This was one of the worst performances in Brady Quinn’s career at Notre Dame despite decent stats. He managed to complete 24 of 48 passes for 234 yards for three touchdowns, but threw three interceptions and turned the ball over a fourth time on a fumble. Quinn looked shell shocked at times. Michigan got great pressure on him and laid some big hits on him.
While Quinn wasn’t helped with numerous drops, he was off from the start. Most of his passes were behind his targets and his accuracy on the deep ball was horrendous. Take for instance the third quarter play where Quinn over threw a wide open Rhema McKnight who was completely behind the Michigan defense. Quinn had McKnight wide open and simply missed him, and missed him by at least five yards.
For the second week in a row the Irish did not have a rushing attack that could establish anything. Part of the problems lye in the offensive line, but Walker’s “patient” running style was not effective against the quick Michigan defense. Walker is a versatile back, but he has been largely ineffective running the ball the last two games. He gained just 25 yards on 10 carries after gaining 56 yards on 20 carries last week. That’s a two week total of 81 yards on 30 carries.
I don’t care who your quarterback and receivers are – they won’t be effective with a running game that produces as little as Notre Dame’s has this year. Part of the problem is depth as Walker is the only back Weis seems comfortable using at this point. Depth, however, is not the only problem. Walker is really showing his limitations as a running back this year. He looks great on draws and the occasional pitch when his blocking forms, but as a straight up off tackle runner, he is lacking.
Drops. Drops. Drops. Rhema McKnight dropped a number of passes out there on Saturday and didn’t do much with the ball in his hands after the catch. His touchdown catch was great beings as he had to take it from the defender, but he seemed to look for a flag on every pass thrown his way. Both McKnight and Jeff Samardzija are having a lot of trouble getting open deep or getting open on the move. The majority of passes this past weekend were dink and dunk passes.
David Grimes made one unbelievable catch and looks like he has promise but where are the other receivers? Part of the problems on offense stem from the Irish having so few receivers Weis feels comfortable playing. When you go to a five receiver set and one of the five receivers is Darius Walker and another is John Carlson, you basically lose the effect of a five receiver set.
For the third week in a row I find myself writing about the poor performance of the offensive line. With four seniors along the line, this unit should be a strength, instead it’s a weakness. They weren’t opening holes up for Walker and Quinn had defenders in his face all day. The most troubling aspect of the line however is the mental mistakes. The false starts, holding penalties, and other mental breakdowns are killing drives.
Freshman Sam Young was one of the few bright spots on offense. It’s clear he has a very, very bright future. Hopefully his fellow freshman linemen have as much potential, because Michigan defensive line completely dominated the Irish line.
Victor Abiamiri was one of the few bright spots for the defense along with his fellow line mates. Early on the defensive line was playing very well, but as they remained on the field they tired out and Michigan took control of the line of scrimmage. Still, Victor played great and had 9 tackles in the game. Trevor Laws added 10, second on the team behind Chinedum N’Dukwe. Michigan ran the ball well, especially in the second half, but the defensive line did its part for the most part.
Our concerns over the linebackers were really evident this past weekend. Two yard gains became five and six yard gains. The defensive line did enough to disrupt plays, but the linebackers couldn’t clean up like they need to. Is there any player from last year the Irish are missing more than Corey Mays right now? Much has been made about getting faster on defense, but how about getting physical? Michigan overpowered the Irish linebackers in the running game all day. Travis Thomas had a nice sack early on when the game was still close, but he has a long way to go in the run game.
Notre Dame cheated the run and put its corners on an island with the Michigan receivers and Mario Manningham ate up Ambrose Wooden for a 70 yard touchdown and Terrail Lambert for two other touchdowns. Lambert got beat with the same move by Manningham on both touchdowns and really looked lost out there trying to cover Manningham one on one. On Wooden’s busted play, it looked like Wooden tried jumping a short route and then got toasted when there was no safety help.
The Irish cheated the safeties up towards the line a lot to try and slow down the Michigan running game and as a result, it left a lot of one on one coverage – something Notre Dame does not excel at. Mike Richardson played fairly well and did not see many balls thrown his way. He did drop a sure interception in the first half, but other than that, he played well. I think we’re going to keep seeing Darrin Walls more and more. Walls got a lesson in how not to tackle from Steve Breaston on a short pass that Breaston took past Walls for a first down. The talented freshman though seems to be holding his own in coverage.
The fumble by Grimes after Michigan’s second touchdown was really a huge play. Had the Irish been able to get some points on the board and keep the game close, maybe things play out differently. The fumble set up Michigan deep in Notre Dame territory though and the Wolverines took the lead 20-7 and never looked back.
Carl Goia looked fine on extra points and Bobby Renkes looked good handling kickoffs. Tommy Zbikowski actually looked a bit tentative on punt returns. The fumble from last week may have gotten in his head a bit because we saw him fair catch for the first time and flat out avoid a couple others. Steve Breaston didn’t do much in the return game. He had one pretty good return, but nothing major. The Irish coverage teams held a dangerous returner mostly in check for the second week in a row.
I’ve already written about how downplaying this game was not a good move because the Irish looked flat and uninspired while Michigan came out fired up ready to battle. In terms of schemes, I think Weis had a pretty good game plan. He had his players in position to make plays and they didn’t execute.
Defensively, I think Minter did what he felt he had to do to stop the run and hoped his corners could hold up. Unfortunately, they could not. Minter has to find a way to stop the run without forcing his corners in one on one coverage with receivers they can’t stick.