After setting a University of Miami record with 566 yards passing and 5 touchdowns in a dramatic victory over North Carolina State on Saturday, QB Stephen Morris is moving on to the next mountain ahead of his Miami Hurricanes football squad: the ninth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
UM and Notre Dame renew one of college football's most heated rivalries on Saturday at Chicago's Soldier Field. For Morris, the game is a chance to shine when the entire nation will be watching.
"I've been waiting for this game since freshman year," Morris said. "It's going to mean a lot to me and my family. It's going to mean a lot for this program. So we're going to make sure that we're ready for this game."
After the NC State game, Morris huddled his team together in the locker room. He told them that Notre Dame week started at that very moment, and they would need to keep focused if they want to top the Irish in Chicago.
The Hurricanes said they listened. "We know what this game means," defensive back Brandon McGee said.
Miami and Notre Dame played each other in the Sun Bowl after the 2010 season, when the Irish demolished the Canes while newly-hired head coach Al Golden watched from the stands. Miami was in a state of flux after dismissing head coach Randy Shannon, while Notre Dame had just completed its first season under head coach Brian Kelly.
Before that, the two schools had not played since 1990, when Notre Dame defeated UM 29-20 in South Bend, effectively ending the Canes' hopes at repeating as national champions.
The stakes are lower for UM this time around, but the Canes can make a huge statement with a win over the undefeated Irish, who themselves have cracked the top ten for the first time since 2006.
"For our guys, it just has to be business as usual," Golden said. "I want to see us improve, take care of business every day and just trust the process. And we've got to get healed up. This is our fourth road game in six weeks so we've got to get healed up and healthy and get ready for obviously a great Notre Dame team in Chicago."
It will be an uphill climb for Miami for sure. The Canes have lost six of their last seven match-ups against top-ten opponents, and Notre Dame had a bye week to prepare for the Canes.
But Golden is upbeat, to say the least. "When they're playing as hard as they're playing, and they're resilient as they are," he said of his team Sunday, "it is fun to coach. They play hard. They're nowhere near flawless, to say the least. But they keep competing."