CHICAGO (AP) — Stephen Morris let fly with a long pass on the first scrimmage play Saturday night and Phillip Dorsett, his favorite receiver, was well behind Notre Dame’s defense for what could have been an easy touchdown for Miami.
Instead the ball went off Dorsett’s hands.
Four plays later, Morris placed a nearly perfect pass right into Dorsett’s chest near the goal line.
Once again the ball fell to the ground, a second straight miss for a sure-handed receiver.
Those drops set the tone for a miserable Saturday night for the Hurricanes in a 41-3 drubbing from No. 9 Notre Dame.
“I was in disbelief,” Dorsett, who had 16 catches for 375 yards the previous two weeks in wins over Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.
“Obviously that doesn’t happen much to me. I guess I got a little too excited, the (first) ball got caught in the lights and I couldn’t see it. Like I said I’m not a person to make excuses, but I got to come up with those.”
The Hurricanes never warmed up on a 44-degree night at Soldier Field. There were nine penalties for 76 yards — one that nullified a Morris TD run — a missed field goal and inability to get the defense off the field. Notre Dame dominated time of possession — 39:08 to 20:52.
Miami’s offense that had accumulated 1,260 yards and 86 points in the wins over N.C. State and Georgia Tech the previous two weeks, managed only 285 yards.
And the young Hurricanes defense wore down in the second half against Notre Dame’s strong running attack led by Cierre Wood.
Morris, coming off a school- and ACC-record 566-yard passing game against the Wolfpack completed 18 of 35 for 201 yards.
“It was really lopsided in terms of them having the ball and we didn’t really have much opportunity and the times we do have opportunities we were on the field and we were off,” Morris said. “We can’t win games like that.”
Not long after Dorsett’s drops, Miami’s Gabriel Terry was whistled for roughing Irish punter Ben Turk and then Eddie Johnson was called for a late hit personal foul, helping the Irish to their first touchdown.
“There’s no excuses. We had too many penalties, too many drops,” Miami coach Al Golden said. “We lost our poise at times. We didn’t play well enough in this environment against a really good team and that’s my fault. I’ve got to get it fixed.”
Everett Golson, who didn’t start the game because he was late for a practice while meeting with a professor, led the Irish to scores on their first three drives, and would have made it four out of five if Kyle Brindza’s 34-yard field goal attempt hadn’t missed right.
Notre Dame ran for 270 yards in the final 30 minutes — with the Irish scoring on all four of their drives.
“We felt like we found a way to run the football today,” coach Brian Kelly said. “Our game plan was situated on running the football, which equals time of possession for us.
“We felt like if we could keep them from getting the big plays, and we could run the football, that was going on our recipe for success.”
Miami didn’t have the strength to stop Wood or George Atkinson III.
“Obviously they are big, strong and physical and ran it with three running backs,” Golden said. “We didn’t tackle really well and our defense was on the field there too long.
“We didn’t play smart enough, we didn’t play disciplined enough and we didn’t make enough plays. It’s that simple.”