Notre Dame’s second bowl in three years pits the Irish vs. former chief rival Miami. The Hurricanes enter the Sun Bowl without former head coach Randy Shannon – a starting linebacker in the ND/UM series of the late 80s – after a 7-5 season and 28-22 career mark at his alma mater.
Miami will be led Friday by offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, one of three assistant coaches under Shannon to be retained by incoming head man Al Golden, formerly of Temple.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series between the teams 15-7, but Miami earned the nod in the most recent decade of matchups, defeating the Irish in six of 10 contests from 1980 through the 1990 season.
The 13th and final Just the Facts feature of 2010 examines Friday’s key names and numbers kicks off our Bowl Week Coverage.
1 – Offensive touchdown scored by the Irish in the teams’ most recent meeting, a 29-20 win by the No. 7 Irish over the No. 2 Hurricanes in October 1990. Notre Dame used five field goals by sophomore kicker Craig Hentrich (25, 44, 34, 36, 35) and a 94-yard kick-off return touchdown by junior Rocket Ismail to claim a 22-20 lead early in the 4th Quarter.
The lone offensive touchdown by the home team came on a play conceived by Irish head coach Lou Holtz on the morning of the contest, as sophomore QB Rick Mirer found senior fullback Rodney Culver on a dump pass and subsequent 21-yard touchdown sprint over the left side. The Irish took a 29-22 lead on Holtz’s pre-game vision, and held Miami scoreless over the game’s final 6:16 to earn the final victory in the then continual series as the program’s entered a “cooling off period” after several heated battles.
2 – Shut-outs by the Hurricane’s in victories over the Irish in a four-game span. In 1983, then-unranked Miami humbled a No. 13 Irish team, 20-0 behind a stellar performance from freshman quarterback Bernie Kosar and a defensive effort that limited Notre Dame to 102 rushing yards on 38 carries. Miami finished the season with 11 consecutive victories to capture the national title following a classic 31-30 win over No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
Four years later, No. 2 Miami hammered No. 10 Notre Dame, 24-0 in the season finale. The Hurricanes finished 12-0 and claimed the national title one month later with a 20-14 win over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
3 – Irish starting quarterbacks to record victories over Miami during the previous decade of (continual) matchups. Freshman Blair Kiel led ND No. 7 ND to a 32-14 win over No. 13 Miami in 1980 as well as a 16-14 win by the 10th-ranked Irish over No. 14 Miami two years later in South Bend.
Five games and six seasons later, junior Tony Rice helped No. 4 Notre Dame upset No. 1 Miami 31-30 at Notre Dame Stadium and after a loss by the Rice-led Irish to the ‘Canes in the Orange Bowl in 1989, sophomore signal-caller Rick Mirer aided the No. 7 Irish in a win over No. 2 Miami, again in South Bend, 29-20.
Over the same 11-season, 10-game span, five Miami starting quarterbacks notched wins over Notre Dame. The list reads like a descending ‘Who’s Who?’ of NFL quality quarterbacks: Jim Kelly (1981); Bernie Kosar (1983 and 1984); Vinny Testaverde (1985); Steve Walsh (1987) and Craig Erickson (1989).
4 – Consecutive games won by Miami over Notre Dame from 1983 through 1987. The Irish had prevailed in 12 of the last 13 matchups – a continuous span of 13 seasons – before Miami began to exert its muscle in the early portion of the decade. The Hurricanes outscored Irish teams led by Gerry Faust (3) and Lou Holtz (1) by a margin of 133-20 in the four-game span.
Notre Dame ended the dominance with a 31-30 upset over No. 1 Miami in 1988 en route to a 12-0 finish and the school’s most recent national title.
5 – Passing touchdowns allowed by the Irish since the team left East Lansing on September 18th. Notre Dame allowed four passing touchdowns vs. its pair of foes from Michigan: the Wolverines (1) and the Spartans (3 – including a special teams passing score), then never surrendered more than one passing score in any of its next nine contests while limiting its final three foes to zero touchdowns through the air.
Miami boasts the nation’s No. 2 ranked pass efficiency defense but Notre Dame’s improvement in that category from 87th in 2009 to 26th in 2010 was crucial to the Irish defensive turnaround this fall.
6 – National ranking of Miami’s pass rushers in terms of sacks per game. The Hurricanes notched 3.08 sacks per contest over the 12-game regular season slate. 18 of Miami’s 37 sacks came courtesy a trio of defensive linemen: Allen Bailey (7) Oliver Vernon (6) and Adewale Ojomo (5). Bailey leads the front four with 11 tackles-for-loss though LB Sean Spence paced the team with an impressive 16.
The Irish finished with 26 sacks, tying the team’s high-water mark over the last four seasons (the ’08 Irish registered 26 sacks in 13 games thanks to a 7-sack effort in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl).
