Notre Dame suffered a disheartening upset to Michigan on the road this weekend. The Irish lost to their longtime rivals, 41-30.
After the loss, Notre Dame fell to 21 in the polls. That seems like quite a large drop for a team that: wasn’t blown out, faced a team ranked three spots below them, and was on the road. Michigan jumped up in the polls to 11.
Even more depressing is that after this amazing game, the country will only be treated to one more game between these two teams in the near future. It looks like both Brady Hoke and Brian Kelly are backing out of the annual rivalry and that is a big loss for fans everywhere.
Notre Dame had chances to win this game, but never quite got over the hump. The offense played well enough to win but the defense was subpar. This is not the 2012 Notre Dame defense anymore and that was very apparent Saturday night.
Here are our thoughts on the game:
- Tommy Rees. He went back and forth between very good, and very bad. He threw for 314 yards but only completed 56 percent of his passes. He also had two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Rees had very good protection, but couldn’t really do much with it. The interception was a tipped pass, and very unlucky. But on the previous drive he nearly threw a pick and ND was forced to settle for a field goal. He had a number of bad reads and has to do better in a game of this magnitude.
- Uh, run the ball? Amir Carlisle had 12 carries for 64 yards. George Atkinson III had five for 37 yards. Both players were averaging over five yards per carry, so why didn’t Kelly’s game plan feature more running? Its understandable that the Irish had to abandon the run later in the game with time running out, but when you’re averaging five yards a run, you need to run the ball more.
- Stephon Tuitt is really good. If you look at the stat sheet, you won’t see anything besides the interception he returned for a touchdown (by the way, what the hell was Gardner thinking?). He’s 322-pounds and made an unbelievable athletic play to snag that pass. More importantly, it got the Irish back in the game. Notre Dame was down by a touchdown at this point with plenty of time left to mount a comeback.
- Troy Niklas is a very good tight end. He seems to be picking right where Tyler Eifert left off. He had six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. Last week he had just one reception, but it was a long one for a TD. He needs to get more involved in the passing game.
- Good run defense. It may seem odd, but Notre Dame played very good defense on designed runs. QB scrambles aside (and really that’s not the same thing at all), Michigan only managed 85 yards rushing.
- How do you defend Devin Gardner? His week one performance left a lot to be desired, but he turned it around quickly and tore apart the Irish defense. In fairness, Gardner is going to do this to a lot of teams this season. Notre Dame had no answer for his scrambling ability and rarely got pressure on him.
- Where’s the pressure? The interior of Michigan’s offensive line was the weak point, so why not attack it with A-B gap blitzes? Gardner was sacked just once, and hit three more times. Attacking the middle of the line (not unlike the Eagles did to RGIII last night) limits his running lanes and forces the QB to make tougher passes.
- Maybe double Jeremy Gallon? Gallon caught eight passes for Michigan. No other receiver had more than three. He also had three touchdowns. It didn’t appear that Notre Dame made any adjustments to defend Gallon and Gardner was still completing passes to him late in the fourth quarter.
- 3rd Down. Both teams converted at least 50-percent of its third downs. That is surprisingly high, especially considering how solid Notre Dame’s defense is. With the offense playing at this high a level, the Irish had a chance to win. The defense really didn’t play well enough to win this game, but a lot of that is due to Gardner.
- Pass Interference? On Michigan’s second to last drive of the game, Notre Dame was called for pass interference twice. Once on Bennett Jackson and then again on Matthias Farley. Both were on third down and both were questionable at best. The one by Jackson would have resulted in an interception. The other would have held Michigan to a field goal, instead the Wolverines scored a touchdown, effectively sealing the game.
- The Eminem Interview. Go watch this now, and more than once, it bears multiple viewings. I think TV might be done after this interview. Never have I seen anything more awkward and amazing than this. Had the players seen the entire interview, they would not have retaken the field.
Game Sealing Moment: The questionable pass interference calls against Bennett Jackson. And then on Matthias Farley. Both calls were iffy at best. The first would have resulted in an interception by Jackson.
Luckily for Notre Dame, they head to West Lafayette to face Purdue (1-1). The Boilermakers are a mess on offense and the defense has been up and down.
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