"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
After Beyonce appeared on the Big House scoreboard, Eminem gave an astoundingly bizarre halftime interview, Devin Gardner threw the most inexplicable interception in the history of interceptions, the game-sealing interception went through James Ross's fingertips, and a couple of questionable pass interference calls set up Michigan's final score, this was the only way it could end—with a Tommy Rees pass ricocheting off Raymon Taylor's foot and into the stratosphere, landing safely in the arms of Blake Countess, who kneeled in the end zone and effectively ended a game full of lunacy even by Michigan-Notre Dame standards.
The Wolverines held a 34-20 lead to begin the fourth quarter and looked to have the game in hand after the defense forced a quick three-and-out; with the way Michigan had been able to move the ball, victory seemed assured. After a Devin Gardner keeper lost four yards on second down, however, Michigan's newly-christened #98 took a snap from his own 16-yard line, scrambled back into his own end zone to avoid a hellacious Notre Dame rush, then desperately chucked the ball ... directly into the arms of Irish DE Stephon Tuitt. The play stood on review, beginning a snakebit sequence for Michigan that hushed the record-setting crowd of 115,109 into a nerve-wracked silence.
Michigan's next drive started with a seven-yard pass to Jeremy Gallon, in the midst of a record-setting night of his own; then Gallon didn't get up, and the fans watched in horror as he limped off, favoring his hamstring. A false start by Devin Funchess on the next play negated most of the original gain. On second-and-eight, Gardner rushed for four yards—and both Funchess and Taylor Lewan came up hurt, though Funchess's boo-boo actually gave Lewan time to recover from what appeared to be a poke in the eye. After Gardner shorted a third-down pass to a gimpy Gallon, the Wolverines had to punt—which Matt Wile shanked 21 yards into the Notre Dame sideline, setting up the Irish at their own 48. Five plays later, Notre Dame's Kyle Brindza connected on a 40-yard field goal, and in less than three minutes the Michigan lead had been cut to just four.
A lesser quarterback may have wilted after committing such an egregious error; Devin Gardner (right, Upchurch), however, is no such quarterback. Gardner found a wide-open Fitz Toussaint in the flat for a 31-yard gain two plays after Toussaint broke left for a 22-yard rush, his best on an otherwise tough night. A very questionable pass interference penalty gave Michigan a first down at the Notre Dame 14-yard line. Three plays later, another pass interference flag on a goal line pass to Funchess (less questionable this time, though still not the most obvious of calls) gave the Wolverines first down and goal to go. On second down, Gardner stared down an unblocked Tuitt and threw a dart to Drew Dileo, who ducked into the end zone; the 41-30 score would hold up as the final margin after Rees's second pick, coming on first-and-goal from the Michigan six, took a most unusual path into the arms of Countess.
Until all hell broke loose, the story of the game was Gallon, who finished with career highs of eight receptions, 184 yards, and three touchdowns. His first touchdown came when he utilized his cloaking device, as Gardner found him uncovered in the middle of the field; 61 yards, one great Jehu Chesson block, and a few missed tackles later, Michigan led 10-0 with 5:35 left in the first quarter.
The Irish responded quickly, albeit fortuitously, as Rees's third-and-goal pass bounced off his intended receiver, George Atkinson, and directly into the hands of T.J. Jones on the very next drive. After a Michigan three-and-out, Notre Dame opened the second quarter with a 44-yard field goal from Brindza, knotting the game at ten.
From there, Michigan took control of the game. Gardner capped off the ensuing drive by audibling to an option play at the last possible moment, scoring on a two-yard keeper as Brady Hoke tried—and, fortunately, failed—to call a timeout as the play clock ticked down to one. After the teams traded field goals, Countess undercut a Rees pass for his first career interception, weaving through the Irish offense to give Michigan great field position at the Notre Dame 23. It took four plays for Gardner and Gallon to connect for another touchdown, this one a perfectly-thrown ball low and outside which Gallon scooped up for a 12-yard touchdown. At the half, Michigan led 27-13, held a 268-199 advantage in total yardage, and appeared to be in total command of the game.
