Mike Miller is glad he’s back. So are Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz and quarterback Rick Mirer.
Miller, who didn’t play last season after quitting the team because he was homesick and returned to Texas, hooked up with Mirer on a 70-yard touchdown pass play in the third quarter Saturday that sent third-ranked Notre Dame to a 42-7 victory over Northwestern.
That pass started a four-touchdown second-half burst, turning a tight game into a rout.
“I was happy I was able to play in this game,” said Miller, who also acknowledged that he felt pressure last year when he was being compared to former Irish star Raghib (Rocket) Ismail.
“I’m glad to be back, glad my teammates accepted me,” said Miller, a sophomore who returned to the team for spring practice.
Miller caught three passes for 104 yards. His big play gave the Fighting Irish a 21-7 lead.
“Northwestern was in man-to-man coverage, and we felt we could beat them deep on the post pattern,” Miller said. “Rick made a great pass.”
Wildcat Coach Gary Barnett, making his debut, said the breakdown was understandable.
“Mike Miller is a 4.2 man who simply ran by a 4.6 guy,” he said. “The slogan we established was ‘Expect Victory.’ We didn’t do that and anything less than that we’re not satisfied.”
“If there is something to get excited about, it’s playing Notre Dame in a place like (Soldier Field) and not turning the ball over,” he said.
After Miller’s touchdown, Jerome Bettis then went 24 yards for a score, and Reggie Brooks broke another run for 72-yard touchdown.
Northwestern quarterback Lenny Williams completed 26 of 40 passes for a career-high 281 yards to keep the Wildcats in contention.
Mirer completed eight of 17 for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Bettis carried 19 times for 130 yards and Brooks had nine carries for a career-high 157 yards.