This was it. The perfect Saturday. Coach Mark Richt stood there at 11:59 p.m., at the end of the day no one wanted to end, and asked, “How many turnovers did we get? Was it four?”
It was four. Again. That’s four turnovers for the fourth consecutive game by the Miami Hurricanes’ defense — and Notre Dame only had five turnovers all year entering Saturday.
“That was beautiful,” Richt said after Miami’s 41-8 win against Notre Dame. “And how many (turnovers) did we give up?”
“None?” Richt said. “Well, that’s good, too. We just don’t give a (turnover) chain for that. We need to give a third-down conversion chain.”
He smiled then, because, seriously, wasn’t Saturday perfect right to this last minute?
It began on the campus with ESPN “College GameDay” — a morning-long infomercial for Miami. The Sun. Signs. Sailboats. (Note to ESPN: You’ll want a Spanish-speaking monitor of the signs next time, because, well, this is Miami and people are profanely creative.)
If GameDay was style, the substance then came. First, Virginia lost. That meant Miami won the ACC’s Coastal Division for the first time. That title was considered a Putin election when Miami joined the conference in 2004.
Thirteen years later, they won it.
“So much was put into that very thing,” Richt said. “We wanted to win the Coastal. We wanted to go to Charlotte (for the ACC title game). That’s one of the things we wanted to control. We weren’t willing to talk further than that.”
But after Saturday? Further is part of the landscape. Top-ranked Georgia lost. That means Alabama is the only undefeated team ahead of No. 7 Miami in the College Football Playoff rankings. There’s no reason Miami couldn’t vault to No. 2 after the dismantling of Notre Dame.
Where to begin with that? With Braxton Berrios putting himself in mock handcuffs, like a convict, after his game-opening touchdown? With freshman Trajan Bandy’s 65-yard interception returned for a touchdown just before the half?
Do you want to start with a staggering, 34-0, in the third quarter? Was Jimmy Johnson somewhere saying, “Run it up,” and Brent Musburger saying, “Show some compassion,” in the manner of that, 58-7, Miami shellacking three decades ago?
“I don’t think there was ever one point where the momentum, we didn’t have it,” Berrios said.
It was electric, this atmosphere at Hard Rock Stadium, this fan base that has materialized these past two weeks for wins against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame like it was the 1980s again.
“How can you not play hard for that crowd?” Richt said. “It was amazing. And I’m still sweating from the humidity. Which I loved.”
The humidity was part of Miami’s weapon against Notre Dame’s size. Quickness was the other one. Their lines moved two steps by the time Notre Dame took one at most snaps.
So it was a feared Notre Dame rushing attack that was toothless this night. Josh Adams, a Heisman Trophy candidate, ran 15 times for 47 yards — all in the first half. After that, nothing much mattered anyhow.
It was that kind of perfect night. That kind of perfect game. That kind of completely perfect Saturday for Miami. Senior offensive tackle Kc McDermott said it was, “Four years coming,” for his class. And maybe he’s right.
But it’s really two years coming under Richt. This win again verified the path he’s put Miami on. But so does the coming opponent in the ACC Championship Game.
It’s Clemson. The wheels of change officially started in motion two years ago on this same field when Clemson gave Al Golden’sMiami team a school-worst 58-0 beating.
Out went Golden.
In came Richt.
No bowl win in a decade? Miami beat West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl Bowl in Richt’s first season last year. Seven consecutive losses to Florida State? That ended in Tallahassee this season.
Now they crushed Notre Dame, won the Coastal and could rise as high as No. 2 in the rankings — all in one Saturday.
Are they back? That’s the cliche question for a decade after a big win. Quarterback Malik Rosier had a perfect answer to that on this perfect Saturday.
“We’re not back until I have a ring on my finger,” he said.
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