Sept. 29, 2017
By John Heisler
It has been 108 years since Notre Dame and Miami battled in their only previous gridiron meeting. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of connections between these two institutions.
Ara Parseghian enjoyed great success as head coach at both universities, and so this game becomes a tribute to all he accomplished both on and off the football field. Current Miami head coach Chuck Martin is only four years removed from being a member of Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame staff, and Miami president Greg Crawford came to Oxford after a stint as the dean of Notre Dame’s College of Science in which he worked closely with the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation.
Here are some areas to check out Saturday night in South Bend:
1. Maintain the momentum. Notre Dame opened some eyes the last two weekends by winning consecutive road games by three-touchdown margins in places where it seldom has been easy to survive (Boston College and Michigan State)-good enough to move the Irish back into the Associated Press poll this week. The assignment for Saturday is to continue that upward trend.
2. The coaches. It’s up to the Irish to make this a business assignment once the game begins, but for at least a few moments beforehand count on a few reminiscences between Irish coach Brian Kelly and Miami coach Chuck Martin. When Kelly left Grand Valley State to become head coach at Central Michigan in 2004 after consecutive NCAA Division II national titles, Martin took over the Grand Valley job for the next six years and won a combined 74 games and two more NCAA Division II crowns in 2005 and 2006. Martin came to Notre Dame in 2010 with Kelly and spent four seasons in South Bend before taking the Miami job.
3. Tribute to Ara Parseghian. Both teams Saturday will wear ARA stickers on their helmets. The name ARA is found on the goalpost pads at either end of Notre Dame Stadium in 2017. The official coin used Saturday for the pregame coin toss features Parseghian, with his signature phrase, “We have no breaking point.” Parseghian is featured prominently on the cover of Saturday’sofficial game program, Katie Parseghian will be part of the pregame flag presentation and Ara will be honored during Saturday’sgame with a series of vignettes on the video board.
4. Keep an eye on the Miami quarterback. Junior Gus Ragland played a major role in Miami’s turnaround a year ago when he came onto the scene to lead the RedHawks to six straight wins to finish the 2016 regular season. In 2017 he already has thrown eight touchdown passes combined in four games and averages 220.3 passing yards per game-and he has thrown only two interceptions. He’ll have something to say about how Miami fares on Saturday in Notre Dame Stadium.
5. The Irish running game. Notre Dame junior captain Josh Adams ranks 14th nationally in rushing (124.8 yards per game), though he sat out the second half at Michigan State last weekend. Dexter Williams was injured against the Spartans and is expected to be a game-time decision against Miami. Tony Jones Jr. sat out the Michigan State game due to injury, but he is expected to be available this week. So how healthy the Irish runners are could play a role in results on Saturday. All three players are dealing with ankle issues.