This was one of the more frustrating losses for Michigan in recent history, losing 13-6 to the Irish. The Wolverines did not put up points until early in the 4th quarter when the offense was pushed back after looking like they would punch it in the endzone, resulting in a field goal. The Irish then responded with a field goal of their own to cushion the lead to 10. Michigan would add another field goal late to come within 7, but the Irish, led by Tommy Rees, converted a late third down to put the game out of reach. It was the first Irish victory over the Wolverines in 4 years.
Helping break down this game and giving us his opinion will be The East Side Perspective's own Clayton Tinkle.
Tyler Fenwick- The Wolverines played an incredibly sloppy game Saturday night in South Bend. Denard Robinson turned the ball over 5 times (4 INTs, 1 fumble), and Vincent Smith added one more to the pile by being picked off in the endzone on an attempted halfback pass. Only scoring 6 points while committing 6 turnovers will never take you very far.
However, I was impressed with a couple of things.
First, the defensive line looked to be much improved after a shaky start to the season. Notre Dame was unable to establish a running game, and Golson and Rees were consistently pressured. That was a sight we were grew so used to last season, and that is a very bright sign for the rest of the year. Even the offensive line looked better. Not great, but better. I thought there were too many missed assignments, but I thought they looked decent going up against an established Notre Dame front seven.
Second, Dennis Norfleet is becoming a serious threat on kick returns. You obviously can’t be mad at the kid for not returning one and turning the tide of the game, but that isn’t something out of reach for the future. At the end of the day, though, 6 turnovers is representing way too many missed opportunities in a 7 point loss.
Clayton Tinkle- Tyler said it all. Six turnovers was the downfall of this game and that’s that. When the offense wasn’t turning the ball over the Wolverines were driving pretty consistently and Notre couldn’t seem to stop the run on a consistent basis. If you watch the drive with the Vincent Smith interception Denard looked pretty good. He was getting rid of the ball and had several good reads on that drive to take the ball down the field. The same goes for the drive with Robinson’s fumble: Michigan was driving pretty well, this time via the run, and then one little miscue turned what seemed to be seven points into zero.
When you look at this game its obvious why Michigan came up short. You just have to play a little less sloppy. However, like Tyler said, there are some bright spots to this game.
To me, the whole defense looked great. Outside of the one 3rd down pass to Eifert, in which J.T. Floyd tripped on, Michigan’s secondary really shut down the Irish receivers. The front seven, which Tyler mentioned, also played great after allowing some big gains against Air Force and Alabama. Notre Dame couldn’t get anything going on the ground which is going to be big for the Wolverines down the stretch.
My biggest positive to take away from this game though, is one player: Desmond Morgan. It seemed live every other play during the broadcast he was making a play of some sort. The kid was all over the field. He was batting down balls, making tackles and just plain out flying to the ball. If Morgan keeps this up, he could be a big key in Michigan making a B1G title run.
TF- The Irish didn’t look quite as dominating as they did against Michigan State last week, but one thing is for certain by now: Notre Dame is back. This is a defense that hasn’t allowed a touchdown since September 8th against Purdue. And, most impressively, they did not allow Denard Robinson to come through with his usual late heroics.
I mentioned in my preview (linked) that Brian Kelley just needed to let Everett Golson be free within the offense and not put any restrictions on the young man. However, he threw an INT on his fist attempt of the night. From that point on, he wasn’t the same player that we were expecting to see.
But the Irish are thankful for the back up they have Tommy Rees. Rees came on in relief and didn’t exactly show anything spectacular, but he made the necessary plays to keep his team ahead. That security behind Golson was very impressive. I also thought the Irish defense did a great job of getting pressure on Denard. Like I said, you can’t always get in the backfield and be successful against “Shoelace”, but the risk/reward was highly in favor of the Irish. Overall, that was the best we’ve seen Notre Dame in quite a while, and they are now 4-0 for the first time in 10 years.
CT- I disagree and agree with Tyler. Notre Dame, by any means, is not back. Whatever “back” means is a mystery, but I’m assuming it means “back” to dominating and winning national titles. The Irish did not impress me in anyway on Saturday. They did not “force” 5 interceptions, Michigan gave them 5 interceptions. They did not beat Michigan, Michigan beat themselves. I could have caught some of the balls that Denard threw if I was in an Irish uniform. While Notre Dame is not “back”, they are better. I still think they lose to Stanford, USC and either Oklahoma or BYU.
Golson has to be the guy for the Irish going forward because he brings more to the table. While Rees didn’t make a mistake he didn’t make a play either. When you pull Golson so early you don’t give him a chance to impact a game. In my opinion, there’s a difference between teaching someone a lesson and making them scared to throw the ball. If a coach benches a quarterback every time he throws an interception, the quarterback is going to quit throwing the ball all together.
With this crushing loss to the Irish, there have been some questions brought up that got me thinking. So I decided to address a couple of these questions with Clayton.
1. Is it time for a change at quarterback?
Okay, Denard threw 4 interceptions and fumbled the ball once. He called it the most embarrassed he has ever been, and that is rightfully so. After all, the worst game of his career was against Notre Dame in prime time. But I think it is absolutely crazy that some people are calling for a change at QB. Denard Robinson is the heart beat of this team, and there is not another player who has as big of an impact on the success of Michigan.
Benching Denard would be suicide. Robinson is the heart and soul of this team, and while it would be nice to see someone that can read a defense, you simply cannot take Robinson off of the field. Michigan without Robinson would be West Virginia without Geno Smith, Oregon without D’Anthony Thomas or Clemson without Sammy Watkins: nothing.
2. What does this mean for the rest of Michigan’s season?
Tyler: Absolutely Nothing
Once again, I think is another sort of ridiculous question. Brady Hoke has established one team goal for the season: win the Big Ten championship. And as far as I know, non-conference games do not affect that in the least bit. If anything, I think this loss helps the Wolverines. Nobody on that team wants to feel that again, and there is still so much to play for. I believe, at the end of the season, we will look back at this Week 4 game against Notre Dame and realize that it wasn’t as big of a deal as some people are making it out to be.
Clayton: It’s more than nothing to worry about but not enough to panic.
If the Wolverines would have lost by twenty plus points, and the defense wouldn’t have looked stellar then I say: “Okay, something needs to be done”. However, Michigan only lost by seven, and the defense did, in fact, look stellar. Top to bottom, I still think Michigan is the best team in the Big Ten and like Tyler said, a Big Ten title and a trip to Pasadena is the goal. With what we seen on Saturday I still believe that goal is very achievable. Robinson and company just need to settle down and focus on the goal at hand and the Wolverines will be smelling roses. Period.
Tyler’s Prediction Record: 4-0
Notes: This loss against Notre Dame has pushed Michigan out of the top 25 for the first time since Week 2 of last season.