After a halftime show featuring Beyonce—yes, that Beyonce—doing the intro honors via scoreboard video and the band playing a few of her greatest hits as the stadium lights dimmed to reveal a Maize and Blue laser show, Michigan received to open the second half. A promising drive stalled when Ishaq Williams sacked Gardner at the Notre Dame 41, forcing the Wolverines to settle for a Matt Wile punt. Rees engineered a 12-play, 90-yard drive that ended with a 20-yard pass to tight end Troy Niklas, who bulled over Jarrod Wilson and into the end zone to once again cut the deficit to seven.
Once again, Gardner and Gallon stretched the lead out to 14, this time on a bootleg pass to Gallon on a crossing route; this year's new #21 dove over a defender and reached the ball over the pylon for a 13-yard score. The game looked well in hand when Notre Dame's next possession ended when Rees, facing a heavy blitz, overthrew a corner route on fourth down, setting up Michigan at their own 17.
Three plays later, Gardner lost his mind, as many in the stands surely did when he tried his patented weaving escape, only to find himself dead to rights in the end zone. It wouldn't be a Michigan-Notre Dame game without a ridiculous finish, and only the 2009-2011 games compare to tonight's in my (admittedly recency-biased) memory.
In the end, one good tipped pass deserved another, and the PA guy not-so-fondly known around here as Special K delivered a trolling worthy of the heated rivalry with a triumphant playing of "The Chicken Dance", a fittingly absurd end to a fittingly absurd game.
Special K, you just TOTALLY REDEEMED YOURSELF.
And you can't have one without the other...
And just for tonight, we're adding this:
Game recap coming as soon as I regain some semblance of sanity. So... who knows?
The Sponsor: This liveblog is brought to you by Marawatch, purveyor of premium timepieces for the only program that matches them for quality. Shashi let me wear one around the event last night and now the wife knows what I want when I retire from writing about Michigan in 30 years. We salute you Shashi for your labor of love, and thank you for supporting ours.
As Always: You must mitigate chaos within your liveblog to give birth to a dancing star.
As the Wolverines and the Irish prepare to square off in the second installment of Under the Lights many high profile recruits will begin arriving in Ann Arbor to take in the experience. Now that my internet is finally hooked up at my new house I’ve been able to touch base with just a few of them and see how they are feeling about what is poised to be an electric atmosphere.
2014 Uncommitted Prospects
Southfield DL Malik McDowell is a hard young man to get in touch with but I did speak with his trainer John Vickers to see what he thinks is going on inside Malik’s head. I asked John if there was any chance of Malik committing this weekend and he said, “I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure he’s waiting it out. We will see though. It’s really hard to say honestly. 99% he doesn’t. There is 1% slight chance though. He really wants to see other schools.” Most believe McDowell will be a Wolverine, but it doesn’t seem as though it will be anytime soon.
Big-time DE Da’Shawn Hand didn’t respond to me this time around, but after speaking with him last month I got the impression that he knows he’s coming to Michigan and I really believe this visit will solidify that decision. Alabama will get the last crack at him before he decides and that’s dangerous, but I think Michigan is in really good shape.
2015 Uncommitted Prospects
Potential top Ohio prospect LB Justin Hilliard will be in attendance as well and he holds the Wolverines and the Irish both in high regard. “It’s going to be a great game and definitely will have a lot of excitement. I’ve wanted to see Michigan football in full effect. I’m sure this visit will help out Michigan a lot but we’ll see.” Ace mentioned yesterday that his final four could very well consist of Ohio State, Iowa, and of course the two teams playing tonight under the lights. A Michigan victory could be a solid recruiting boost for his services.
6’6”, 215 lb. QB David Edwards will roll into Ann Arbor with his father and his O-line coach around 6 pm, just in time for a 6:30 recruiting presentation which will be packed with talented recruits. Edwards and I will speak after his visit so I can get the scoop on what the presentation was all about and see how his overall visit went.
In-state signal caller Alex Malzone will be in attendance for the game but not as a recruit this time. He’s going as a fan and he mentioned to me that he actually hasn’t talked with the coaches since he attended the Michigan camp in June. I’ve stated before that Malzone appears to be on the coaches radar but isn’t a top priority at this point in time.
