Thursday, September 28, 2017

The common thread of Ara Parseghian unites Miami (OH) and No. 22 Notre Dame in Saturday's meeting

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

The Miami (OH) Redhawks (2-2, 1-0 Mid-American Conference) take on the No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-1) for their second all-time meeting on Saturday (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN). In its only other meeting, Notre Dame defeated Miami (OH) 46-0 back on Nov. 14, 1909 collided at Cartier Field in South Bend. The one common link between the two programs turns out to be Ara Parseghian.

Both teams will pay respects and honor Parseghian on Saturday.  Parseghian won two national championships as the head football coach at Notre Dame in 1966 and 1973.  Parseghian was a graduate of Miami (OH) and played football, basketball and baseball during his time as a student.

The Irish are coming into Saturday’s contest after winning two consecutive road games over Boston College and Michigan State. The remainder of Notre Dame’s games will be played against teams who competed in the bowl games following the 2016 season.

There was a good amount of uncertainty regarding the abilities of Notre Dame defense coming into the 2017 season. To this point, the Irish have limited big plays and allowed 18.5 points per game.

“I could tell you the first meeting that we came in here with our defense, [defensive coordinator] Mike Elko puts up a PowerPoint that talks about situational awareness, talks about eliminations big plays.  This is not by coincidence,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “This is about crafting the tenets of playing the kind of defense necessary to be a championship football team.”

The Redhawks are coming off a 31-14 win on the road over the Central Michigan Chippewas to open their Mid-American Conference Schedule.  The week before, Miami played rival Cincinnati, where the Redhawks fell 21-17.  Miami held a 17-6 lead over the Bearcats with less than four minutes remaining in the game.

Miami boasts one of the nation’s top defenses through the first four games of the season as it has allowed 19.0 points per game.  Miami is looking to slow down a Notre Dame offense that has averaged 38.75 points per game this season. With six interceptions and three forced fumbles, the Redhawks also rank 13th in the FBS in turnovers forced.

Notre Dame isn’t overlooking Miami University simply because they come a Group of Five conference.

“We’ve only built one mindset.  It’s to dominate the opponent,” Kelly said.  “This is really about inner focus on how we prepare for our next opponent, whether it’s Miami University or the University of Miami.”

Quarterback Gus Ragland looks to lead the Redhawks though the air. Through the first four games of the season, Ragland is averaging 220.2 yards of passing per game. Ragland’s favorite target is James Gardner, who is averaging 73.5 yards a game and has also found the end zone twice.  Alonzo Smith and Kenny Young split the carries for the Miami backfield with both back averaging at least 51 yards a game. 

All-Time vs Miami (Ohio):

Notre Dame is 1-0 all-time against Miami (Ohio) with the lone contest resulting in a 46-0 Irish victory back in 1909 and 5-0 all-time against Mid-American Conference opponents.