Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 31, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 36 of 55 OCT. 31, 2016 37 BY BRYAN DRISKELL MIAMI RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Miami was a bad running team in 2015, finishing the season with an average of just 119.9 yards per game. The arrival of head coach Mark Richt has begun to rejuvenate the ground attack, which was the staple of Richt's offenses during his 15 years at Georgia. The Hurricanes averaged 198.4 yards per game through the first five contests, and scored 15 rush- ing touchdowns. They ranked 43rd nationally in yards per game, while their average of 6.2 yards per carry ranked sixth. The leader of the ground game has been sopho- more Mark Walton, who churned out 484 yards and eight scores. He is joined in the backfield by junior running back Joe Yearby (360 yards), who led Miami in rushing last season with 1,002 yards. Miami ran for 652 yards and 10 scores in the first two games of the season, wins over Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic. In the next three contests, it averaged just 113.3 yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry. Notre Dame's rushing defense has improved since defensive coordinator Greg Hudson arrived. In Notre Dame's first four games, it allowed 201.0 yards per game, 4.4 yards per rush and 10 touch- downs. Former coordinator Brian VanGorder was fired after four games, and Hudson took over. In Hudson's first two games in charge, the Irish defense held Syracuse and North Carolina State to 141.5 yards per game and just 3.2 yards per rush. The Irish have been more disruptive under Hudson, averaging six tackles for loss after posting just 4.3 during the first four games. Notre Dame's line has surged in recent games, with senior Isaac Rochell and fifth-year senior Jar- ron Jones being primary factors. Jones looks to be getting healthy after missing most of last year due to a knee injury, having played his best football of the season against the Orange and Wolfpack. Advantage: Even MIAMI PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Notre Dame junior quarterback DeShone Kizer is getting a lot of praise from NFL Draft prognosticators, with some listing Kizer as a possible No. 1 overall pick. Miami junior quarterback Brad Kaaya could challenge Kizer for the top quarterback spot in the 2017 NFL Draft. Kaaya (6-4, 215) has prototypical NFL size and arm strength. He fits the drop-back mold NFL teams want, and it fits perfectly in Richt's pro-style attack. Kaaya passed for 1,149 yards and 10 touchdowns through the first five games of the season. The California native was brilliant in Miami's 45-10 win over Appalachian State Sept. 17, passing for 368 yards and three scores. Kaaya's passer efficiency rating of 160.2 ranked him 15th in the land through six weeks, and his 14.0 yards per completion was 18th. GAME PREVIEW: MIAMI On PaPer Sophomore running back Mark Walton led the Hurricanes with 484 yards and eight scores on the ground in the first five games. PHOTO COURTESY MIAMI ATHLETICS

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