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"We can't go around resenting people," added fellow defensive tackle Russell Maryland, who's a junior. "That will only take away from our performance."
Notre Dame tailback Ricky Watters did his part to bolster the uneasy truce. "The fight will be in the way we hit them on the field," he said. "Besides, I talked to some of them after last year's game. Some of those guys are pretty cool."
Amid all this goodwill, the week's most memorable quip was not emblazoned on a T-shirt or spouted by an athlete. It came rather out of an impromptu theological debate between Holtz and Miami's chaplain. Father Leo Armbrust. In his invocation at a booster luncheon on Friday, Armbrust assured his listeners that the Almighty was impartial. When Holtz got up to speak, he agreed with Father Leo. "I don't think God cares who wins tomorrow, either," said Holtz. "But His mother does."
However, divine intervention isn't what stalled Notre Dame's rushing attack, which was chewing up 301 yards per game, although at practice on Thanksgiving morning, Erickson wasn't certain that his team would be up to the task. "I don't know how we'll do against their option," he said. "We haven't played any option teams, and our scout team can't really simulate the way Rice runs the option."
Quickness turned out to be the antidote. Kennedy and Maryland stunted, looped and bulled their way into the Irish backfield all evening. As a result, fullback Johnson, who is the first man Rice can hand the ball to on the option, was held to 26 yards on nine carries. Kennedy and Maryland are close friends with similar stories. Both came out of high school overweight and underappreciated.
Maryland, who's from Chicago, weighed 321 as a senior and was offered one scholarship—to Indiana State—before Miami decided to take a chance on him. "I had to lose some of the weight I'd accumulated during my younger years," he says. Having done that, he won a starting job as a sophomore, and had eight sacks that year. At 6'2", he now weighs in at 265 and is so virtuous his teammates call him the Conscience.
When Kennedy arrived at Miami two years ago from Northwest Mississippi Junior College, he was loaded with potential, as well as adipose tissue, carrying nearly 315 pounds on his 6'3" frame. Maryland took him under his wing. "I had come into the program under very similar circumstances," says Maryland. "I felt obligated to help."
Every morning last summer they would spend 20 minutes running up the hill at Tropical Park, a few miles from campus. Then they would run 110-meter sprints on the university's track. At 2 p.m. they would join the team for informal workouts. Kennedy got down to 290 and last August beat out Jimmie Jones for the starting job.
Notre Dame was confounded by the Hurricanes' front four, whose two other members were ends Greg Mark, an All-America, and Willis Peguese. Said guard Tim Ryan, "They destroyed our blocking scheme. They whipped our butts."
Miami's front four also kept the Irish linemen off the Hurricanes' linebackers. Therefore, said Notre Dame offensive tackle Dean Brown, those linebackers were "free to roam and make plays." In particular, they took away Rice's second option, the quarterback keeper. He rushed 20 times for a mere 50 yards.