Virginia OT Matthew Burrell is making the trip to Ann Arbor with fellow Virginians Da’Shawn Hand and 2015 DT Tim Settle. Burrell summed up his thoughts about the visit with one word, “Ecstatic!!!” in a text response to me last night. Burrell and Settle will probably both receive offers this weekend now that they’ve shown enough legitimate interest by visiting.
Safety prospect Tyriq Thompson out of Detroit King makes the quick trip to Ann Arbor looking for his third potential B1G offer after Illinois and Wisconsin saw enough in the young man to extend a scholarship. Thompson is a legacy recruit as his father played for the Wolverines in the 90’s. He knows the history between the two teams, “I’m excited to see the matchup. It’s a great rivalry.” He must’ve been listening to Brian Kelly…during the latter part of the week anyway.
The potential top player in the nation, DE Jashon Cornell has been texting with Wolverine commits George Campbell and Damien Harris all morning about the excitement surrounding this weekend in Ann Arbor. Cornell said “I’m feeling pretty good. I just can’t wait for my first College Gameday experience.” He said he was looking forward to hanging out with George and Tim Settle and the other recruits from his class. He also said that Notre Dame and Michigan might be his top two right now, but wouldn’t commit to that completely. Regardless of where the two schools currently rank for the five-star this game is a big one in his recruitment.
2016 Uncommitted Prospect
Stud OL Erik Swenson, who is supposed to be a Michigan lock, will be in Ann Arbor with his dad and had this to say, “It’s going to be a lot of fun! It’s giving me goosebumps just thinking about over 75,000 people singing Hail.” Don’t expect a commitment from Erik just yet, as he told me that “my parents don’t want me to decide until my junior year just to see all what happens.”
However, he then went on to say that he would like to commit right now…but you’ve got to listen to your parents. I think we can write his name on the 2016 commitment list, even if it’s in pencil for now.
This weekend is going to be invaluable in making connections between commits and targets across the 2014, 2015, and 2016 classes. A Michigan victory could tip the scales in the minds of some of the players in attendance but I don’t believe there will actually be a commitment this weekend. Many of the players attending have already set timetables. If there isn’t a commitment this weekend it is not cause for panic. The atmosphere will be electric and the experience enjoyable for all in The Big House. A “W” would be icing on the cake for fans and recruits alike.
Hey, Butch Woolfolk, are you excited for the game tonight?
Agreed, Butch. How do you feel about it being the last Michigan-Notre Dame home game for the foreseeable future?
We're on the same wavelength, Butch.
[If you're wondering "why?" those are from the intros to the '81 ND game. For many more GIFs from Notre Dame games of the past, hit THE JUMP.]
Something's been missing from Michigan gamedays since the free programs ceased being economically viable: scientific gameday predictions that are not at all preordained by the strictures of a column in which one writer takes a positive tack and the other a negative one… something like Punt-Counterpunt.
The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry may lack history to Brian Kelly or to Irish fans who suddenly care about justifying why they don’t care. For me, it's the only history I know.
The first Division I football game I ever watched was Michigan vs. Notre Dame in 2009. Having moved to Ann Arbor just a year earlier, I wasn’t yet a Michigan fan (or even a college football fan) and after the 3-9 season didn’t really want to be. That Saturday, I went to down by the stadium only to tailgate.
Sometimes sports can be like used car salesmen though. All they need is for you to walk in the door. “Here is a used car! It got totaled last year, but look, a new paint job! Let me tell you about the new engine! There are 110,000 people who totally want this car!”
With 11 seconds left on the clock, Tate Forcier rolled out of the pocket and fired to Greg Mathews. The 110,000 other buyers roared, and I said, “Okay, deal.” What a sucker.
Michigan didn’t win many more games that year. It didn’t matter at first. I watched every one diligently, trying to understand how things worked by agonizing over them when they didn't. I rode out my investment as it sputtered in October and died in November. In December, I was done being a Michigan football fan.
But the next year Denard happened, and then Michigan-Notre Dame 2010 happened. Again, the used car salesman analogy: “Here is a used car! It's the same model as last year’s car, but we fixed all the problems! We replaced the engine with an even faster one! We even kept the old one if you want it! We’re not sure the airbags work, but who needs airbags? Or free safeties?!”
