve ever been a part of where the wind really made a big difference in the ballgame, you know, for both teams.”
The weather forecast for Saturday’s game is much nicer, with a high of 71 degrees and little wind expected.
The ‘Canes will need more than good weather to turn the tide — not only in the series but also in the current season. The ‘Canes lead the nation in tackles for loss, averaging 10.1 per game, and are 12th in the country in scoring defense, giving up just 17.3 points per outing. The sputtering offense, one that Richt has been hands-on with this season, must improve. Quarterback Brad Kaaya has played the last three games with an injured throwing shoulder. Defenses are loading up against the run and daring Kaaya to throw downfield.
That’s resulted in an almost nonexistent run game. The ‘Canes rushed for just 62 yards against Florida State and only 42 in their most recent game at Virginia Tech.
“I think that we’ve got to, on both sides of the ball, either run it well or slow down the run game,” Richt said. “We just don’t need to get behind in the score, behind the sticks and feel like we just have to throw the ball every down to win. It’s just not a healthy way to play football.”
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, whose 2-5 Irish have lost four of their last five games, summed up Saturday’s matchup quite succinctly.
“Both these teams are young teams that are looking to gain a foothold in consistency and performance and winning football games,” Kelly said in his weekly teleconference.
One team will shake out of the doldrums, for at least a week anyway, while the other continues to search for answers.