The Irish were handed their first loss of the season Saturday night 41-30 by the rival Michigan Wolverines. Notre Dame had opportunities but made far too many mistakes to beat a quality opponent as the offense couldn’t finish off drives and settled for field goals, Tommy Rees turned the ball over, the defense allowed big plays, the secondary took costly pass interference penalties, and the play calling was suspect at times. The Irish played a poor game and must rebound but the following players did their part against Michigan despite the outcome:
Troy Niklas: The Irish tight-end looked like the long line of stars at the position before him versus Michigan. Niklas had six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, including an excellent effort for the 21 yard score. Niklas also blocked well for the most part but missed an important block on a screen meant for DaVaris Daniels on a critical third down. Niklas was a problem for the Michigan linebackers and could’ve been targeted more to improve the offenses success.
T.J. Jones: Irish captain T.J. Jones had yet another big game as the Irish’s go to receiver. Jones had nine receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. Jones did much of his work after hurting his shoulder, suffering a slight sprain while trying to catch an errant Rees pass. Jones also had an 18 yard punt return which is a drastic improvement from the usual struggles the Irish experience in the return game.
Kyle Brindza: Kicker Kyle Brindza had a strong game that likely established him as the undisputed number one kicker. Brindza was essential as the Irish struggled to finish off drives. He went 3-3 on field goals from 44, 24, and 40 yards and was effective on kickoffs and punting the ball to give the Irish an advantage in the field position aspect of the game.
Dan Fox: Irish linebacker Dan Fox led the team in tackles for the second straight game with 10. Fox also had a tackle for a loss and along with Carlo Calabrese and Jaylon Smith led the way in limiting the damage done by the Michigan running backs. Fox also did a solid job when charged with shutting down Michigan tight-ends but he and the rest of the front seven struggled mightily to slow down Devin Gardener, which ultimately was the difference.