7 – Additional interceptions thrown by Miami passers vs. Irish triggermen despite nearly 50 fewer pass attempts (452 to 403) by the Hurricanes. Senior Jacory Harris (12), freshman Stephen Morris (8), junior Spencer Whipple (2), and sophomore Alonzo Highsmith (1) offset their 19 touchdown passes with an aggregate 23 interceptions.
Irish passers Tommy Rees (8); Dayne Crist (7) and Nate Montana (1) fired 25 TD vs. 16 total interceptions.
8 – Games during 2010 in which the Irish offense passed more times than it ran. The Irish won just three of those contests (USC: 34 passes vs. 32 runs; Pittsburgh: 39 passes vs. 31 runs; and BC: 45 passes vs. 31 runs), while losing to Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford, Navy, and Tulsa.
Notre Dame finished 6-2 when it exceeded 29 rushing attempts (losing to Michigan: 32 runs; and Navy 30 runs). As well, Notre Dame out-rushed its opponent in six contests this fall, winning each of the six games and thereby extending the program’s streak to 26 consecutive wins when out-rushing its foe.
9.6 – Tackles per game by Miami linebacker Colin McCarthy. The senior from Clearwater, Fla., finished third in the ACC behind national tackles leader Luke Kuechly (BC) and Duke’s Abraham Kromah. McCarthy’s 106 total tackles included 10 for lost yardage, a number that matches Notre Dame’s team leader – Darius Fleming – in the telling category.
Notre Dame was led by sophomore Manti Te’o’s 127 total tackles (9.5 for lost yardage). Te’o’s 127 matched the highest total in the program since Demetrius Dubose in 1991.
10 – Consecutive matchups between the programs from 1980-1990 in which at least one team was ranked entering the contest. Both teams were ranked on seven occasions in that 11-year, 10-game span; Miami won four of those matchups (1982, ’84, ’87, and ’89 with the Irish prevailing in 1980, ’88 and ’90). Miami was 3-0 during games in which just one of the programs entered nationally ranked, winning in 1981 as the nation’s No. 9 team; upsetting No. 13 ND in 1983 as detailed in Fact No. 1 above, and annihilating unranked ND in the 1985 season-finale – Gerry Faust’s final game as Notre Dame’s head coach.
11 – Passes defended by team leaders Ryan Hill (Miami) and Harrison Smith (Notre Dame). Hill’s ‘Canes allowed just seven passing touchdowns in 2010 while picking off 16 passes. Smith and his Irish mates yielded just nine scores through the air, intercepting 14 balls including four over the season’s last 86 pass attempts.
12 – Bowl appearances by Miami since the 1998 season. In 1997, the Hurricanes missed a bowl game for the first time since the 1982 season (prior to the program’s first national title in 1983). Since that initial ’97 absence, Miami has won seven of its last 11 bowl appearances (over a 13 year span). The ‘Canes missed post-season play in 1999 and 2007 as well. Miami has put together two five-game bowl winning streaks (1988-92 and 1996-2002).
Notre Dame won five of six bowl games – all New Year’s Day contests – from 1988 through 1993 and prevailed in six of its nine consecutive major bowls from 1987 through the 1995 season.
Notre Dame snapped a 9-game bowl losing skid with a Hawaii Bowl victory over the host team in 2008.
On the Horizon
A look at Irish players who could reasonably accomplish statistical milestones Friday afternoon vs. the Hurricanes:
Michael Floyd: Has caught 165 passes in 27 career games. Floyd enters Friday’s contest five receptions short of tying Rhema McKnight (2002-2006) for second place on the program’s all-time list. He needs 15 receptions to pass Jeff Samardzija (2003-2006) for the top spot. McKnight played in 51 games while The Shark appeared in 49 (starting 26) for the Irish.
Floyd is tied with Golden Tate (2007-2009) with 26 career touchdown receptions and the junior target can tie Samardzija (27) for the program record with his next trip to pay dirt.
Likewise, with 2,430 career receiving yards, Floyd needs just 64 to pass Tim Brown (2,493) and move into 4th place on the program’s career list. Next on Floyd’s radar would be Derrick Mayes who totaled 2,512 receiving yards from 1992-95. Likely out of reach is Samardzija in second place at 2,593 yards while Golden Tate set the program record last season, finishing his three-year Irish career with 2,707 receiving yards – 2,604 of which were accrued between 2008-09.
Ethan Johnson: With his next (full) sack, the junior defensive end will move into 10th place ahead of the late Wally Kleine (1983-86) on the program’s career sack list. Justin Tuck (2002-04) holds the program record with 24.5 sacks in 36 career games. Saturday’s contest vs. USC will mark Johnson’s 37th game played as a member of the Irish.
Nipping at Johnson’s heels is classmate Darius Fleming with 11.5 sacks including a team-high six this season.
Darrin Walls: With 20 career pass breakups, Walls needs one to move ahead of Ralph Stepaniak (1969-71) and the legendary Todd Lyght (1987-1990) into fifth-place on the program’s career list. Walls could also tie the late Dave Waymer who broke up 22 passes from 1976-79.