SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — DeShone Kizer was running to celebrate what he hoped would be the game-winning touchdown when he found himself grappling in a pile of bodies trying to recover a fumble with the score tied and two minutes left.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior somehow muscled his way to the ball after tight end Durham Smythe fumbled near the goal line, allowing Notre Dame to keep possession so Justin Yoon could kick a 23-yard field goal with 30 seconds left to give the Irish a 30-27 victory over Miami on Saturday.
“One of the things I was looking for from him wasn’t whether he could run another dig route. We needed some more toughness from him, some mental toughness,” coach Brian Kelly said. “That’s an indication. He was not going to be denied. He was going to find a way to get that football.”
Kizer didn’t sound as though he had a strong grasp of the ball, saying a Miami player was kicking it as he tried to get a grip.
“The refs came in and started yelling white and then I heard one blue and as soon as I heard one blue I let go of the ball to allow them to not see anymore. Because obviously that guy had one leg, all 10 fingers and maybe his chin on the ball,” Kizer said.
The victory ended a three-game losing home streak for the Irish (3-5), who rallied back after squandering a 20-point lead.
Notre Dame outgained Miami 143-2 in total yards in jumping to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and extended the lead to 20-0 early in the second quarter. But special teams turned it around for Miami.
It began when Travis Homer recovered a punt after it bounced off Notre Dame’s Tony Pride Jr. and the Hurricanes scored four plays later on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brad Kaaya to David Njoku.
Miami scored on the opening possession of the second half and continued to rally.
“Everyone just let it cut loose at all positions,” Kaaya said. “The o-line played a little bit better and we were able to run the ball a little bit better, and that opened things up for me. We made good plays and guys finally woke up.”
The Hurricanes capped the 27-0 run when Miami’s Michael Jackson recovered a botched punt in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 6:49 left. But the Hurricanes (4-4) couldn’t finish it off.
“From that point on, Notre Dame pretty much took the game over, and we weren’t able to get the job done on either side of the ball,” Miami coach Mark Richt said.
The Irish tied the score less than a minute later when on third-and-1 Josh Adams bounced out of the pile and raced in for a 41-yard touchdown.
“There wasn’t a belief, when I looked in the eyes of every one of those players, that they weren’t going to figure out and find a way to win,” Kelly said.
Miami: The Hurricanes, who gave up eight sacks against Virginia Tech, struggled along the offensive line early, and were held to a season-low 18 yards after being held to 42 yards rushing against the Hokies. The Hurricanes came up big on special teams with the recovery of a punt by Homer after it bounced off Pride to set up Miami’s first touchdown, and a partially blocked punt by linebacker Zach McCloud that set up a field goal. Miami also recovered an onside kick.
Notre Dame: The Irish finally had a game where their offense and defense played well but still struggled with special team gaffes. The Irish entered the game 125th in the nation in sacks with six in seven games, but sacked Kaaya five times.
“We do sack the quarterback here at Notre Dame. So for you guys that didn’t think that that happened, we do sack the quarterback,” Kelly said.
SETTING THE TONE
Defensive tackle Jarron Jones set the tone for the Irish, making three tackles for loss and deflecting a pass in the first five plays by Miami. Jones finished with seven tackles, including six for loss. The Irish finished with 12 tackles for loss, the most since they had 12 against Syracuse in 2005.
Miami: The Hurricanes return to Atlantic Coast Conference play against Pittsburgh, a team it has beaten nine of the past 10 games.
Notre Dame: The Irish face Navy in Jacksonville, Florida, a team it has beaten five straight after losing two of the previous three.