Eye of the hurricane

Author: Michael Rodio ’12

Michael Rodio '12

Chicagoans awoke Saturday to a crisp sunny morning. But as Saturday night neared, Chicago’s weathermen gazed nervously at black clouds on the Lake Michigan horizon.

A hurricane was upon them.

But as they looked once more, Chicagoans saw a flash in the gathering storm. In the towering swells and lashing rain there steamed a mighty warship from South Bend. Commodore Brian Kelly was at the helm and from the wave-tossed bow the steely commander vowed to give the storm no quarter.

When the Miami Hurricanes made landfall at Soldier Field, the Fighting Irish met a storm at full force. But by the battle’s end, the blue-and-gold warship had silenced the storm and rammed through the eye of the hurricane as Notre Dame defeated Miami, 41-3.

At game’s beginning, Tommy Rees hardly nudged the throttle forward before Everett Golson took the wheel. He patiently tossed passes to Irish flankers Robby Toma and TJ Jones before charging headfirst into the storm. The fleet-footed Irish quarterback, guided by masterfully choreographed blocking from his offensive line, nearly sent the first strike in himself. When the Miami line hauled Golson down just short of the goal line, Coach Kelly deferred to Theo Riddick, who punched the first Irish score through the eye of the hurricane.

At first, Miami quarterback Stephen Morris flashed lightning-strike passes through the Irish defense and into the hands of Miami receivers, blowing the defense back into their own territory. But with hands made brittle from the unfamiliar northern cold, the Miami receivers dropped Morris’s errant passes and the South Bend defenders hunkered down in the face of the advancing storm. Alas, Miami’s first and only score was a field goal from Jake Wieclaw.

Golson faced the battleship’s bow into the whirling Miami cyclone. In fits and starts Notre Dame advanced. When the snarling Miami defense seemed too furious for the Irish battleship to advance, Tyler Eifert crashed through the oncoming tempest. Notre Dame settled for a field goal to increase their tally to 10.

After its first score, the Miami offensive had the sound of a hurricane and none of its fury. Notre Dame’s stalwart defensive line absorbed the brunt of the oncoming Miami gale. Mike James and the magnificently monikered Duke Johnson crashed into the shore defense with little progress. Morris’s passes cracked through the Irish secondary, but the Notre Dame defense would not yield. Morris’s passes fell short of his men, Wieclaw’s errant field goal attempts fell short of the uprights, and the flagging Miami offense fell back to earth.

It was the Irish offense that roared back with peak intensity. Like a powerful dreadnought, Notre Dame steamed down the field with guns blazing. Cierre Wood erupted like a human cannonball, bouncing his way past the line and booming down the sideline. He stepped out of bounds before crossing the plane, so the Irish mustered one more broadside before Wood crashed through the weakening hurricane wall.

When the Irish warship steamed back into the storm, bulldog Commodore Kelly damned the torpedoes and ordered full speed ahead. Golson rarely passed: Wood and George Atkinson III pierced the Miami defense with fearless runs that rammed the Miami defenders and Wood crossed into the end zone a second time.

As Chicago weathermen downgraded the Miami hurricane to a paltry breeze, the Notre Dame running backs broke through clouds. Atkinson launched a meteoric 55-yard touchdown run, flashing down the field like a cleatshod missile that finally broke Miami’s spirit for good.

Even when Morris nearly threaded a pass to Rashawn Scott, Manti Te’o burst from the surface with the wrath of Poseidon and turned back the hurricane again. The wool-clad crowds cheered on Notre Dame with a Celtic furor summoned from Chicago’s deep-rooted Irish Catholic enclaves and age-old memories of Irish backs of yore.

Commodore Kelly ordered Rees into the captain’s chair — not as a reliever but as a second-stringer. Running back Cam McDaniel charged with the indomitable spirit of an Irish terrier. When McDaniel triumphantly scored his first touchdown in an Irish uniform, Soldier Field rejoiced with him.

In three games against strong competition, Notre Dame’s defensive fortress has not yielded a touchdown. Te’o, Notre Dame’s barrel-chested battalion leader, furiously tackled Johnson and James into submission. The Miami men left the field shocked and frozen in a winter of discontent.

After two weeks of needless press handwringing over the seemingly stagnant Notre Dame offense, Kelly’s deep backfield of battlefield chargers trampled through the Miami defense. Both Wood and Atkinson broke the century mark. With such resilient blocking from the offensive line — a tough and bearded bunch of bruisers — Notre Dame’s running backs could have raced to the finish of the Chicago Marathon. Their pyrotechnics display was unrivaled even by the burst of green-and-gold fireworks that celebrated Notre Dame’s victory: 376 yards rushing, the best in over a decade.

The Notre Dame faithful are rejoicing. Their Fighting Irish are undefeated. We are back, they say. The echoes are awake.

But listen closely to the battle roars of the blue-and-gold battleship. Listen closely to the volley cheer, to the great and glorious thunder from on high, for you will hear the chorus of gridiron legends that lives in the hopes and dreams of true believers in Notre Dame.

We never were asleep, they say.

Michael Rodio, who was this magazine’s spring intern, writes for the Daily Domer, a new Notre Dame news site. Contact him at mrodio@nd.edu.