At First Glance…
George Atkinson III
George Atkinson III
Posted Oct 7, 2012

O'Malley's game notebook presents a handful of game balls, reviews the game's decisive quarter, and offers numbers of note in Saturday's 41-3 beat down of the Hurricanes

Offensive MVP: The Offensive Line

Regardless of what's indicated by the game's final margin, crunch time mattered Saturday night in Chicago, and Notre Dame's sometimes maligned offensive front was the game's best position unit.

The front wall protected quarterback Everett Golson on his 26 pass attempts, it cleared the way for the program's first pair of 100-yard rushers in a contest since 2003, and it opened holes for five rushing scores from four different running backs while helping the offense play keep-away from Miami's downfield passing attack, possessing the football for 39:08 of the game's 60 minutes.

Crucial to the effort was the line's right side, as tackle Christian Lombard and guard Mike Golic, along with tight ends Tyler Eifert and Troy Niklas were each instrumental in gains that included 37, 12, 31, 12, and 55 yards -- in the third quarter alone.

Notre Dame produced its best offensive performance of the season came in a game most fans figured the Irish would need their highest point total to win. Not true, but satisfying nonetheless.

Game Balls: Quarterback Everett Golson was outstanding in the first half, completing 15 of 20 passes for 153 yards without suffering a sack or turnover. Golson added a first-half best 51 rushing yards on six carries, picking up Irish first downs on four of his six rushes while setting up another on a season-best 15-yard scamper on 2nd and 16. Golson finished 17 of 22 for 186 yards, hitting his only two second half passes for gains of 9 and 24 yards.

- Running back Cierre Wood was the decisive player of the game's most important quarter, recording 100 rushing yards on 14 carries while adding a 9-yard reception as the Irish increased their lead from 13-3 to 34-3 with touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, two from the senior starter.

- Sophomore George Atkinson led the Irish with 123 rushing yards on just 10 carries, highlighted by a 55-yard burst that put the gas out of reach, 34-3 with 1:57 remaining in the third. Atkinson added a 31-yard gain in the third as well.

The Irish finished with 34 first downs, two short of the school record set in 1974 vs. Army.

Defensive MVP: Bob Diaco

Notre Dame's third-year defensive coordinator orchestrated the team's third consecutive end zone shutout, a feat not accomplished at the program since 1983. The Irish are the only FBS team not to allow a rushing score, the only of 124 teams not to trail, and the defense's three total touchdowns allowed is the fewest vs. any team this fall. Diaco's defense hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown in seven consecutive games dating back to Senior Day in South Bend last November.

Defensive Game Balls: Ten tackles and a pass defended now marks a quiet outing for Manti Te'o, the nation's best defensive player, but Te'o was on-the-spot as usual, negating anything underneath for a frustrated passing attack. Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore registered a QB Hurry, a tackle-for-loss, and a pass breakup to go with three tackles, while end/outside 'backer Prince Shembo recorded two hurries of quarterback Stephen Morris while defensive end Stephon Tuitt had a pressure and PD as well.

Decisive Drive: Leading 20-3 with 9:40 remaining in the third, Notre Dame embarked on a 12-play, 86-yard drive that milked more than two-thirds of the remaining quarter clock, and culminated in a Cierre Wood touchdown plunge from three yards out.

It was Wood's second touchdown in as many possessions and his 44 yards on the drive -- combined with sophomore George Atkinson's 38, sent a statement to the Hurricanes defense: "We're running to the right…try to stop us."

Miami didn't, as Notre Dame declined to pass on the 12-play scoring march.

The Numbers Game

Notre Dame is 5-0 for the first time since 2002 and just the 10th time since Ara Parseghian took the helm in 1964…

- The Irish improved to 11-0 when throwing less than 30 passes in the 31-game Brian Kelly era…

- Notre Dame is now 19-3 under Brian Kelly when leading after three quarters…

- Notre Dame's defense has allowed the following touchdown totals since Game 10 of 2011: 1, 4, 1, 1, 2, 0, 0, 0…

- Miami did not hit pay dirt in either of its red zone forays Saturday night. The Irish defense has allowed touchdowns in just 3 of 12 opposing marches inside its 20-yard line…

- Nearly one-third of Miami's 285 yards occurred on a non-scoring drive during which the Irish held and maintained a 34-3 edge…

- Notre Dame's has held each of its last four opponents below 300 total yards...

- Over its last 18 games, the Irish defense has yielded a total of 23 third quarter points. 15 of the last 18 foes have failed to score in the third …

- Over the last two meetings with Miami, Notre Dame has outscored the Hurricanes 64-6 prior to the fourth quarter…

- Notre Dame's defense has not allowed a point this season in the first quarter…

- The offense's 376 rushing yards is the highest at the program since Notre Dame rang up 380 vs. Boston College in 2000…

- Atkinson and Wood became the first pair of Irish 'backs to top the 100-yard mark in the same contest since Ryan Grant and Rashon Powers-Neal did so vs. Stanford in 2003…

- Notre Dame has allowed a total of 39 points over its first five games this season. No team at the program has surrendered fewer over its first five games since 1975 when Notre Dame allowed 34.

- The Irish defense has yielded two touchdowns or fewer in 17 of its last 22 contests; surrendering just one or zero in 10 of the 17…

- Notre Dame is 36-2 since the beginning of the 2005 season when it out-rushes its opponent.

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RB George Atkinson (profile)
QB Everett Golson (profile)
OT Christian Lombard (profile)
RB Cierre Wood (profile)
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