Notre Dame Football: Irish-Wolverines-091011

Notre Dame helmet stickers: Week 2

September, 11, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Maybe we should call these helmet shamrocks to keep with the throwback theme of the night. Regardless, only a few players seemed to avoid the plague that's affected most of the team through two tough weeks.

Michael Floyd: The senior once again was flawless, catching a career-high 13 throws for 159 yards. He became the Irish's career receiving yards leader, passing Golden Tate. He now sits alone at the top with 2,852 yards. His 15th career 100-yard receiving game matched Tate for most in school history.

Theo Riddick: It was a bit surprising to not see him return punts, but he certainly did what he needed to do to put a rough Week 1 behind him. The junior had six catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns, the last one being what everyone but Denard Robinson figured was the game-winner.

Jonas Gray: This game meant a lot for the Pontiac native, and it showed. The change-of-pace back bounced back from a disappointing opener, gashing the Michigan defense up the middle for 66 yards on six carries. And, most importantly, he didn't turn the ball over.

Irish go from BCS hopefuls to 0-2

September, 11, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The story of two smiles in two vastly different interview rooms told the story of Michigan-Notre Dame, another heartbreak for Brian Kelly that's become seemingly inevitable whenever he enters this state as the Irish head football coach.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame head coach Brian Kelly
AP Photo/Bill FundaroBrian Kelly and Notre Dame are off to a frustrating 0-2 start after a wild 35-31 loss to Michigan on Saturday.
No, this wasn't a fake-field goal in overtime that left him smirking after loss No. 2 a year ago in East Lansing, though the Michigan Wolverines seemed capable of pulling that off under the lights as well had Roy Roundtree not come down with the winning grab with two seconds left in Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31.

But Roundtree did make that catch, a 16-yard touchdown on a lob by Denard Robinson that sent the biggest crowd in college football history into a frenzy and left Kelly scratching his head and staring at an 0-2 hole with -- guess who -- Michigan State coming to town next week.

A five-turnover performance a week ago compelled Kelly to call Week 1 his most frustrating loss. When asked where this one ranks, the Fighting Irish coach paused for a few seconds while offering a smirk.

"I don't know that I've got a great definition for this one other than our kids, I feel for them," Kelly said. "And this one in particular. They battled back on the road after things turned on them, came back with a great last two-minute drive. And not to see it finish off, I feel really bad for them."

For the second straight week, Notre Dame broke the 500-yard mark on offense, a unit that ran with the efficiency of a well-oiled machine, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

But Kelly knows there are no trophies for being the most talented 0-2 team in the nation, and he delivered that message stone-faced immediately after the loss.

"We're not good enough," Kelly said. "There's not one individual in that locker room, including all of the coaches, that are good enough right now. And consequently we lost the football game. And I mean across the board. It's turnovers, it's sub-par special teams play, it's the inability to make a stop, it's all of those things. So [I] pretty much told our football team that when we're better as a football team, we'll start winning."

It's not exactly the message he thought he'd be telling his players and the rest of Irish nation two weeks into a season that began with BCS bowl dreams, especially not before facing a Spartans team that is superior on paper to the Michigan and South Florida squads that have capitalized on 10 Notre Dame turnovers through two weeks.

The blooper-real ran again Saturday night, the Irish giving it away five times after pleading so thoroughly to cut down on the mistakes that doomed them a week ago.

"Stunned is not the word, I'm surprised obviously we weren't able to hold on," Kelly said when asked if he was stunned by the way things unfolded. "Nobody would sit here and say, 'Well, 30 seconds, we got a pretty good chance to win the game.' I think that's probably the one area. They made a great play. But no I'm not stunned, I've been in this business way too long."

Minutes later in the home interview room, Robinson flashed a smile much more fulfilling than Kelly's. It told the fortunes of these two teams after a third straight Michigan win that improbably topped the previous two and validated all of the hype surrounding the first night game in the Big House.

"Every time you see the game, you know both team's gotta fight till the end," Shoelace said. "And it's never over until you see zeroes on the clock."

Saturday was Exhibit A of that statement, with Notre Dame starting the fourth quarter up 17, watching a forced fumble turn into a Michigan touchdown one play later and eventually surrendering four touchdowns to the Maize and Blue in the final 15 minutes, none more shocking than the last two in a span of 1 minute, 12 seconds.

