Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 22 of 55 SEPT. 10, 2018 23 BY LOU SOMOGYI N otre Dame's offense set the table early, and its defense finished the feast in the sea- son-opening 24-17 conquest of No. 14-ranked Michigan. Touchdown drives on its first two series of the game, crucial third-and- long conversions, and four quarters of consistent, ball-hawking defense propelled No. 12 Notre Dame to a victory that instantly provided cred- ibility to its College Football Playoff aspirations come November. On offense, senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush accounted for 229 total yards on 12-of-22 passing for 170 yards with a touchdown and an interception, plus a team-high 19 carries for 59 yards. That side of the ball also saw sophomore running back Jafar Arm- strong (15 carries for 35 yards) rush for two touchdowns in his first ca- reer start. Defensively, senior linebacker Te'von Coney was credited with 10 tackles and a fumble recovery, which came with 46 seconds left to help end Michigan's final drive. His pass pressure also forced a hurried throw that junior drop end Julian Okwara intercepted. Meanwhile, junior end Khalid Ka- reem had eight stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Senior tackle Jerry Tillery recorded two sacks, forcing the strip fumble on the latter that Coney recovered to seal the out- come. To ninth-year Irish head coach Brian Kelly, Wimbush's poise — which earned him the game ball — and the overall physicality on both sides of the ball were encouraging signs of building a playoff-caliber outfit. "We expected it to be the kind of game it ended up being, hard- fought," Kelly summarized. "[Wim- bush] played with an edge to him, a confidence. He really had an energy to him, which brought the group with him. "The numbers are not going to jump off the page, but we did what we needed to good against, argu- ably, probably the best defense that we're going to see this year. "When you feel really good about the physicality of your football team, the offensive line and defensive line, your quarterback is a spark, and on the perimeter. … We won some 50/50 battles, that's a pretty good football team." FIRST QUARTER: NOTRE DAME, 14-0 Top Moment(s): On the season's opening possession, Notre Dame drove 75 yards in 1:25, culminated by a 13-yard touchdown run by Armstrong. On its next series, Notre Dame marched 96 yards on seven plays in 3:07, with senior wideout Chris F i n k e o u t - l e a p i n g s a f e t y B r a d Hawkins in the end zone for a 43- yard score on the post route. S t a n d o u t P e r f o r m e r : N o t r e Dame's third-and-long offense, led by Wimbush, converted a third- and-10 during its first scoring drive and a third-and-nine on its second. On the first series from his 26-yard line, Wimbush calmly stood in the pocket on a blitz and flipped a 16- yard completion to junior wide re- ceiver Chase Claypool crossing the middle. On the second possession from the Irish 5-yard line, senior tight end Alizé Mack made a superb leaping grab for a 26-yard gain. Later on third-and-six from midfield, Wim- bush scrambled for seven yards. Stats: Notre Dame totaled 139 to- tal yards (114 passing and 25 rush- ing) compared to Michigan's 69 (48 passing and 21 rushing), even though the Wolverines had the ball 9:07 to Notre Dame's 5:53. Items: Michigan safety Josh Me- tellus was ejected for targeting on his hit against Mack. Kareem re- corded a 16-yard sack of quarter- back Shea Patterson on third-and-six from the Irish 25 on Michigan's sec- ond drive. Sophomore quarterback Ian Book was inserted for one play on Armstrong's score. SECOND QUARTER: NOTRE DAME 21, MICHIGAN 10 Top Moment: Armstrong scored his second touchdown, this one from four yards, with 3:55 left to cap a 15-play, 75-yard drive that took 7:37 and made it 21-3. Crucial in the drive were two Michigan penalties on third down again. The first was a defensive holding on third-and-three from midfield, and the second was a roughing-the- passer call on end Chase Winovich on third-and-goal from Michigan's 8-yard line. Armstrong scored on the ensuing play — with Book in for the hand- off again because Wimbush needed some extra time to recover from Winovich's late hit. S t a n d o u t P e r f o r m e r : N o t r e Dame's defense, led by Coney's six tackles (five solo), limited Michi- gan to 90 total yards on 27 plays in the first half. It held Patterson to 62 yards on 9-of-12 passing and recorded two sacks for minus-24 yards. Stats: The Fighting Irish ran 40 plays that amassed 227 yards, 85 rushing on 20 carries and 10-of-15 passing by Wimbush for 148 yards. Wimbush also led the team in rush- ing with 39 yards. Notre Dame kept the ball mainly on the ground in the second quarter with 16 carries for 60 yards. Items: Michigan sophomore cor- nerback Ambry Thomas' 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown after the Irish moved ahead 21-3 gave the Wolverines some renewed life with 3:41 left. Early in the quarter, the Wolver- ines had first-and-goal at Notre Dame's 5-yard line, but a sack by Tillery and a pass defended in the PHYSICAL THERAPY Notre Dame opened with a display of strength and toughness in its 24-17 win versus Michigan Junior defensive end Khalid Kareem made his first career start and recorded a personal-best eight tackles, highlighted by a 16-yard sack. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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