• Wide receiver Kevin Stepherson made his season debut and had one catch. He had allegedly been suspended, which coach Brian Kelly said he could “neither confirm nor deny.”
• Senior outside linebacker Greer Martini recorded the first interception of his career, one of two Irish takeaways. Defensive end Jay Hayes had a fumble recovery.
• Miami quarterback Gus Ragland completed 19 of 37 passes for 262 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. James Gardner, working against Irish cornerback Nick Watkins most of the day, finished with five catches for 115 yards and two scores.
SOUTH BEND – Conjuring up memories of 1988, when Notre Dame thrashed opponents en route to its last national championship, the Irish are in the midst of another of those Earth-flattening rolls.
No one is suggesting this season will end like that one. But the 22nd-ranked Irish (4-1) aren't just winning, they're winning big. They have an average margin of victory of 29.3 points, buoyed by Saturday's 52-17 demolition of Miami (Ohio) at Notre Dame Stadium.
In case poll voters are looking for a reason to move the Irish higher, their players are earning plenty of style points.
“I don't even know that they look at in that respect,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Their focus is really how they're preparing and how they play more so than what the point differential is.”
But that point differential, outscoring opponents by 116 points, is historic stuff. According to research compiled by Irish Illustrated, it is Notre Dame's fourth-best point differential of the modern era through the first five games of a season.
“We lost a bunch of games in the fourth quarter last year,” linebacker Greer Martini said. “It's about finishing off opponents and playing well for the entire duration of the game.”
A 20-19 loss to No. 7 Georgia notwithstanding, the Irish have yet to hit the meat of their schedule. However, there is something to be said for not having to sweat out a stressful fourth quarter against an inferior opponent.
Notre Dame put away the RedHawks (2-3) the same way it did Michigan State in a 38-18 rout last weekend, Boston College in a 49-20 romp on Sept. 16 and Temple in a 49-16 season-opening blowout.
“It felt good to make that stride as a team, of going out there and trying to dominate,” halfback Josh Adams said. “We stayed focused, and I don't think it matters what team you play. You have to be your best you.”
Adams was his best self, carrying eight times for 159 yards before staying on the sideline in the second half. He had two touchdown runs, of 73 and 59 yards, and now has 2,426 career rushing yards, passing Randy Kinder for 10th place on Notre Dame's all-time list.
“We tried to load the box and defend the run,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said. “If Adams got loose, it was going to get ugly in a hurry. Not that it doesn't happen to other people, but if he got into our back end we (were not) going to have it great.”
Offensively, the Irish were on fire in the first half – eight drives, six touchdowns, a 43-yard field goal made by Justin Yoon, 21 unanswered points late in the first quarter and early in the second. It seemed like easy pickings.
“Offense is having a lot of fun,” said Brandon Wimbush, who completed 7 of 18 passes for 119 yards and three touchdowns and added a 1-yard TD run, his eighth rushing score of the season.
Down 28-7 after one quarter, 45-14 at halftime and 45-17 entering the fourth quarter, the RedHawks never had a chance.
“Really proud of our guys,” Kelly said, “knowing that physically they were more talented than their opponent (but) to come out with (a strong) mindset.”