Asked if he had ever experienced a minute and a quarter of football like that, linebacker Manti Te'o said: "No. Never. And something that I hope I don't experience again."

Sounds familiar? Sure. But Week 2 provided further proof that drama and Notre Dame football are tied together at the hip, especially when crossing the Indiana-Michigan border.

Notre Dame will need to disprove that theory to avoid an unthinkable 0-3 start.

Video: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly

September, 11, 2011

Coach Brian Kelly following the dramatic loss to Michigan.

Final: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Notre Dame once again suffered at the Big House of Horrors, losing 35-31 on Roy Roundtree's 16-yard touchdown catch with two seconds remaining.

Seconds earlier, Michigan's Tommy Rees hit Theo Riddick for a 29-yard touchdown with 30 seconds left, which came 34 seconds after the Wolverines' third touchdown of the fourth quarter had given the home team the 28-24 edge.


Much more to come after postgame interviews.

Notre Dame, Michigan trade mistakes

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- This game is up for grabs, but neither team has been able to seize momentum following big gaffe after big gaffe.

Tommy Rees had one of the weirdest fumbles you'll ever see, Robert Blanton had as timely an interception you'll ever see ... and Notre Dame promptly went three-and-out, giving Michigan another chance.

The Wolverines start from their own 42 with 2:16 to go, down 24-21 in a game that has featured no shortage of theater.

Another potential classic on our hands

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — What, you thought Notre Dame would escape this town without any trouble?

Denard Robinson's 14-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Gallon at the 10:47 mark has cut the Irish lead to 24-21, and it looks like we have ourselves another thrilling matchup between these two squads, one that may not be decided until the game's last possession.

A Big House-record 114,804 fans are on-hand for this one, and they've certainly gotten their money's worth thus far. With the show Robinson has put on this quarter, there are signs it could get even better.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Just when Notre Dame thought it had some breathing room, Denard Robinson showed what all the hype is about. And he's keeping Michigan in the game.

Robinson hit Junior Hemingway on a short pass in the open field that went for 77 yards to the Irish 6 and faced a third-and-goal from the 1 at the start of the fourth quarter. Notre Dame, victim of so many red zone troubles so far, finally got its payback, knocking the ball loose from Stephen Hopkins.

Of course, Robinson was right there to pick it up and walk in for the score.

It's 24-14 Irish with 14:54 to go, plenty of time for a few more unconventional clutch plays from a Michigan quarterback. Notre Dame fans have seen this before, and the Irish will look to flip the script this time around.

Irish break through in Michigan territory

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Notre Dame finally capitalized in Michigan territory, something it has had trouble doing since the first quarter.

Tommy Rees hit T.J. Jones on a crossing pattern on third-and-9, and Jones did the rest, taking it 15 yards for the Irish score to make it 24-7.

The touchdown came one possession after Cierre Wood fumbled at the Michigan 29, killing another Irish drive. And it came after Zeke Motta picked off Denard Robinson at his own 31, once again stalling whatever momentum Shoelace tried to generate for Michigan.

Robinson has had difficulty connecting with his receivers all night long and the Irish will need to continue to make him pass. It's been a defensive battle in the second half, something that certainly works to Notre Dame's advantage.

Halftime: Notre Dame 17, Michigan 7

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Here's a quick recap of the first half at the Big House, breaking curfew as we approach 10 p.m. at halftime:

Stat of the half: 47. That's the number of yards Michigan has gained in the first half outside of Denard Robinson's 43-yard touchdown pass to Junior Hemingway. The Irish have done a great job of bottling up Shoelace and will need to contain him the rest of the way to hang on.

Best player in the half: Michael Floyd. The senior receiver has seven catches for 112 yards and has given Michigan secondary fits all night. He already has his 15th career 100-yard receiving game and is now No. 1 on the Irish's career receiving yards list.

What Notre Dame needs to do: Make Robinson throw. The Irish have done an admirable job of it so far, and he only made them pay once, though much of the credit goes to Hemingway for making a nice grab near the end zone and maneuvering his way in. Robinson has 40 yards on the ground so far.

