Hyde: To understand Miami-Notre Dame, you need to feel the full force of history

Saturday, 11 November 2017, 01:43:00 PM. The Miami-Notre Dame rivalry that will be renewed Saturday night goes back many years — and wonderful years — as the players involved know.

Look, there’s Miami’s Alonzo Highsmith, having already scored four touchdowns on the day, demanding to run a sweep into the Notre Dame sideline to — bam! — purposely run over the mascot leprechaun.

Look, there’s a swarm of Hurricanes tackling Tim Brown, and grabbing and grabbing at him on the ground for — what? — his good-luck towel, a gift from the Irish receiver’s girlfriend. They come out waving it.

This is the company Saturday night.

The stadium is changed. None of the players can know all of it, because none were born in 1989 when — look — there’s yelling in the Miami huddle before a third down with an absurd 43 yards to go for a first down. Coach Dennis Erickson sent in a draw play, a tactical surrender to the situation.

The players hate that call. Surrender? Them?

“93 Wideout Tailback Option,” quarterback Craig Erickson changes the play to.

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And, look, there’s Erickson throwing deep to Randal Hill for 44 yards. Look at Hill jump up. Look at him raise his arms in triumph — arms he’s raising nearly three decades later over what the play represents as much as that first down.

“With the attitudes and personalities and egos we had, there was no way we were running a draw,” Hill said. “We changed [Coach] Erickson’s plays all the time. This was his first year. He asked us after the opener in Wisconsin, ‘OK, at least tell me your hand signals so I know what’s coming.’

“So when he sent in a draw in that situation, it wasn’t even a discussion. Sometimes we had mini-riots over what to run. This time, there was only one play to run and we ran it.”

To fully understand the landscape of No. 3 Notre Dame against No. 7 Miami on Saturday night, the stakes and the wonderful force it arrives with, you have to understand the full force of history these two programs bring into the game.

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Three decades after 'Catholics vs. Convicts,' Notre Dame and Miami square off again. See photos of their 1988 showdown, which Notre Dame won 31-30 in one of college football's biggest upsets.

Or you could just look at a helmet former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz autographed.

“1988 National champs. Screwed in 1989, 1990, 1993.”

Jimmy Johnson hears this.

“Had we had [instant] replay, he wouldn’t have had ’88 and could have said, ‘Screwed in ’88 as well,’” the former Miami coach said, referring to a controversial call on Cleveland Gary’s fumble at the Notre Dame 1-yard line in a 31-30 game.

Holtz, of course, notoriously relayed after that win how he’d told his players before the game that if there was a fight — as there was in the tunnel the previous year — to, “leave Jimmy Johnson for me.”

“Scrawny Lou Holtz takes pride in telling that, doesn’t he?” Johnson said. “It’s funny, but you never heard those kind of stories come out of Notre Dame when they were losing all those games. Scrawny Lou Holtz.”

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Do you sense the emotion all these years later? Johnson was called “pork-faced Satan” on a Notre Dame T-shirt. Miami’s best-selling T-shirt was, “God made Notre Dame No. 1 … Miami made it No. 2.”

“The way I look at it, it was a theatrical good vs. evil,” Hill said. “And the way I pitched it, Notre dame was evil. Not because of the players. I even talked with Rocket Ismail a couple weeks ago. Great guy. But they always thought they were better, because they’re ‘Touchdown Jesus’ and ‘Golden Dome’ and ‘we don’t need a conference’ — that’s the bad guys. That’s evil.”

hyde-to-understand-miaminotre-dame-you-need-to-feel-the-full-force-of-history photo 3 Dave Hyde

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(Dave Hyde)

That’s it. That’s Miami vs. Notre Dame. There will be ghosts in the crowd, on the television — even on the sideline this game. Mark Richt becomes the first player to have been in this series to now serve as a head coach in it. (Randy Shannon didn’t last in the 2011 season to their bowl meeting).

Richt has two memories, both relevant of the emotions, one stronger than the other.

“I got my heart broken in South Bend one time,” he said of Notre Dame’s 1982 win, 16-14. “I think Blair Kiel was the quarterback and had a last-minute drive to put them in field goal range and beat us. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but we lost that one. We had a chance to win it. I remember checking to a quarterback sneak on third or fourth down and getting stuffed. We gave them the ball and they had a chance to go down and score.”

The other memory? The one that tells what Saturday’s emotion will be like?

“One time I went there and got knocked out,” he said.

dhyde@sun-sentinel.com; On Twitter @davehydesports;

To read Dave Hyde’s blog click here. On Facebook click here.

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