Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30, Sanity 0

Submitted by Ace on September 8th, 2013 at 1:06 AM

Eric Upchurch/MGoBlog

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.


I Bleed Maize N Blue

September 8th, 2013 at 1:45 AM ^

Where can I get me one o' them clocking devices?

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 clocking device ...


September 8th, 2013 at 2:00 AM ^

I was screaming at the top of my lungs a bunch of gibberish about Jeremy Gallon's cloaking device as soon as he caught that pass in front of a room full of non-mgoblog readers. At first, everyone thought in was nuts, then he scored a ridiculous touchdown!

snarling wolverine

September 8th, 2013 at 2:09 AM ^

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;

It wasn't a three-and-out; they drove into our red zone and then turned it over on downs.


September 8th, 2013 at 2:14 AM ^

The pass interference calls weren't really questionable. Dude blatantly shoved Gallon (twice!) and Funchess was getting his jersey yanked through the whole route.


September 8th, 2013 at 7:46 AM ^

Obviously my memory for the course of the whole game won't be accurate, but on several occasions I saw they loaded the playside with defenders to make sure the zone stretch wasn't going anywhere.  Brian Kelly dared Borges to put his QB in harm's way, and Borges responded with some QB runs.  The defensive alignment on the HokeShrug goal line play was so blatant it would've been criminal if they tried running with Fitz.  Easiest audible evar.

It's going to be a recurring theme; defenses are going to shut down Fitz to make Michigan nervous.  The zone stretch probably needs more effective counters.


September 8th, 2013 at 3:09 AM ^

1.  Borges called a hell of a game and they've been practicing - our play-action fakes look exactly like zone stretches in the initial birds-eye view.  No doubt the line play is subtly different, but all those short runs by Fitz seem like part and parcel of why Gardner had time on the play action passes.

2.  Gardner believes he can out-run trouble.  The mind-blowingly bad play wasn't the first time he tried to spin away from pressure - I've counted three others in the first half (only one sack; two other times he could throw it away).  I am guessing that can't be trained out of him, and it has its rewards.  He also stepped up in the pocket and delivered strikes several times, so his mechanics seem better against a real opponent.  Speaking of ...

3.  ND's D-line is as advertised.  They were getting pressure, chasing down outside runs and generally doing everything you'd want.  Battling them to a draw most plays is a good sign for our O-line.

4.  We were definitely playing well off the receivers on early downs, playing to make Reese make 10-15 short throws every drive to beat us.  He came closer than I'd like to think, but we stiffened a little at key points and basically outscored them.

5.  The Legends patches seem pretty cool, actually.  They're legible in the closeups and seeing Gardner in Ol'98 was actually really neat.

Overall, this was a stiff test and we passed comfortably.  ND didn't play that badly - Reese made two mistakes, Norfleet and Gardner made one each, for comparison - and we really were in control most of the way.

November will be a tough gauntlet to run, but I have more confidence we can do it.  Go Blue!



September 8th, 2013 at 9:53 AM ^

Maybe I'm the only one, but I think the Legends jerseys shouldn't be used for every game. Rather, award them to players, but only use them for certain special games. Brandon could even "brand" them as "Legends" games. This allows the players honored to also bring notoriety to their own numbers in other weeks.


September 8th, 2013 at 10:24 AM ^

He actually did run out of trouble on a number of occasions with incredibly positive results. Can't have it both ways. Dg, just needs to minimize the amount of damage his bad plays might cause ( e.g. Not run back to the end zone and not chuck it to air). Play calling and some coaching up can make that less likely in the future. Kids 7th game as a starter. Pretty darn impressive what he did last night.


September 8th, 2013 at 11:33 AM ^

On the WTF interception, everyone's said "well, just take the safety", which, at the time he put it up, was true. But what he really needed to do was not run backwards 15 yards into the end zone. Just take the sack at the 5, punt and live another day. You don't need to be a hero deep in your zone when you're up by 14.

Magnum P.I.

September 8th, 2013 at 1:07 PM ^

Well, DG avoided at least five sacks yesterday doing the exact same thing, so I'm actually willing to accept the blunder as a necessary evil of Devin's style. You're bound to get burned every once in a while, fleeing 15 yards deep to avoid pressure. Nine out of ten times, it results in a net gain for us. 


September 9th, 2013 at 11:50 AM ^

From the 50 or even the 30 I have zero problems with that. And I agree it worked more often than not - he has the skill to make it work. Just needs to have an awareness of the game situation and position on the field. Risking a 15 yard sack is an OK gamble for Gardner, except when you risk a safety/pick 6, or if it takes you out of field goal range.

He'll learn and ultimately we ended up okay. He just needs to recognize that it's a risky play, and know when to take that risk and when to cut your losses.


