SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Take that, Notre Dame.
No. 11 Michigan finally put a Big Blue bruising on the second-ranked Fighting Irish in a 47-21 rout Saturday -- the most points scored against Notre Dame at home in 46 years.
Michigan finally proved it can win early in the season away from Ann Arbor. Prior to Saturday's 47-21 win over Notre Dame, the Wolverines had lost six straight road openers. The last time Michigan won its first game away from The Big House was 1999, when it beat Syracuse 18-13. Here's a look at Michigan's road openers since 2000.
"They deserve their just due," Irish coach Charlie Weis said. "I think it's important to understand that team just came and whupped us pretty good."
Michigan ended a two-game losing streak against the Irish and a
three-game slide at Notre Dame Stadium. The win likely silenced
doubters who questioned Michigan after a 7-5 season and two
less-than-impressive wins to open this season.
"This was going to be our big test," said LaMarr Woodley, who
returned a fumble 54 yards for a touchdown. "We passed the test
Prescott Burgess intercepted Quinn on the second play of the game to set the tone. Michigan (3-0) was ahead 26-7 before the Irish (2-0) had their initial first down.
The 47 points were second only to the 51 scored at Notre Dame by Purdue in 1960.
What was different about this year's Michigan-Notre Dame game (other than the Wolverines coming out on top)? Try the performance of Michigan running back Mike Hart. After contributing little in the Wolverines' losses to Notre Dame in 2004 and 2005, the 5-foot-9 junior carried the load for Michigan on Saturday, which helped open the field for a lethal Chad Henne-to-Mario Manningham combination. Here's how Hart stacks up statistically in his three career games against Notre Dame.
"They stopped us in the passing game. They stopped us in the
running game. They beat our defense. They really just beat our
complete team," Irish tailback Darius Walker said. "It was a
complete team loss."
The win had to be a relief for Michigan coach Lloyd Carr. He's been under fire for failing to win big games the past two seasons -- twice in bowl games, and twice each to Notre Dame and Ohio State. Carr, now 4-1 against No. 2 teams and 16-6 against top 10 teams, called the win "special."
"The credit sure doesn't go to me," he added. "Those guys out on the field, they played the game."
For Notre Dame, the loss was another setback on its road to restore its storied program. In 2000, there was a 41-9 loss to Oregon State in the Fiesta Bowl when the Irish were No. 10; three years ago it was a 38-0 loss to Michigan; and last year it was a 34-20 loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl when the Irish were ranked No. 4.
Weis said he never saw a rout coming.
"I was surprised that we collectively, from me on down, laid an
egg," he said. "I expected us to have a better performance."
It was just the eighth time the Irish have given up at least 40 points at home.
The Wolverines jumped on Notre Dame mistakes, including a pass that sailed through the hands of tight end John Carlson to Burgess, who returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. Then Manningham was left open for a 69-yard touchdown catch and David Grimes fumbled a kickoff return that set up a 2-yard TD run by Mike Hart, who finished with 124 yards on 31 carries.
Henne then threw TD passes of 20 and 22 yards to Manningham to make it 34-7. The 34 points were the most allowed in a half by Notre Dame since 1998 when the Irish gave up 42 points in the first half in a 45-3 loss at Michigan State.
The 34 first-half points by an opponent were the most since Purdue scored 45 in its' 51-19 win in 1960.
Quinn, touted as the Heisman Trophy favorite, was just 3-of-13 passing for 14 yards before going 7-of-7 for 71 yards in leading the Irish to a touchdown drive just before halftime, cutting the score to 34-14.
Michigan held Notre Dame to 4 yards rushing on 17 carries and 245 total offense, 1 yard more than the Irish had against Michigan last season in their worst offensive output under Charlie Weis. The difference Saturday is Notre Dame gained most of its yards well after the game was decided.
Notre Dame's two top receivers, Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight, didn't have their first catches until Michigan was ahead 34-7.
Hart had his third straight 100-yard game. The Wolverines improved to 12-1 in games when he runs for 100 or more yards.
It also was a big day for Henne, who last season was heavily criticized for his performance in Notre Dame's 17-10 victory.
"We knew we had a great team and we showed it today," Henne
Henne got off to a rocky start Saturday, throwing a pass that was picked off by Chinedum Ndukwe. Ndukwe returned it 51 yards to the Michigan 4 to set up Notre Dame's first score. But he finished the day 12-of-22 for 220 yards.
Quinn, who has never had a big game against Michigan, struggled again.
"With as many mistakes we made as a team, I don't think anybody would have overcome that," Quinn said.
Carr said the Wolverines dealt with a difficult offseason well, now it's time to see how they deal with some prosperity.
"Our challenge now is to understand that you got to get ready to play every week," he said.
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