I made a point to stay down on the field as long as possible for pregame. That's when I got this.
I love my job.
The whole event went off without a hitch. Well, that's not entirely true. There was that one play. And of course the chicken dance song at the end of the game. That seemed entirely inappropriate to me. We won the game, let's not take the low road while we're at it. Classless move, Special K.
But I'm willing to concede that a 41-30 win against Notre Dame in what will be their last trip to the Big House for at least a while, resulted in a very successful night under the lights.
The stage was as big as it could get for a primetime college football game. It's now as if Michigan versus Notre Dame signals the official start to the college football season. It's almost written in stone that when these two schools tussle, wild momentum swings and fluke plays always seem to dominate the flow of the game.
With about 12 minutes left in the game and Michigan up 34-20, you just knew that things were too good to be true. That's when the college football gods decided to make it interesting.
I don't say it often, but I was extremely impressed with the gameplan and execution of the offense on Saturday. Notre Dame's front 7 are about as tough as we'll see all year, and Michigan had them figured out. The offensive line had a pretty good day against the tough ND rush, and they blitzed a lot. The interior guys had some rough plays here and there, but Louis Nix is a force at nose. He and blitzing linebackers caused havoc a few times. But Michigan held their own. Are we a dominant offensive line right now? No. But you have to be impressed with how it's going so far with 3 new starters including a new center.
What else can I say, Devin was heroic. 21 of 33 for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns and 1 pick is a good day any day. But against Notre Dame in primetime, it's a coming out party for the first year starting QB. Devin made good reads all day long. And in the redzone, he really shined.
I thought Fitz had a good game. He ran tough and even broke a few loose. His screen pass catch for a big gain in the 4Q was a huge play that kept that touchdown drive alive. People will look at the stat sheet and see only 71 yards rushing and think ho-hum, but he also carried the ball 22 times. That's on top of Gardner's 13 carries for 82 yards. All told, Michigan gained 166 yards on the ground to ND's 96. As is the case with most big games, the team that runs the ball better, usually wins.
The biggest part of the rushing game, and the main reason Fitz got the bulk of the carries, is Michigan didn't fumble. An experienced rusher will protect the football, and that's why Fitz played basically the entire game. As the line develops, expect Fitz's output to increase.
But of course the game ball goes to Jeremy Gallon, the B1G offensive player of the week. At one point in the game I tweeted "Throw it t where Gallon is". And that's basically how I feel about him right now. He and Gardner are on a different wavelength together. Gallon finished with 8 catches for 184 yards and 3 TDs. Easily his best outing.
But Devin Funchess also had some clutch grabs, as did Drew Dileo who nabbed the final TD. I really liked what I saw with Jake Butt, the true freshman TE. He was inches away from his first Michigan touchdown.
All in all, a tremendous gameplan by Al Borges. I can't wait to see more.
Tommy Rees doesn't get enough credit. I'm as guilty as anyone, too. Being a Notre Dame quarterback, I'm just preprogramed to assume he's not very good. Jimmy Clausen ruined me. But Rees was very good in the pocket. And that's what a senior QB will do for you. In terms of a good passer, he may be one of the best Michigan faces all year.
For the most part, Michigan rushed 4 almost exclusively. I liked this. Rees's longest pass of the day was 23 yards. By dropping the linebackers into coverage and keeping the safeties back, Michigan all but eliminated the big play threat from an offense that can make big plays.
Rees was able to make quick throws for 5-10 yards here and there, and it did work for the Irish as they tallied 314 yards of passing offense on 51 attempts. But typically, by the time ND got to the redzone, their drives hit the wall. In their last 3 trips inside the 20, they only got 3 points. That's the ballgame right there.
Blake Countess looked outstanding with his 2 INTs. I thought the secondary as a whole played very well. The linebackers, who I thought were Michigan's most vital position going into this game, played mostly coverage, which I was fine with.
The defensive line was tasked with putting pressure on Rees and they had difficulty doing so. I expected more out of this unit. I know ND's line is good, but even Frank Clark had a rough day, accounting for only 2 tackles and no sacks. He started the game strong, but was neutralized down the stretch.
On the flipside though, Carlisle is a good back who was held in check for most of the game. Anytime you can limit an opponent to under 100 yards rushing, it's tough to complain.
Gibby was clutch. He accounted for 11 points Saturday night and that was the margin of victory. He also broke Remy Hamilton's record of 14-straight FGs in a row. The mark is now 16 in a row for Gibbons. Matt Wile had a nice night kicking off. Aside from one errant punt, he was ok. He did pin ND down to the 10 yardline on one punt...to which they responded by driving 90 yards for a touchdown.
Dennis Norfleet had another dropped punt that thankfully he fell on, again. This can't become a trend. He might be best suited as just a kick returner.
MMB "Beyonce" Halftime Show:
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Game breakdowns via MGoBlog, Touch the Banner, Hoover Street Rag, MaizeNBrew. Picture galleries from MVictors, UMGoBlue, MGoBlog. Dr Sap's Decals.