September 8th, 2013 at 11:25 AM ^

The escape routes Devin follows are coached. There was a CTK or other interview with Borges where he said as much - that Devin is coached to do that (eg peel right, then reverse back left) in order to evade pressure and give his receivers a chance to adjust and bail him out.

Clearly ND gameplanned to bring secondary pressure to counter and contain that.

Magnum P.I.

September 8th, 2013 at 1:26 PM ^

Agree completely on point #1. I was cursing Borges at points in the middle of the game for continuing to try to run between the tackles when ND's linebackers were clearly instructed to flush the middle on every play. But I think Borges did a great job of baiting them into sticking to that strategy by running Fitz between the tackles once every series. It usually went for zero yards or so, but it kept ND's focus on the middle, so that Devin could execute outside. Great patience by Borges, I say. More patient than me!


September 8th, 2013 at 1:54 PM ^

I caught it probably earlier.  They'd completely shut down Fitz and while I would've gnashed my teeth if Borges kept sending Fitz into the maw of their defense over and over, in the second half he only did it once a series or so to keep ND from abandoning their game.  Even then, as the game wore on they started playing back and that opened up Fitz's long run of the day.

He did it juuust enough that the weaknesses Gardner were exploiting didn't go away.  I'm sure he would've preferred to run more of the offense through Fitz instead of leaning so heavily on the QB, but as long as ND was having none of that he showed willingness to use Fitz as a changeup.


September 8th, 2013 at 3:38 AM ^

But it might have been the loudest when the Eminem interview just kept going... and going... and awkwardly, infuriatingly going while the Michigan possession had started.  Bizarre interviews with stoned rappers are fine for halftime, but jeebus... and when it's not going well, why keep dragging it out?










September 8th, 2013 at 3:49 AM ^

It is a penalty, but (like holding), it happens a lot, doesn't get called, and usually gets treated as "part of the game".  It gets called if it happens in front of a ref or the ball is in the air towards a defender who isn't looking, both of which were true here.  From the ref's perspective, the defender pushes Gallon out of bounds, then turns and finds the ball - completely PI.  If the sequence is push-push, turn-and-play-d, then the ball goes up - that won't get called.

The second one was the same sort of thing, only more blatant - the defender locked onto Funchess right away and tugged on the jersey, then made body contact before the ball arrived.  It's definitely PI but won't get called if you're subtler about it.

The ND drive before LosingMyMind! started with a 52-yard kick return, too - I was wondering if special teams coverage was going to bite us again, but Taylor's stick of the screen pass on 3rd down was decisive.

Amusingly enough, just before LosingMyMind! the commentary was along the lines of "he's just got to manage the game from here and make good decisions".

Ross just couldn't quite reel that one in - nothing to be ashmed of, he made a heck of a play to get up and get a hand on it.  He's stepping the other way - a split second later that window is open for the 15-yard curl behind him - and he stops, gets way up and one hand on the ball, but it's spinning on his fingers and his other hand can't cup it.

ND doesn't really have anything to be ashamed of here either - they never quit.  Their d-line  kept getting penetration and Rees was making solid check-downs.  Mattison basically bet that Reese would make a mistake before we busted a coverage, and he was right.

It was really nice to see us make somone pay with an RB wheel route for a change - Toussaint's wheel on the last drive was a thing of beauty, back to back with his long run.



September 8th, 2013 at 7:56 AM ^

Re: the first PI, it's only "questionable" because the media says so.  The guy pushed Gallon OOB then turned to find the ball.  Some bumping around is to be expected but the smoking gun is that Gallon was put in a position where he couldn't even try for the ball because his weight was back.  If the DB stopped pushing long enough to give Gallon a fair chance (the entire purpose behind the PI rule), he probably would've gotten away with it, but then Gallon probably would've come down with it.

And this is where football really starts to annoy me.  When players are beat, they're coached to cheat in the hopes the refs won't call it; a number of games were won that way.  Since they couldn't slow him down the DBs were getting increasingly aggressive about pummeling Gallon out of the ball's way and hoping they wouldn't get called.

Funchess' call looks less obvious in real time only because the guy's so big the DB really couldn't do much, but on replay you could see him practically riding Funchess' back and trying to keep his hands down.


September 8th, 2013 at 8:50 AM ^

But let us think back to last year vs Bama. Dee Milliner THREW Roy Roundtree our of bounds and there was no call. I feel like we got away with one on that... Also the Funchess PI call looked to be a bit more official. Considering it was on the goal line I'd say it was a good call.

Also, I would like to go on record an say that Jeremy Gallon has officially entered the ranks as one of the all time great UM playmakers in my opinion.


September 8th, 2013 at 7:50 AM ^

I think Derrick Green may have went down before the defender even made contact on his only rush attempt. Probably why he didn't see any more action. For such an intimidating looking person he hasn't got much power. But before his time is done here I'm sure he'll have that figured out and be running with power.


