Notre Dame Football: Wolverines-Irish-092212

Notre Dame finds revenge is sweet

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
4:18
AM ET
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- For those who came to Notre Dame Stadium with revenge on their mind, this was perfect. Not only did Notre Dame end its three-year nightmare against Michigan, but the Fighting Irish didn't even allow the Wolverines to cross the goal line. Moreover, the man who had tormented them more than any other in the Brian Kelly era -- more than any opposing quarterback in recent memory -- ended his career against the Irish with his worst performance in a winged helmet. Notre Dame did it with stout defense, opportunistic play and just enough offense, thanks in part to backup quarterback Tommy Rees, to remove the Maize and Blue monkey from its back.

Michigan fans might have sneaked onto campus midweek and hung a blue banner on Notre Dame Stadium, but No. 11 Notre Dame defended its turf -- and especially its own end zone -- when it counted. The Irish left their field Saturday night at 4-0, still perfect after a 13-6 triumph, and with their eyes set on bigger and better things.

For Adam Rittenberg's full story, click here.

Rees comes through again for Irish

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
1:43
AM ET


SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- All those turnovers, all those jeers, they were nothing but a thing of the past now. Here was Tommy Rees, out of the shotgun, third-and-4, Notre Dame's fate against Michigan the only thing riding now on his right arm.

The snap came in, the ball went high down the home sideline, and up went Tyler Eifert, the All-American grabbing his first catch of the night for 38 yards, breaking the dam and setting off a party unlike any seen in recent history inside Notre Dame Stadium.

This building has been known more for its quaintness, more for its hospitality, and suddenly that was all coming apart at the seams. Manti Te'o was finding his basketball friends in the crowd again, happy Louis Nix was dancing the way happy Louis Nix usually does, and no one inside the student section dared ditch the scene a moment too soon.

The Irish had finally knocked off Michigan, 13-6, after three years of torture, and out from the scrum amid chants of his name came Rees -- first for the television interview, then for a bountiful jog up the tunnel, a far cry from the reception he received the last time he took this field, two weeks earlier.

"It feels good, I'm not going to lie," Rees said. "It feels good to go out there and help the team win and have all your teammates count on you, and you being able to deliver.

"It's still early in the year. We've just got to keep moving forward and taking it one day at a time."

Notre Dame goes into its bye week at 4-0, winning three consecutive games the hard way, two of them behind the poise of the best backup quarterback in the nation, if he can even be called that at this point. Coach Brian Kelly shot his quarterback situation down definitively -- "Everett is our starter," he said -- but the eyes and ears suggest that Rees isn't going anywhere, not in a season ripe with potential like this one.

[+] EnlargeTommy Rees
Chris Williams/Icon SMITommy Rees completeed 8 of 11 passes for 115 yards -- and, unlike starter Everett Golson, no picks.
Everett Golson completed just one more pass to his teammates (three) than he did to defenders (two), and so Rees was summoned midway through the second quarter, making his presence felt on his first drive by plunging into the end zone from 2 yards.

"He's a tough competitor," Theo Riddick said of Rees. "He knows the game, and there's not one day that he doesn't want to go out there and perform. So when his number's called, we expect that."

Riddick carried much of the load in the second half, rushing it 12 times for 40 yards during the Irish's final two drives to help them escape the Wolverines. On a night when Notre Dame's defense was nothing short of dominant, Rees and the offense did everything that was asked of it.

The junior completed 8 of 11 passes for 115 yards, and for the second time this season dispelled the "Turnover Tommy" moniker that dogged him throughout last fall.

Rees' 20 giveaways in 2011 overshadowed his 12-4 career record as a starter, or the fact that he was the only Irish quarterback to enter this season with experience as the No. 1 guy. Those yips were why his off-field arrest this past spring was met by many with a simple headshake rather than a full-out freakout, and why, yes, many of his own classmates let their unhappy feelings show from the stands when he stepped in two weeks ago to relieve Golson before lifting the Irish past Purdue.

Rees will never have the arm that Golson does, never bring the fans or teammates to their feet with a big run like the redshirt freshman. And yet he is beginning to win over his locker room in a way few other reserves could, by tossing distractions aside and by taking care of the football.

"No. 1, it just shows that you can't be selfish," Riddick said of Rees' showings. "It's a team sport, and you've got to do whatever you've got to do to make this team better, and he understands that. And like I said, when he comes in, we all expect him to know everything and play as if he is the starter."

Kelly called last week's win at Michigan State a signature victory. After beating Michigan to end a perfect month, he said this group knows it has a chance to do something big.

