Miami-Notre Dame game won’t be a contest of ‘Catholics vs. Convicts’

FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2015, file photo, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly gestures to his players as they warm up before an NCAA college football game against Temple, in Philadelphia. Miami and Notre Dame can only wish their game Saturday could come close to living up to the intensity the series had nearly three decades ago when for three straight seasons the winner was the national champion. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 31, 2015, file photo, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly gestures to his players as they warm up before an NCAA college football game against Temple, in Philadelphia. Miami and Notre Dame can only wish their game Saturday could come close to living up to the intensity the series had nearly three decades ago when for three straight seasons the winner was the national champion. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

SOUTH BEND, Ind.– The Miami-Notre Dame game Saturday won’t be Catholics vs. Convicts as the game was known in its heyday.

The winner of the rivalry game won the national championship each year from 1987-89. There also was bad blood, with Notre Dame upset at Miami coach Jimmy Johnson for running up the score 58-7 in Gerry Faust’s last game as coach after announcing his resignation in 1985. There was a pregame fight in 1988 and pregame taunting the next year.

With the Hurricanes (4-3) limping in with a three-game losing streak and Notre Dame (2-5) seeking to avoid a four-game home losing streak , there’s no chance Saturday’s game will have that intensity, especially because the two have only played twice since Notre Dame officials ended the series in 1990 because it was growing too intense.

That is why Irish coach Brian Kelly hasn’t talked much about the rivalry.

“It’s really not central to what we’re going through right now,” he said. “What’s central to this football team, in my estimation, is execution and confidence and all of the things that are more germane to this team. It’s not about retribution and tradition and things of that nature.”

Miami coach Mark Richt, the starting quarterback when the Hurricanes lost to the Irish 16-14 in 1982, planned to talk to his players about the series.

“I think it’s important for them to know the history of the series and some of the great games that have been played by two teams that have a national brand,” he said.

Players on both sides, who weren’t born when the series ended, don’t know a lot about it.

“I don’t know if they played with my dad in the early ’80s,” said Notre Dame right guard Alex Bars, whose father, Joe, played for Notre Dame from 1981-84 and faced the Hurricanes each year. “Catholics-Criminals? I don’t know.”

Hurricanes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, a Miami native, still thinks the game is important.

“At Miami, you get judged by whether you beat Notre Dame or not. If you don’t beat Notre Dame, it’s a failure,” he said. “It’s a big deal. It’s a big thing in this university. It’s a big thing in this town. And if we’re both 12-0 or 0-12, playing here, there, or on the moon, Miami must beat Notre Dame.”

Some other things to be aware of when Miami faces Notre Dame on Saturday:

LESS IS MORE

Simplifying the defense has led to improved play, so now Notre Dame is going to try to do the same for its struggling offense.

“We have fallen into a similar trap that we were dealing with earlier defensively, is we’re probably doing a little too much,” Kelly said. “I think from an offensive standpoint, we can just be who we are. Let’s practice what we’re good at and let’s be better at execution in this kind of game.”

LOT OF YOUTH

Notre Dame and Miami have combined to use 41 freshmen this season, including 27 true freshmen. Notre Dame’s use of 14 true freshmen is already a record for the Kelly era in South Bend, and more than half of the players Miami had on the field in its last game at Virginia Tech were either freshmen or sophomores.

PASS RUSH VS. PASS BLOCKING

Notre Dame ranks 125th in the nation in sacks with six in seven games. Only one of those sacks is by a lineman.  Miami surrendered eight sacks against Virginia Tech last week after giving up seven through the first six games.

OCTOBER TO FORGET

Miami is trying to avoid losing four October games for the first time since 1953. In the last 40 years, there’s only been one instance of the Hurricanes losing four games in any month — November 2007.

HONEYMOON IS OVER

Notre Dame wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. spent his day off last Saturday getting married to his longtime girlfriend.

“I knew she was the one, so I wasn’t really nervous about it,” he said.

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