CHICAGO - The University of Miami may be better than anyone expected, but the Hurricanes proved Saturday night they’re not ready for prime time.
Facing No. 9 Notre Dame (5-0) before a national television audience and a packed house at Soldier Field, UM (4-2) suffered an embarrassing 41-3 defeat to snap a three-game win streak.
Notre Dame entered the game ranked No. 95 in total offense but had its way against a Miami defense that has proved inept all season long.
The Irish turned a 13-3 halftime lead into a rout by steamrolling the Hurricanes in the third quarter, scoring on each of its three possessions while piling up 197 rushing yards on 19 carries. Notre Dame threw only twice in the quarter and completed both passes.
Cierre Wood and George Atkinson each rushed for more than 100 yards, giving Notre Dame a pair of 100-yard rushers for the first time since 2002. The Irish finished with 376 rushing yards, their most in a game since 2000.
Notre Dame, which hasn’t trailed all season, didn’t have much trouble throwing the ball either. Red-shirt freshman Everett Golson, who began the game on the bench, completed 17 of 22 passes for 186 yards and added 51 rushing yards before leaving the game after three quarters.
“No excuses,” UM coach Al Golden said. “We lost our poise at times. We didn’t play well in this environment. That’s my fault. We have to get it fixed.”
For Miami’s defense, getting pushed around is nothing new. UM entered the game ranked near the bottom in virtually every important defensive category kept by the NCAA and was coming off one of the worst performances in school history after allowing North Carolina State to pile up 664 yards of total offense last week.
In its last three games, the Hurricanes have given up more than 1,500 yards. UM has yet to hold an FBS opponent to less than 32 points.
“I really don’t know what is,” middle linebacker Denzel Perryman said. “I don’t know what’s going on in guys’ heads mentally. I don’t know if it was the cold weather getting to them or just (mental mistakes) on the field.”
While UM’s defense was dreadful on Saturday, the Hurricanes’ normally high-powered offense wasn’t much better.
Facing a Notre Dame defense that has allowed only 39 points in five games, UM struggled mightily on the ground and through the air.
Quarterback Stephen Morris completed 18 of 35 passes for only 201 yards, but didn’t get much help from his teammates. UM receivers dropped at least six passes while the running game generated only 81 yards. Miami was also penalized nine times for 76 yards.
Notre Dame has now gone 12 consecutive quarters without allowing a touchdown and has not permitted a rushing touchdown all season.
“They’re not ranked for No. 9 for no reason,” receiver Phillip Dorsett said. “They took it to us.”
In two games this season against ranked teams — Kansas State and Notre Dame — the Hurricanes have lost by a combined 93-16.
Notre Dame announced just before kickoff that Tommy Rees would start over Golson, the starter in the Irish’s first four games. Golson was benched due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Coach Brian Kelly said on Thursday that Golson would start against the Hurricanes and added that a shoulder injury that bothered the quarterback had cleared up during Notre Dame’s bye week. Golson entered the game on the Irish’s first possession and completed his first six passes of the game.
Miami had two chances to score on its opening possession on a pair of throws from Morris to Dorsett. But Dorsett, named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list last week after combining for 16 catches for 375 yards against Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, dropped both passes.
The first drop, on UM’s opening play of the game, bounced off Dorsett’s chest at the Notre Dame 25-yard line with no Irish defender in sight. Four plays later, Dorsett let a Morris pass sail through his hands while he was standing in the end zone.
“I was in disbelief,” Dorsett said.
First-quarter penalties hurt the Hurricanes nearly as much as Dorsett’s drops.
Roughing the kicker and unnecessary roughness calls aided the Irish on a touchdown drive on their opening series and a holding call against UM guard Jon Feliciano negated a 13-yard touchdown run by Morris.
Notre Dame took a 13-3 lead into halftime, holding UM’s offense to a 28-yard field goal by Jake Wieclaw.