Saturday, September 10, 2011
Instant analysis: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31
By Brian Bennett
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Instant analysis from Michigan Stadium, where Michigan beat Notre Dame 35-31 in one of the craziest games you'll ever see.
How the game was won: It was a typical Michigan-Notre Dame game, with huge plays, wild momentum swings and a down-to-the-wire finish. But this may have been the wildest one ever. The two teams traded three touchdowns in the last 1:12, each one looking like it would be the game-winner. After Irish scored with 30 seconds left, the Wolverines somehow answered, with Denard Robinson first finding a wide-open Jeremy Gallon for a 64-yard strike and then hitting Roy Roundtree from 16 yards out with two seconds to go. In fact, Michigan came within a couple of feet of scoring again on the final kickoff. It was insane, nearly inexplicable and an unreasonable amount of fun.
Turning point: Notre Dame appeared ready to go in for the clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Tommy Rees fumbled as the ball just fell out his hands as he attempted to pass. Michigan recovered at the 9-yard line with 6:08 left to stay in the game.
Stat of the game: Michigan had 90 yards of offense in the first half and 362 in the second half. Robinson accounted for 446 of the 452 yards his team produced.
Player of the game: Michael Floyd. He may have been held out of the end zone, Floyd was otherwise unstoppable. The Notre Dame receiver had 13 catches for 159 yards, and late in the game a Michigan defender just grabbed Floyd's jersey to keep from getting beat deep. The extra attention the Wolverines paid to Floyd on Notre Dame's final drive freed up Riddick for the Irish's final touchdown.
Unsung hero of the game: Jeremy Gallon. The sophomore didn't have a catch until late in the fourth quarter. He finished with two huge ones that went for 78 yards and a touchdown. Notre Dame looked completely unprepared to cover him both times.
Second guessing: Notre Dame got stuffed repeatedly on third and short while trying to run in the middle of the Michigan defense. The Irish lack a power run game, and the Wolverines have Mike Martin inside as a great run stuffer. Notre Dame might have been better off going with play-action or sticking to the passing game in those situations, and maybe they would have won the game.
What it means: Michigan has a lot to work on especially defensively and in figuring out how to best use Robinson in the offense. But, holy cow, what a victory in the first night game ever at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines are 2-0 and stand a good chance of entering Big Ten play at 4-0. For Notre Dame, all the team and its fans can do is wonder what the heck is going on. The Irish are 0-2 despite putting up huge offensive stats the first two games, and they cannot seem to avoid the big turnovers. With Michigan State coming to South Bend next week, Notre Dame is facing the real possibility of an 0-3 start in a year that started with serious BCS aspirations.