Notre Dame vs. Miami: 'Catholics vs. Convicts' no more

Notre Dame vs. Miami: 'Catholics vs. Convicts' no more
October 5, 2012, 6:51 pm
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It's been nearly 25 years since Notre Dame's rivalry with Miami peaked, and while no Notre Dame players were old enough (or alive) to remember it, some do know a little about the history between the two teams.

"Honestly, the only thing I know -- in 1988, I think didn't we beat them when they were ranked No. 1? I think that's the only thing I know," senior defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said. "I don't know too much other than that. I just know it used to get a little heated back in the day."

Lewis-Moore was right about that -- Notre Dame beat then-No. 1 Miami 31-30 in 1988, complete with a pregame fight in the tunnel. The game was voted the best game in Notre Dame football history in 2005 and led to "Catholics vs. Convicts" entering the national lexicon.

But the vitriol between the two teams has cooled, and Irish defensive tackle Louis Nix -- who knows as much about the rivalry as any of his teammates -- doesn't think the old nickname needs to be re-hashed.

"Everybody tells us about the big rivalry and Catholics vs. Convicts but to be honest, I think thats over with. That was years ago, and nobody even thinks about it," Nix said. "In the hearts of Notre Dame fans, it might be a big game. Me, my team, I think we just see it as another game we gotta play hard at."

Of course, Nix admitted talk about the rivalry is unavoidable with a school and fanbase so steeped in tradition and history.

"We hear everybody and every Notre Dame fan, everybody around here talks about it. Youll get enough of the history off that," he said. "I think I know pretty much a lot about it. I dont think its that much hyped up, because both programs have been on like a slump for a while, and Miami has really turned the program around from being called convicts. I think theyre a great program now, and you cant even put them in the same category as back then."

For more on Notre Dame-Miami, Inside the Irish's Keith Arnold has some good insight in his pregame six pack.

The key for Notre Dame? Stay grounded

Notre Dame opened the 2012 season with a 50-10 win over Navy, powered by 293 rushing yards mostly from Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III.

But since, Notre Dame's rushing attack has combined to rush for 268 yards, and that's with the return of Cierre Wood, last year's leading rusher, to the running back rotation. Everett Golson and Tommy Rees have successfully steered Notre Dame's offense to a 4-0 start, but the Irish may need just more than clean quarterback play to top Miami on Saturday.

"Whether we're playing Miami or our next opponent, we, as an offense, have to score more points," coach Brian Kelly said earlier this week. "I'm more concerned about what we do and how we play the game more so. Saying, hey, we're playing Miami. They would probably say against Kansas State their offense didn't play very well. So I stay out of that arena, and I focus more on what we need to do as an offense and defense and special teams."

On Tuesday, Kelly said Golson was "still cooking" in terms of his development. And with Golson still progressing, Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin haven't opened the playbook up much.

They haven't had to, thanks to the efforts of the Irish defense. But if Notre Dame's run game can't get going and Notre Dame falls behind, perhaps that'll lead Golson and his offense into dangerous waters.

"We ran it fast last year -- you saw what happened -- we got a lot of speeding tickets," Kelly said, referring to Notre Dame's turnover woes in 2011. "But clearly we want to be more of an offense that can have big play capabilities. We need to score more points, no question about that. We're not scoring enough points.

"But as you can see, and it's been the theme. We're going to be careful with the football. We're not going to be careless with it. Until we're ready to amp it up, so to speak, we'll be careful with the football."

The good news for Notre Dame is Miami's defense is solidly in the bottom tier of college football -- especially its run defense. Riddick and Wood both are playmakers who run tough, but neither have broke free in the last three weeks.

If that changes on Saturday, Notre Dame could be in good shape.