Missing the first offensive series of the game due to disciplinary reasons did very little to slow down Everett Golson and the high-powered Notre Dame Irish offense.
The sophomore quarterback replaced junior Tommy Rees after the first series and completed his first six passes as the Irish rolled over the Miami Hurricanes, 41-3, in the Shamrock Series at Solider Field in Chicago before a crowd of 62,871 Saturday night.
“When they ran out of the tunnel it was a pretty exciting atmosphere,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “They are used to Notre Dame Stadium and 81,000 but the 60-plus thousand that were here tonight made for a great atmosphere here in Chicago.
“So again, from our standpoint, our football team really fed off that energy. Again, I think it’s pretty simple, you guys were there, we controlled the line of scrimmage, played physical today.”
Golson went on to complete 17-of-22 passes for 186 yards.
“I thought Everett grew up today,” Kelly said. “He did some really good things throwing the football for us. Managed some pressure situations very well.”
About the decision to suspend Golson briefly, the coach said, “Our team rules are pretty simple as it relates to being on time. It wasn’t a big thing in terms of disciplinary approach. But we have high standards and we hold all of our players to that standard.”
Notre Dame improves to 5-0 on the season for the first time since 2002. The Irish return home to Notre Dame Stadium next Saturday when they host the Stanford Cardinal.
The Notre Dame offense posted season highs of 34 first downs, 376 rushing yards and 587 total yards in improving its all-time record at historic Soldier Field to 10-0-2.
“Well as I said, I probably said this last week, but we really took a hard look at where we were offensively and knew that we had to open up the offense formationally , as well as you know, the zone read game, which obviously helps us quite a bit and focus in on the run game.”
The Irish used the rushing game to control the clock and had an advantage in time of possession of 39:08 to 20:52.
“Clearly, we felt like we found a way to run the football today and our game plan situated on running the football, which equals time of possession for us,” Kelly said. “We felt like if we could keep them from getting the big plays, and we could run the football, that was going to be our recipe for success.”
Sophomore George Atkinson III gained 127 yards on 10 carries to lead the Irish rushing attack. Senior Cierre Wood added 118 on 18, sophomore Cam McDaniel 55 on 11 and Golson 51 on six.
It was the first 100-yard game of Atkinson’s career and the first of the season for Wood and the fourth of his career.
“You know, obviously they are big, physical and ran, what, three running backs,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “We didn’t tackle really well. Defense was on the field too long there between the second and third quarter.”
Not to be overshadowed was the play of the Irish defense. The Hurricanes entered the game averaging 35.6 points per game. Miami was limited to 84 yard on the ground and 201 in the air.
Senior inside linebacker Manti Te’o had eight solo tackles and two assists for the Irish defense. Freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell chipped in with two and four, senior inside linebacker Carlos Calabrese one and four.
“You couldn’t have scripted it any better,” Kelly said. “You have some young players out there, I thought KeiVarae Russell tackled soundly today. We work hard on his skill level increasing as it relates to tackling, one of the lost arts that seems to be out there is tackling.”
The 28-yard field goal in the first period by Miami senior Jake Wieclaw were the first points allowed in the opening period by Notre Dame in the opening period this season.
Notre Dame has now gone 12 quarters without giving up a touchdown. The last one allowed by the Irish was in the fourth quarter of the Purdue contest.
Notre Dame built a 13-3 halftime lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by senior Theo Riddick at 3:54 of the first period and field goals of 28 and 22 yards by sophomore Kyle Brindza in the second quarter.
The Hurricanes had one of its best scoring chances on the very first play of the contest. Junior quarterback Stephen Morris threw a pass to sophomore wideout Phillip Dorsett who had beaten the Irish secondary. The sure TD was lost as the ball slipped through his hands.
Miami was bothered by dropped passes and penalties (nine for 76 yards) most of the evening. Notre Dame’s first scoring drive was aided by personal fouls for roughing the kicker and for a late hit out of bounds.
“We had some drops and obviously the two penalties that aided them on their first drive and that’s it,” Golden said. “I mean, there are no excuses, we had too many penalties, too many drops.
“We didn’t play smart enough, we didn’t play disciplined enough and we didn’t make enough plays, it’s just that simple.”
Notre Dame took control of the contest at the start of the second half. The Irish took the second-half kickoff and marched 81 yards in six plays. The drive resulted in a 2-yard TD by Wood. The defense forced Miami to punt after six plays and the Irish drove 86 yards in 12 plays. Wood scored again from three yards out.
It’s the fourth mulit-rushing touchdown game of Wood’s career.
If that wasn’t enough. The defense stopped Miami in three plays and the Irish marched 66 yards in just three plays. Atkinson rambled 55 yards for the TD to put the Irish up 34-3.