MIAMI GARDENS — Like it or not, America, Miami’s party continues.
The seventh-ranked Hurricanes, in the spotlight of the biggest national game of the week, took total command. They went crazy on campus in the morning, with ESPN’s College GameDay in Coral Gables for the first time. They dominated at night, racing out to a shocking 34-point lead on third-ranked Notre Dame.
The final: Miami 41, Notre Dame 8.
The Turnover Chain made four appearances, with Miami (9-0, 6-0 ACC) forcing four turnovers for the fourth game in a row, and the Irish (8-2) looked nothing like the national title contender many believed they were.
Now, Miami has every reason to believe it is.
No doubt about it.
It was a stunning display. This team spent September trying to find its legs, and October escaping near-certain losses.
In November, the Hurricanes have stomped No. 13 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Notre Dame, in front of raucous crowds at Hard Rock Stadium, by a combined 51 points.
A sold-out crowd of 65,303 — all but a small section of them Canes fans — watched the first Miami-Notre Dame game in South Florida since 1989. They saw a team that looked a lot more like those old-school teams than anything recent.
Remember, Miami won four October games by a combined 18 points, which was too close for some, but at least a reversal of last year. That’s when they lost four straight in October, three of them by a combined 11 points. The last of which, of course, was to Notre Dame.
That was Oct. 29, 2016, in South Bend. That was the last time Miami lost a game.
Fourteen wins later, the Hurricanes own the longest winning streak in the nation, and have their longest run since a 34-game stretch from 2000-02.
How high will Miami go?
Top-ranked Georgia is guaranteed to drop, after being blown out 40-17 at No. 10 Auburn, a two-loss team. Second-ranked Alabama struggled at 16th-ranked Mississippi State, trailing in the fourth quarter in Starkville and winning by a touchdown.
No. 4 Clemson, which Miami will meet in the Dec. 2 ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, could hold its No. 4 spot with a 31-14 win over Florida State.
No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 6 TCU, a pair of one-loss teams, were locked in a high-scoring battle while Miami was finishing off Notre Dame.
Including Miami, there are six Power Five teams nationally with one or fewer losses.
The Hurricanes are sure to receive consideration for No. 1 after this blowout of Gerry Faustian proportions.
It wasn’t the biggest rout in the series — that would be Miami 58, Notre Dame 7 in 1985 — but given the stakes, it was one of the most impressive wins of any team this year.
The Hurricanes scored the second-most points in the rivalry, and handed the Irish their most lopsided loss since Nov. 2014.
A championship-caliber defense.
To win, the Hurricanes needed to shut down the run. Not only did they do that, they had Notre Dame quarterbacks running for their lives.
Miami, which has held every team but one (Florida State) under their scoring average, shut out Notre Dame until there were 12 seconds left in the third quarter. The Irish were averaging 41.3 points, ranking seventh in the nation.
This was no less than the most efficient rushing attack in the country, averaging 7.04 yards per carry and a whopping 324.8 yards per game. They had 3.3 yards per carry, and nothing much at all until garbage time. Only two teams had scored more rushing touchdowns than the Irish (34). They had none Saturday.
Star running back Josh Adams — whom UM defensive coordinator called “not a good player — a great player” before the game — had a school-sponsored Heisman Trophy campaign called “33 Trucking,” in reference to his jersey number and the offensive line’s supposed blue-collar work ethic.
Miami left them bruised, battered and broken down on the side of the road.
They did it in a way that had the old Canes, like honorary captain Ed Reed, giddy. They did it with ace coaching and pure speed.
On both sides of the ball, the Hurricanes were simply faster than the Irish. The defense shut down speed sweeps and locked up receivers. Trajan Bandy, a true freshman cornerback from Miami-Columbus High, took an interception 65 yards to the end zone to put UM up 27-0 in the first half.
On offense, Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas looked like the marquee backs, not Adams. Homer starred with 146 yards on 18 carries, and broke carries of 40 and 38 yards — lowering his shoulder on those and more. Dallas (53 yards on 12 carries, two touchdowns) had one of 25 and bullied his way in for Miami’s final score, a 5-yarder.
Adams’ longest gain was 12 yards.
Back in Oct. 2015, NFL scouts sat in the press box during Miami’s loss to Cincinnati and commented how much slower the Hurricanes looked compared to their mid-major opponent.
My, how times have changed.