What Michigan needs to do: Continue to blitz Tommy Rees and always keep an extra man watching Floyd. Rees has forced some throws under pressure, including a pair that were picked. His over-reliance on Floyd has stood out in the first half and the Wolverines need to expose that further in the second half.

Interceptions hindering Irish early

September, 10, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There's the red-zone offense we grew accustomed to seeing last week.

On first-and-10 from the Michigan 18, Tommy Rees forced a throw near the goal-line to Michael Floyd, who was in a sea of maize and blue. J.T. Floyd ended up getting his hands on the ball for the Michigan interception.

The pick was the second interception Rees threw in the second quarter. Rees completed his first eight passes in the first quarter, which ended with a 14-0 Irish lead. Denard Robinson changed that score with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Junior Hemingway in the second, though the Irish defense has been impressive in containing Shoelace on the ground.

The bigger concern, right now, is turnovers. We saw how costly those can be last week in a game the Irish out-gained their opponent 2-to-1. They'll need to avoid them the rest of the night to keep the game from slipping away.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Recognize these guys?

OK, so the uniforms are different this week. But so are the players wearing them, at least to the untrained eye.

Notre Dame leads Michigan 14-0 after one quarter, which ended with Gary Gray picking off Denard Robinson at Michigan's 39. The interception came two plays after Robinson's 13-yard run, which was the Wolverines' first first down on three series so far.

Oh, and Tommy Rees isn't too shabby himself. The 19-year-old is 8-for-8 with 94 yards and a touchdown pass. Theo Riddick, who has yet to return a punt, has regained some rhythm offensively, catching three passes for 23 yards and a score.

There's a lot of time left, obviously, but this is exactly what Notre Dame needed to do in this type of environment early.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Admit it. You were holding your breath there, right?

Tommy Rees hit Theo Riddick for a six-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal, giving the Irish an early 7-0 lead with 9:05 to go in the first quarter. Rees actually fumbled the snap on first-and-goal from the 9 before diving on it to recover.

Notre Dame got to the red zone thanks to a 21-yard pass from Rees to Michael Floyd, who is now the Irish's career leader in receiving yards.

More impressive, Notre Dame's defense forced consecutive three-and-outs on Denard Robinson and Michigan, despite Robinson's first-play run of seven yards. Louis Nix got the start at nose guard for the Irish tonight, and John Goodman actually returned the first two Michigan punts, not Riddick.

It's obviously early, but this is exactly the kind of start Notre Dame needed from both sides of the ball.

A few more tidbits before kickoff

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- An emotional few minutes early on in the Big House, as Michigan honored Desmond Howard by naming him the first player in program history to receive the designation of a "Michigan Football Legend."

Howard held back tears during a brief thank-you speech to fans. Minutes later, "God Bless America" played and the stadium scoreboards showed all of the Michigan alumni who passed in the Sept. 11 attacks 10 years ago.

Notre Dame won the toss and will kick. Get ready for some night football in Ann Arbor.

It's game day at the Big House

September, 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- There's a little more green on the field than usual for a Notre Dame game, and it will probably only stand out more as the sun begins to set at the Big House.

Yes, this is the first night game in Michigan Stadium history, and both teams are wearing retro uniforms for the occasion. We had already seen pictures of Notre Dame's, but the green numbers really stand out on the field, as do the kelly green polos the Fighting Irish coaches are wearing.

The lights are on as the sun begins to fade, so this could make for a rather interesting scene with the night sky, both here and on television.

The atmosphere has been great all day, as you can really tell this is an event the Maize and Blue faithful have been eager to see for quite some time. And, judging from the impressive number of Irish fans I saw around town throughout the day, the same goes for them, too.

The seats are filling up and, when the final numbers have been tallied, we'll likely be witnesses to the highest-attended college football game of all-time. Pretty cool.

Be sure to keep it here for in-game updates and analysis throughout the evening.

Video: Notre Dame-Michigan preview

September, 10, 2011

Brian Bennett and WolverineNation’s Mike Rothstein preview tonight’s Notre Dame-Michigan game from the Big House.


Weis Likely Done Coaching
Jake Trotter discusses former Notre Dame and Kansas coach Charlie Weis' comment that it's "highly doubtful" that he'll return to coaching.