Even after leaving South Bend to take over a struggling Miami RedHawks program, Martin pulled for ND victories.
He will likely do so in the future, but he won’t on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. That is when his Miami team . . .
Notre Dame, currently ranked No. 22 in the country and sporting a 3-1 record, are solid favorites to win again, especially since MU has been battling some injuries and lost another key defensive player for the first half of Saturday’s game.
Linebacker Junior McMullen, a big playmaker on the RedHawks solid defense, was injured against Cincinnati and is done for the season.
Fortunately for MU, redshirt junior Sam Connolly stepped in and stepped up for the RedHawks Saturday at Central Michigan. Registering a teeam-high nine tackles and pulling down an interception, Connelly earned MAC East Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Defense has been something of a staple for MU, which is currently third in scoring defense (19.0 ppg) and second in total defense (310.8 ypg) among MAC teams.
The RedHawks also are third in rushing defense, yielding 118 ypg. If they hold ND anywhere close to that, it will be exceedingly good news for the Red and White.
Much of the Irish success can be traced to their ground game. Notre Dame is seventh nationally, using an offensive line with several NFL prospects to churn out 293.5 yards per game Likewise. The 6.8 ypc average is near the top of all FBS teams.
The best example of Irish rushing success came against rival Boston College. Of the massive 611-yard offensive total, 515 yards came courtesy of the run game.
Two Irish players went over 200 yards against BC. One was junior RB Josh Adams (6-2, 225) carried 18 times for 229 yards, while junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush sprinted for another 207 yards against the Eagles. One week earlier, however, Georgia limited Wimbush to one yard rushing.
That played no small part in helping No. 15 Georgia hand Notre Dame its only loss this year, 20-19. The Irish then bounced back with wins over Boston College and Michigan State.
Notre Dame took advantage of three Spartan turnovers in the latter contest. Overall, the Irish are plus-4 in turnover margin.
For the RedHawks to challenge, avoiding turnovers and penalties will be part of the keys. Those two areas hurt MU through its first six games (all losses) of 2016. Turnovers, especially, have also hurt Miami in both losses of 2016. Rival Cincinati came back to nip MU late following a pick six interception. Marshall used a 70-yard interception return and two kickoff returns to score three touchdowns in a 31-26 win. Both were games the RedHawks felt they should have won.
Here’s more on the two teams
● It’s a special weekend for both Notre Dame and Miami as Ara Parseghian is honored in a variety of ways. Parseghian, who passed away just before this season, played football, basketball and baseball at Miami. He is a two-time graduate of the school and later coached the Irish to a pair of national championships. A statue in his honor is part of the Cradle of Coaches Plaza at the south end of Yager Stadium.
● Miami head coach Chuck Martin was an assistant under present Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly when they were young coaches at Grand Valley State. When Kelly moved on, Martin took over as head coach and was very successful (74-7 with three Division II national titles).
Martin later joined Kelly at Notre Dame, serving as a position coach for two years before taking over as offensive coordinator.
● MU is seventh among MAC teams, averaging 26.2 ppg.
● The running game has been been inconsistent, but Alonzo Smith returned to the lineup last week, helping the RedHawks roll up 177 rushing yards against Central Michigan. Smith carried 15 times for 60 yards, while Kenny Young made 14 trips for 91 yards and a key first half touchdown.
Quarterback Gus Ragland is relatively mobile, capable of picking up some first downs to possibly keep a drive moving.
● Ragland has completed 61 of 116 pass attempts (52.6%) for 881 yards with eight TDs and two interceptions. MU has won both games in which Ragland was not intercepted.
● James Gardner returned from injury last week, catching three balls for 66 yards. Totaled 13 receptions for 227 yards in Miami’s first two games, but missed the Cincinnati contest.
● Tight end Ryan Smith also has produced two scores among his 10 receptions for 144 yards.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (3-1)
● Overall, ND is averaging 38.8 ppg.
● Quarterback Brandon Wimbush has completed 61 of 113 throws (54%) for 664 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.
● Wimbush is second on the team in rushing, carrying 57 times for 366 yards with a team-high seven TDs.
● ND’s top receivers are juniors Equanimeous St. Brown (11 catches, 160 yards, 1 TD) and Alize Mack (11 catches, 116 yards).
● Top tacklers for the Irish are Nyles Morgan (34), Te’von Coney (32) and Greer Martini (29). Morgan has a team-high 3.5 tfl.