Michigan - Notre Dame Wrap Up

For some reason, the Big House felt a little bigger under the lights.
Hard to argue that outcome of the first ever night game at the Big House could have been any better. Wonderful atmosphere, great weather, huge crowd, Desmond Howard, and of course a thrilling...improbable come from behind win.

Michigan and Notre Dame fans are conditioned to the thrilling games in this series. It seems like every time we play each other, a great game and a thrilling ending often ensue. Saturday night was no different. Arguably one of the greatest endings in the series.

First, some x's and o's.

• Offense was inept through much of the first 3 quarters. Receivers routes were not crisp. Denard's passes were off. The offensive line struggled to open the running lanes for Michael Shaw, Stephen Hopkins and Vincent Smith. Even most of the designed runs by Denard were not very successful.

• I remember tweeting midway through the 4th quarter, when Michigan pulled within a score of Notre Dame, that you are never really out of a game when Denard Robinson is on your team. Let's face it, Denard looked very pedestrian through the first 3 quarters. If not for from some great receiving by Junior Hemingway, Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon, Denard doesn't complete most of those long passes that broke this game wide open.

Stat of the game: Junior Hemingway had 3 catches for 165 yards and 1 TD. That's a 55 yards average per catch.

I use the Jeremy Gallon TD catch that made the game 24-21 Notre Dame as a great example. That pass from Denard was very underthrown, and Gallon made a great adjustment. The underthrows just kept catching the Irish DBs off guard. It bit Denard on the long throw to the endzone late in the 4th quarter that was intercepted. The Irish defender finally was able to adjust to the pass.

But no question, the story of the game is Denard Robinson. 11/24 for 338 yards, 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. 16 carries for 108 yards and another touchdown. That's 446 total yards. Couple that with last year's 502 yard performance in South Bend for a total of 948 yards in two years...I would be surprised to see a Denard patch on #16 jerseys at Michigan in years to come.

Can anyone honestly tell me that they didn't think it was at least possible for Denard to orchestrate an 80 yard touchdown drive with 30 second left in just 3 plays?

Some Michigan fans headed for the gates when Rees drove the Irish down the field in similar fashion to take a 31-28 lead. But not as many as you'd think. Not as many as in year's past. That's the power that Denard Robinson has...and Michigan fans are starting to realize how real it is.

• Defensively, we made some huge stops on 3rd and short plays late in the game, which was awesome to see. But early on, we had a few breakdowns, mostly on run defense. Give a ton of credit to Notre Dame's offensive line. They played great to start the game. Those first two scoring drives right off the bat for the Irish were the result of dominant offensive line play. The proof was the fact that Greg Mattison was cycling in a lot of defensive linemen. Will Campbell, Nathan Brink and Quinton Washington all saw time early while Michigan tried to do anything they could to stifle the Irish rushing game.

• Getting lost in all the Denard talk will be the good play of Tommy Rees. Yes, Rees did make a lot of mistakes at very bad times, but he looked very settled and prepared for this game early on. Having Michael Floyd on your team will do that for you. He's the real deal, by the way.

• No question, without those very heartbreaking turnovers by Notre Dame, Michigan doesn't win this game. We were lucky to only be down 17-7 going into halftime. Much like in week 1 against USF, Notre Dame just couldn't help but keep shooting themselves in the foot. And for the most part, we did a good job of making them pay for their mistakes.

Now, on to the pomp and circumstance...

• Dave Brandon has to be thrilled with how this game played out. This night game was his baby. From my perspective, this game went off without a hitch on a number of levels...weather, security, logistics, and now that I've had a chance to watch the broadcast replay, Michigan Stadium shined in the national spotlight of it's first night game.

• We talked before about the ceremony to honor #21. That was a great moment.

• Not sure how I missed this guy on the field after the game because I might have been standing right next to him, but I totally did. Maybe it was the craziness of the moment. But that fella was none other than former Michigan center Steve Everitt...in his lucky yellow shirt. Thanks for MVictors for identifying this large, scary, bearded man.

• Throwbacks looked pretty good on both teams. In person, I liked them. Watching later on TV, I liked them even more. Kudos to Adidas and both schools for doing this right.

• Glad to see the scoreboards had some stats on them this week. I think we might still be in the "getting to know you" period with the scoreboards.

• The 9/11 tribute was nice...from what I could see. I was hiking back up the rows to get back to the pressbox during most of it, so I can't really say, but I've heard from others that it was really touching.

• And of course, the record crowd of 114,804. I remember thinking before the game that I don't know where they would put 115,000 people in this stadium. Somehow, the most in-demand ticket in Michigan football history made the athletic department look for any available seat they could find to put a butt in. Oh, and 100,000 maize pompoms look pretty great at night. Looked even better on TV.

If anyone had any preconceptions about how quiet Michigan Stadium always is, those are thought of the past. That place was rocking last night. I can't think of where you could have a louder crowd than that.

More coverage from this game:
Pregame photos of teams arrival and field shots
Halftime thoughts of the first half
Game Highlights via YouTube
My gameday photo gallery
Desmond Howard named first "Michigan Football Legend"

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