CFN Bowl Analysis ... Sun
Notre Dame 33 ... Miami 17
This one should’ve been obvious from ten miles away … and of course I picked Miami to win.
Notre Dame had a coach. Miami didn’t. The temperature was colder than in South Bend, and Miami tends to freeze up whenever it gets slightly chilly – witness the performance against Wisconsin in last year’s Champs Sports Bowl – and Jacory Harris throws interceptions. The Irish came in well motivated and with the right attitude that it needed the practices and needed the work as a stepping stone. Miami came in wondering how life was going to change under Al Golden.
Of course, the final impression is the lasting one, and it’ll be easy to start with the whole “Notre Dame is back,” storyline, but this was simply a step. The Irish managed to close out the season strong with a four-game winning streak including victories over USC and Utah, and the win over Army looks stronger not after its performance against SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl. But USC wasn’t USC, Utah was coming off the TCU embarrassment, and Miami certainly showed it needs plenty of work.
However, for a program that’s been on the wrong side of too many close games, and considering the losses to Navy over the last few years and the collapses under Charlie Weis, winning in November and December will be welcomed in South Bend after the disasters and tragedies that dominated the headlines. Now the Irish can rally around a great-looking young passer in Tommy Rees, who was cool, calm, and did more than just take care of the ball and not screw up. This was the game when he became a playmaker.
Against an aggressive defensive front, the Notre Dame offensive line was physical and pounded away for the running game, controlling the clock and the action with 202 rushing yards to balance out the 195-yard day from Rees. And then there was the defense. The secondary gave up 319 yards, but Harrison Smith and his three interceptions, and the play of the defensive front, ended the drama early.
But now the fun is just beginning for Brian Kelly and the Irish. For a program that’s been surrounded by so much negativity, finally, it gets a fun offseason.
- Job One for Al Golden won’t be to decide between Jacory Harris or Stephen Morris, it’ll be to figure out how to get more production out of the offensive line. The Canes have to start being more physical and they have to start running the ball more consistently. This isn’t an excuse for Harris and his interception fest, but it would help if the pressure is taken off him.
- Rees was terrific. Considering how young he is and what Kelly the Quarterback Whisperer does with young playmakers, the sky is the limit. He appears to have all the tools to be special.
- This couldn’t have been a more perfect game for the Irish. The offense was balanced, Rees was mistake free, and the defense was swarming. It might have been nice to have closed a little cleaner, but that’s nitpicking.
- This loss was the best case scenario for Al Golden. An impressive Miami win would’ve jacked the unrealistic expectations up that much more.
- October 6, 2010. Soldier Field in Chicago. Something tells me that game will be far more significant than this one.
Notre Dame has found its launching point into 2011, and the rest of the country ought to beware.
Nah, nobody should get too carried away, but the Irish has something that’s been missing for many years—genuine end-of-season momentum. Yes, the personnel has to be upgraded. That’ll come under Brian Kelly. So will the offense, particularly when the coach gets a couple of years with the same quarterback. That’s when he does his best work. Most encouraging during the season-ending winning streak, though, has been the play of the defense. Coordinator Bob Diaco heard the gasps following the Oct. 23 Navy game, in which Notre Dame was garroted, and adjusted accordingly. The Irish hasn’t allowed more than 17 offensive points since, shutting down Miami when it mattered in the Sun Bowl. The D has been the program’s biggest area of concern for years. If that gets addressed, look out because Kelly’s attack won’t be dormant for long.
- Even if Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees doesn’t win the job next season, he’s proven to be one heck of an emergency quarterback since Dayne Crist went down. While not considered a long-term solution in South Bend, the four-game winning streak wouldn’t have been possible without his poise and passing.
- Sometimes teams respond to an interim coach, and sometimes they pack it in long before kickoff. Miami obviously did not hear the messages of Jeff Stoutland, delivering one of the most lackluster performances of the postseason so far. It’ll be a temporary lapse, though, because permanent head coach Al Golden won’t tolerate the kind of mess that showed up in El Paso today.
- If you’re Jacory Harris, where do you go from here? Once considered a budding star as a freshman, he’s been on a steady decline, culminating in today’s three picks on just seven passing attempts. He has a whole new staff to impress, but might have to undergo an offseason exorcism to wrest the job away from Stephen Morris.
By Matt Zemek
So many bowl games are mysteries, like the Holiday Bowl or the Texas Bowl. How did Washington play well enough to beat Nebraska (even though the Huskers didn’t care)? How could Baylor be pancake-flat for its first bowl game in 16 years, just a short drive from its campus? So many bowls confound the human brain.
Not this game in El Paso, Texas.
Notre Dame entered on a three-game winning streak, with fresh confidence and regained trust in Brian Kelly. The Irish felt good about themselves. The Miami Hurricanes wondered what the heck was going on. Their school groped in the dark for quite some time, remaining vulnerable to a ton of rumors before finally settling on Al Golden. The former Temple coach represents a good hire, but he wasn’t calling the shots in this snowy Sun Bowl, and that reality created an environment in which Miami was not likely to enjoy much of any cohesiveness, especially on offense. If Jacory Harris couldn’t do anything in the regular season, what was going to suggest that he would bust out all over in a bowl game with an interim coaching staff?
No, this bowl outcome made complete sense.
--Miami is very much like West Virginia. The Hurricanes have athletes, but they’re just not coached very well. The U is waiting to be led by a sideline sultan who can instill toughness, fundamentals, and the other ingredients of a rugged conference championship contender. You’ll know a resurrection when you see it, and just as Dana Holgorsen will be under the gun to produce in West Virginia, it will be up to Golden to bring a Midas touch to Coral Gables, Florida.
--There’s just one problem with this otherwise terrific performance by Notre Dame: Beating a tissue-soft warm-weather team in a snowy environment it plainly did not expect is not enough to indicate a full-fledged revival in South Bend. We’ll have to wait until mid-October of 2011 to truly gauge the progress of the Brian Kelly era. What this game does provide, however, is an offseason filled with optimism. The sour taste of the 4-5 start, the Tulsa loss, and a boatload of off-field controversies has been substantially – if not fully – expunged. That’s the biggest bit of value to emerge from this Irish romp in West Texas.