As Denard plunged into the end zone beneath Touchdown Jesus to give Michigan the go-ahead score, I was like, “Yeah! F--- airbags. What's a free safety?”
To satisfy my curiosity, I started reading about Michigan football. I discovered mgoblog. When reading wasn’t enough, I began streaming press conferences. One thing led to another, and a few weeks later I found myself at a Michigan Daily Sports meeting (probably the only med student ever to show up to one of these things) thinking like an idiot that I could volunteer to help them cover football, only to discover that the Daily doesn’t work like that. Didn’t matter. I joined anyway. In half a year I produced a modest portfolio (one that I'm still quite proud of), which was enough to convince Brian Cook to hire me.
The rest you know, and here I am today.
In Fourth and Long, John U. Bacon talks about some of the crazy things college football inspires us to do. I would submit “becoming a sports blogger while trying to get an MD/PhD” for consideration. And I would specifically point out that it all started with Michigan vs. Notre Dame.
I’m sad the series is going away. It has given me my best memory of Michigan football (Roy Roundtree caught the game-winning TD right in front of me in 2011) and my worst (Devin Gardner crashed into the corner of a metal platform in 2012, again right in front of me, and I thought for a horrifying moment that he was dead).
Very soon, however, these kinds of memories will no longer be made. Not for you, not for me, not for any other budding doctors who might also possess an unrealized passion for college football like me. You know, it's funny that the Irish think the rivalry lacks history. They're the ones keeping it that way.
So I have an idea: let’s not think about this game like it’s the second to last time Michigan will play Notre Dame. Instead, let’s think about this as the second time Michigan will play Notre Dame … Under the lights. In the Big House. Ever.
What little history there is, at least it’s on our side.
Michigan 34, Notre Dame 14.
Notre Dame 2013
By Nick RoUMel
The new Punt looks a lot like the old. Heiko’s outlandish “Homer” pick has, as usual, relegated me to being the bad guy. You know when you were a kid, and your ball went into a certain neighbor’s yard, and you didn’t dare go over there? Yep, that’s me. Grouchy ol’ Counterpunt. I’m going to keep your ball, and when your Dad comes over to reason with me, I’ll kick his ass.
I do have to admit, Heiko’s enthusiasm is fetching, if not a bit nutty. I’m not sure what’s crazier – driving without airbags, or slowing down medical school to work for mgoblog. He’s like the guy who comes late to the party. You know, when the beer is all gone, and everyone else is slipping upstairs or nodding off, Heiko’s the guy who shows up with his iPad and a bag of Doritos, to show off official Michigan Athletic Department promotional videos, while chatting a mile a minute about free safeties and the deficiencies of the Cover 4 defense - all with Dorito breath to boot.
My grumbliness aside, I must admit I am completely psyched for this game. I have even been invited to a “tailgate.” I understand this is a pre-game party involving food and drink. I just may bring a bag of Doritos myself. The nice thing about night games is that we can do this tailgate thing all day. As much fun as we’re going to have, with this very special second night game in two years, do you realize they do this in the SEC every damned week? I mean those people start real early every Saturday, chattering away in those silly southern accents of theirs, saying “y’all” and arguing about Billy Cannon and whether a three year sentence is sufficient for the guy who poisoned the Toomer’s Corner oak trees at Auburn, and whether he will have a boyfriend in prison named Bubba.
Me, I’m not going to do any of those things. I’m thinking of going to the Farmer’s Market in the morning, and whipping up a batch of lamb-sweet potato hash with fried eggs, and some beverages. Like orange juice, with perhaps a shot of ouzo.
Then after breakfast, when there are still 12 hours until kickoff, I will take my first in a series of naps for the day. During these naps I will dream about the big game. I will dream about Brian Kelly and whether he is even grouchier than the neighbor who beat up my Dad. I will dream about Jon Bon Jovi’s son who plays for Notre Dame – no, actually, my sister will. I will dream about Devin Gardner, and Taylor Lewan, and Notre Dame’s stout defense, and 110,000 fans screaming for Bon Jovi.
And then I’ll go back to sleep, and have a nightmare.
NOTRE DAME 20, MICHIGAN 16