It was a game of runs, with Notre Dame scoring the first 20 points before Miami took a 27-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame came into the game with only two wins on the season but, ultimately, the ‘Canes fell short for the fourth time in a row.
Miami took the lead when defensive back Michael Jackson recovered a punt in the end zone that glanced off the shin of an Irish player, creating a live ball in a thriller of play. The ball took a bounce directly into the end zone where Jackson was in perfect position to recover and put Miami ahead. This was the second time in the game Miami recovered a fumbled punt that deflected off a member of the return team.
The way Miami’s offense has been playing, it’s only fitting they took the lead on a play in which they punted the ball.
In a game that seemed to lean on special teams, Miami also recovered an 0nside kick but could not turn the well-timed trickery into any points.
“When you get that [onside kick recovery], that’s when you got to score,” Miami Head Coach Mark Richt said after the game.
It was Miami’s first lead in over two games, going back to a 13-10 lead they held against Florida State.
Although he made several nice throws, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya continues to struggle this season. He finished the game completing 26 of his 42 pass attempts, good for a 61% completion percentage, adding a touchdown and an interception to his stat line. In a game where Miami needed only one or two more plays to come out on top, Kaaya couldn’t deliver the goods.
The way he has played throughout the season, looking uncomfortable so often, has surely affected his draft stock. He came in to the season deemed a possible first round pick, but it’s hard to imagine a team taking Kaaya so early in the draft now.
It’s not as though he got much help, however.
Runningback Mark Walton had a hard time finding room to run against Notre Dame. The ‘Canes ‘feature’ back failed to reach 50 yards on the ground again, the fourth time he missed that mark in the last five games. His rushing totals for those five games are 44, 39, 82, 38, and 45 yards.
His last 100-yard game came against Appalachian State two and a half months ago.
“Well, we never really established the run much offensively,” Richt said.
But what’s to blame for a putrid offense that gained only 29 yards on their first five possessions Saturday?
Is it the line, which allows Kaaya to get sacked repeatedly over the course of each game? They allowed five more sacks against the Irish after giving up eight to Virginia Tech a week and a half ago.
Frankly, it’s hard to tell what the cause is due to Miami’s cupcake early season opponents. You’ll have a tough time convincing me Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, and Appalachian State were adequate preseason tune ups.
So, what’s the positive?
That there’s always next year.
Miami (4-4) plays again Saturday against the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-3) at Hard Rock Stadium in this year’s homecoming game. Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m.
Alex Goldman is a senior majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. He is currently the Sports Editor of distractionmagazine.com. He’s a Northern California native and loves snowboarding, writing, and above all the Green Bay Packers.