The Hurricanes missed a big chance in the first series.
They had no chance in the second half.
Miami’s defense played as poorly as advertised, its offense that previously flourished the past two games fizzled, and No.9 Notre Dame relied on its running game to score four touchdowns in the second half Saturday and defeat the Hurricanes 41-3 at Soldier Field.
“No excuses,” UM coach Al Golden said. “We lost our poise at times. We didn’t play well enough in this environment against a really good team, and that’s my fault. I’ve got to get it fixed.”
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Once again, UM’s defense was overmatched and overpowered. Notre Dame had two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time since 2002 and gained 587 total yards, the most since 2005.
The Hurricanes, who allowed 419 yards at Georgia Tech and 664 against North Carolina State, gave up 587 Saturday in front of a sellout crowd.
The Irish (5-0) have not allowed a touchdown in 12 quarters. They have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season.
The Canes (4-2) knew Notre Dame’s defense was dominant, but their demise began at their own hands shortly after the opening kickoff. They sabotaged themselves, despite outstanding early accuracy on the long ball by quarterback Stephen Morris.
After winning the toss, the Canes elected to receive, and Duke Johnson returned the kickoff 18 yards to the UM 28.
Then, one could only imagine the collective groans from Canes fans around the nation. On first-and-10 from the UM 28, Morris launched a beauty of a pass to a sprinting Phillip Dorsett, who was on stride by himself at the 25-yard line, had the ball in his grasp — and dropped it.
“Yeah, I was in disbelief,” Dorsett said. “Obviously, that doesn’t happen much to me. I guess I got a little overly excited. The ball got caught in the lights, and I couldn’t see it. Like I said, I’m not a person to make excuses. I’ve got to come up with those.”
Morris hit tight end Clive Walford for a 28-yard completion to put UM at the Notre Dame 44.
Two plays later, at third-and-nine from the Irish 43, Morris eyed Dorsett again — and again, lofted a beauty to Dorsett. This time Dorsett, one of the fastest players on the team, was by himself in the right corner of the end zone — and the ball bounced off his body.
Twice, the Hurricanes should have scored. Twice, they came up empty-handed.
The Irish began their ensuing drive at their 12, and drove the ball 88 yards on 10 plays to go up 7-0. UM self-imploded again during that drive when Gabe Terry was flagged for roughing the punter on fourth down. Suddenly, the Irish had life at their own 31, and Golson proceeded to drive his team down the field. A personal foul by UM linebacker Eddie Johnson worsened the situation, and soon Notre Dame was in the end zone with 9:28 left.
Turns out that’s all the Irish needed.
UM answered with a 28-yard field goal by Jake Wieclaw with 5:32 remaining in the opening quarter, his first field goal after four consecutive misses the past two games. It was the first time Notre Dame had allowed points in the first quarter this season.
Notre Dame’s Kyle Brindza kicked two field goals in the second quarter, a 22-yarder followed by a 32-yarder, to put the Irish up 13-3 at halftime.
The Irish’s four rushing touchdowns in the second half were part of a 270-yard, second-half ground attack that the Hurricanes were powerless to stop.
A 55-yard touchdown run by George Atkinson, who got outside UM safety Vaughn Telemaque and outraced the rest of the UM defense with 23 seconds left in the third quarter, put the game out of reach at 34-3.
Atkinson finished with 123 yards and the touchdown on 10 carries, and teammate Cierre Wood added 118 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
Miami’s Morris had his chances early, but he seemed to get more frustrated as the night went on, finishing 18 of 35 for 201 yards.
The Canes added 84 yards rushing among four players.
UM, which entered Saturday averaging 35.6 points a game, didn’t score a touchdown for the first time since Nov. 19, 2011, at South Florida.
“Right now it’s just quiet,” linebacker Denzel Perryman said. “A lot of guys are angry.”