Yes, Golson is the man of the future and will start in two weeks because of his promise. But the guy who was nothing more than a glorified graduate assistant a short month ago will be ready if his number is called, as big a reason as any that these Irish just may be on their way to something special.

Video: Notre Dame's Bennett Jackson

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
12:26
AM ET

The Irish junior talks about his team's 4-0 start and shutting down Denard Robinson.

Video: Michigan-Notre Dame wrap-up

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
12:15
AM ET


Adam Rittenberg and Matt Fortuna wrap up Notre Dame's 13-6 victory against Michigan on Saturday night in South Bend, Ind.
Denard Robinson was the difference in the Michigan-Notre Dame classics in 2010 and 2011.

Robinson was again the key figure in the 2012 meeting, though not in a good way for the Wolverines. And the game was anything but a classic -- but Irish fans will gladly take the ugly 13-6 victory.

It was a bizarre game in South Bend that featured eight turnovers, including six of them by the losing team. Here's a quick look at how it went down.

It was over when: Tommy Rees found Tyler Eifert for a 38-yard gain on third-and-4 from the Notre Dame 31 with less than two-and-a-half minutes remaining. That play, coming against one-on-one coverage, allowed the Irish to run out the clock and keep Robinson from pulling off another miracle. It was Eifert's only catch of the game.


Game ball goes to: The Notre Dame defense. For the past two years, they were absolutely terrorized and traumatized by Robinson. This time, the Irish not only held Michigan out of the end zone, they forced Robinson to turn it over five times (four interceptions, one fumble). He had 228 total yards, and his longest run was only 20 yards. It was like a photo negative of Robinson's previous two performances in this series. The front seven got great pressure and stayed in its lanes, while Manti Te'o played an enormous game with two interceptions and two hurries that led to turnovers. That's why the Irish erased their nightmares from years past.

Stat of the game: Michigan had 299 total yards to only 239 for Notre Dame. But the minus-four in turnovers was too much to overcome.

How the game was won: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made the best move of the game when he lifted Everett Golson for Rees in the first half. Golson looked too skittish for this stage and had two bad interceptions. Rees settled down the offense and while he threw for only 115 yards, he was the only quarterback in the game who took care of the ball.

Second guessing: Michigan was driving the ball well in the first quarter and had the ball on the Notre Dame 10-yard line when offensive coordinator Al Borges got a little too tricky. He called for a halfback pass from the diminutive Vincent Smith, who jumped in the air with Te'o barreling down on him and lobbed an easy interception in the end zone. The Wolverines could have used the momentum early and ended up really needing the points.

What Notre Dame learned: While this one wasn't pretty, the Irish could hardly have asked for a better start to this season. Its defense is playing at a championship level -- to hold Michigan and Robinson to six points is an outstanding achievement. There are still questions for this team, and Kelly will have to answer even more quarterback controversy questions this week, but this is the toughest Irish team we've seen in a while.

What Michigan learned: The Wolverines still aren't ready for prime time. They got blown out in the opener against Alabama and then were ridiculously sloppy with the ball in this one. While Michigan had by far its best defensive performance to date and can build on that, Robinson is still making too many mistakes in the passing game. There's really no reason for the Wolverines to be ranked in the top 25 right now, but Michigan still will be a factor in the weakened Big Ten, which went 0-3 against Notre Dame.

It's game day at Notre Dame Stadium

September, 22, 2012
9/22/12
6:55
PM ET
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Greetings from Notre Dame Stadium, where I'm checking to make sure that my eardrums still work following a pregame F-16 flyover about an hour before kickoff.

As colleague Adam Rittenberg notes, today is actually the 22nd birthday of one Denard Robinson. Irish fans might be familiar with him after the school's past two meetings with Michigan, and they would love nothing more than to ruin his golden birthday tonight with a victory.

The sky is clear and the sun is shining right now, a far cry from earlier today, when heavy rainfall forced the tarp to come on over the field. The teams are warming up on the gridiron as I type this, with no real signs of anything abnormal.

In case you missed it earlier, I picked Notre Dame to win this one by a 27-21 margin, while Adam and Brian Bennett were split.

We'll have breaking news and injury updates here if necessary, with in-game observations and notes coming via Twitter, so be sure to follow for any of your in-game needs. Barring anything unforeseen, we'll be back here to wrap it all up later. If recent history between these schools is any indication, it will be a very late night.

Enjoy!

Video: Michigan-Notre Dame pregame

September, 22, 2012
9/22/12
5:30
PM ET

Adam Rittenberg, Matt Fortuna and Michael Rothstein preview Saturday night's game between No. 11 Notre Dame and No. 18 Michigan

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