September 8th, 2013 at 8:00 AM ^

In HS he could just bull rush through arm tackles and 99% of the time didn't even have to because his speed prevented most defenders from wrapping cleanly.  He probably should've redshirted because it doesn't look like he's using his power effectively.

It was doubly frustrating to watch ND's running backs power through similar tackles.  I kept wondering, "What's stopping our guys from doing that?"


September 8th, 2013 at 8:36 AM ^

For some positions, redshirts just don't make a lot of sense and running back is one where if a freshman is good enough to be the backup, you've got to play him.  Either he is productive and you get 3 years out of him or the position needs to be recruited more heavily.  Also - Damien Harris


September 8th, 2013 at 11:29 AM ^

The coaches clearly wanted to give Green time to break in, and against ND you'd prefer to put in someone with more experience when Fitz needed a breather, but the older guy they trusted didn't make it to game 2. 

Also good for a super-recruit to realize he has stuff to learn when playing with the big boys.


September 8th, 2013 at 9:33 AM ^

We didn't whoop their assess as thoroughly as bama did last year, but I can confidently say we "handled" them. Rees did what he could but Michigan had their number all night long.


September 8th, 2013 at 11:27 AM ^

Rees changing the plays was what kept ND in the game. I thought it was a brilliant performance, and sad that Kelly couldn't step back when Rees came off the field after throwing that last pick -- after driving them all the way down the field. Rees got them into that position -- the pick wasn't a teaching moment. It was a high-risk, high-reward drive -- let it go.


September 8th, 2013 at 2:45 PM ^

But the good guys were never behind. It felt early on that Michigan was going to run away with a big lead, but the Fig Things were pushed by that red-faced pufferfish they pay to coach those poor kids. He seems to use fear as a motivator, instead of concepts like team, and brotherhood. Thank you yet again Dave Brandon, for hiring not only the right kind of coach, but exactly the right coach for our team.


September 8th, 2013 at 11:29 AM ^

Not sure how I feel about this game. On the one hand Michigan put up 41 points and Gardner has played, overall, exceptionally well (minus the TERRIBLE pick that nearly cost them the game). On the other hand the defense looks manhandled at times, and the O-Line is clearly the offense's weakest point. Still, clearly they are the team to beat in the Legends division.


September 8th, 2013 at 12:11 PM ^

Michigan beat a team that went to the MNC last year, a team that has only lost to Alabama, by 11 points (and honestly, it may not have even been that close had Gardner not thrown a terrible pick 6) I know there are plenty of concerns...but I have no mixed feelings about it. It was awesome.


September 8th, 2013 at 3:00 PM ^

I agree but, last year was one of those odd situations where a team is nowhere as good as their record. ND was good last year but nowhere near deserving to be in the national championship game. I mean, they should have lost to Pitt. We will never see a worse team get to the National championship game.


September 8th, 2013 at 12:11 PM ^

Yeah, but neither the O-line nor the defense were sloppy.  ND looked very good.  It was fun to see two (mostly) well-executed teams go at it.

On offense, they basically played a sound anti-Borges strategy taking away the deep ball and running game with aggressive front 7 play and blitzes.  This put Gardner in the precarious position of having to loosen up the defense with QB runs, but that's ideal for them and they didn't have an answer for it anyway.  Putting Gardner under pressure and covering Gallon one-on-one eventually killed them, but as far as picking their poison goes it almost worked.  When it didn't they got shredded, but they also got some three-and-outs and that end zone pick.  For the lion's share of the game they were competitive against an offense that probably had more weapons than they did on D.

On defense, I saw our guys consistently swarming and wrapping (or trying to wrap) ballcarriers -- their TE was just a nightmare to bring down.  You saw on his TD run where Wilson just battled and hung on and it didn't matter anyway; that guy just does not drop.  I really wish we had a weapon like that because the contrast made it painfully obvious that we don't.  Meanwhile, Rees kept uncharacteristic composure and patiently picked apart what Mattison was giving him.  He played a very good game and was hitting some very tough passes, including a few his (injured) receivers dropped.

Our O-line didn't have their best day, but against one of the better D-lines in the country bringing their A-game, I'd say they did very well.  As for our defense, we rushed four almost the whole game and while Rees definitely had time to throw, I remember last year we could send 5 or 6 and still expect to finish a game without a sack.  Mattison showed patience and confidence in this defense and while the results weren't quite what I'd hoped for, any QB less experienced than Rees probably would've cracked and started throwing bad passes.

As for Gardner's bad pick. . . look at the replay, at his face on the sideline.  NO ONE needs to tell him he screwed that up.

Magnum P.I.

September 8th, 2013 at 11:38 AM ^

This was an awesome game for a fan. It felt somewhat reminiscent of an RR game. Let's face it, we were dominated on the line--both sides. We kept scoring by getting players in space, and then we couldn't stop them on D. Our defense played best on the first two defensive series of the game, and those two series were the difference in the game.