Brady Quinn came out firing on the first drive of the game and it appeared he was in for an excellent day. Well, things went a little south for Brady after the opening drive touchdown. After hitting Rhema on the 5 yard touchdown, he found Jeff Samardjiza for another 5 yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter. Quinn missed open receivers however on more than one occasion which ended drives.
Brady had a few mental mistakes this week such as calling a timeout before the play clock ran out in the 4th quarter and throwing the ball away on Notre Dame’s 2nd last drive. Weis pointed out the mistake in his post game comments saying he should have told Quinn to take the sack if it wasn’t there, but Quinn should have known the situation.
His completion percentage was nice with 19 of 30 passing, but many were short gains and at times he held onto the ball too long. The important thing however is that he did not turn the ball over and didn’t force anything. His 140 passing yards aren’t very good, but the 0 interceptions is probably his most important stat from this game
Darius Walker started off the game with 93 rushing yards in the first half. Walker would only gain another 11 in the second half however and fumbled the ball away at a critical juncture in the 4th quarter. Unlike last week when Travis Thomas and Powers Neal each carried the ball 8 times, the two saw only 6 carries combined — all going to Powers Neal. Notre Dame leaned on Walker offensively and he responded with 125 total yards.
Walker went down with an injury at one point in the third quarter, but was back in the game quickly. Powers-Neal had a harder time getting going this week averaging only 3.2 yards a carry. Backup fullback Asaph Schwapp only had 2 carries, but two games into his career its clear he is going to be a force at fullback.
Jeff Samardjiza caught a touchdown for the 2nd straight week and Rhema McKnight got on the board for the first time this season. McKnight however went down with what looked like a serious injury and is scheduled to have an MRI according to Weis after the game. If McKnight misses significant time, it will be a major loss for a wide receiving corps that had trouble getting open against Michigan.
Quinn didn’t have places to throw in the second half and had a couple passes dropped. Matt Shelton only saw the ball once and gained only 4 yards. He has not been the deep threat he was last year to this point. Whether that is by design or not I’m not sure. Notre Dame hasn’t really used the vertical passing game much but that could change from week to week.
Notre Dame’s offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half of the game, but got over powered at times in the 2nd half. The line did keep the nasty attitude up from last week, but the results were not nearly as impressive as a week ago. Brady Quinn saw some pressure in the 2nd half and got sacked 3 times after not being sack once last week.
A week after opening the way for 275 yards on the ground, the Irish ran for just 104 yards on 44 attempts. While Michigan’s defense is certainly better than Pitt’s, the Irish must be able to run the ball effectively as the season progresses especially with 2 more road games in the next 3 weeks.
The pressure from the front 4 was better than it was a week ago and the defensive line knocked down numerous passes at the line of scrimmage. Ronald Talley, Chris Frome, Victor Abiamiri, Derek Landri, and Trevor Laws all knocked down Chad Henne passes at the line.
Michigan was able to run the ball on the Irish though once Kevin Grady came into the game. The Michigan offensive line was missing a couple starters but were still able to average almost 4 yards a carry. It appears however that Notre Dame has found some young talent along the defensive line with the likes of Talley and fellow sophomore Justin Brown.
Corey Mays had probably the best game of his career. Mays was all over the place Saturday and came up with some big plays. At one point Mays ended up covering Steve Breaston over the middle and made an outstanding play to knock down the ball — one of two deflections for Mays on the day.
Brandon Hoyte was also all over the field with 12 tackles and a sack — his 3rd in 2 games this season. An area of concern is the fact that Kyle Ecker caught 7 passes for Michigan and would have had a couple more if Henne was more accurate. The Michigan tight end roamed free in the middle of the field with the secondary focused on stopping the Michigan wide receivers. Maurice Crum forced a fumble and looks like he will be a major talent at the position
There is no way Notre Dame will be able to contain the talented wide receiving corps of Steve Breaston, Jason Avant, et all was a common thought heading into the game. Well, Notre Dame held the two below 100 yards combined. Avant did have a huge catch on 4th down to step Michigan up at the 1 yard line after a few missed tackles.
Ambrose Wooden thought he had safety help on the Manningham touchdown, but other wise played fairly well again this week. Mike Richard was solid on coverage as well. Leo Ferrine saw plenty of action and displayed good skills and looks like he will develop into a fine corner for Notre Dame.
The safeties also brought their A game with Tommy Z picking off Henne at the goal line and then N’Dukwe recovering the Henne fumble in the end zone in the 4th quarter. Both played well in coverage and made some big hits.
The Notre Dame special teams were the difference in this game. Steve Breaston was held in check all day long. The All World return man was held to no big plays in the return game. Notre Dame’s kick and punt coverage was excellent all day. Dj Fitzpatrick showed why he is one of the best punters in the country with an average of 41.7 yards which included a monster 60 yarder that sent Breaston back and eliminated any chance for a return.
Michigan on the other hand was terrible in special teams. Ross Ryan had two very poor punts in the 4th quarter that gave Notre Dame the field position battle. Their coverage on Tommy Z’s punt return in the 3rd quarter was horrible with several missed tackles. Notre Dame’s kick coverage last week was a bit of a disappointment, but they responded with a great performance this week.
Rick Minter’s defense stopped one of the best offenses in the country and never gave up. The effort from the team in general was amazing with everyone staying in the game the entire time. Bob Griese commented that it looked like Michigan was going through the motions at times. This was not the case with Notre Dame and the coaching staff was the difference.
Weis and company had this team ready to play and motivated his team with Pitt’s loss on Friday night. There were times when I didn’t like some of the play calling such as Rhema’s 7 yard loss on the end around, but the play calling is so much better than its been that it seems foolish to even bring it up. Weis is the first coach to start his tenure at Notre Dame with 2 straight road wins since Knute Rockne.