Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

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

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Page 24 of 55 SEPT. 10, 2018 25 MICHIGAN RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Limiting Michigan to 58 rushing yards was one of the defining stories. The Wolverines wanted to establish the ground attack, running on six of their first seven plays, but this included only a one-yard gain on third-and-three. Notre Dame's deep line plus its linebacker tandem of senior Te'von Coney and fifth-year senior Drue Tranquill are the strength of this team. Even subtracting the three sacks for 32 yards, Michigan's 30 rushing plays, designed or ad-lib, resulted in 90 yards, or merely 3.0 yards per attempt. Not one run eclipsed 10 yards. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame MICHIGAN PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Through the first 55 minutes, quarterbacks Shea Patterson and Dylan McCaf- frey were 19-of-29 passing for 171 yards (a meager 5.9 yards per attempt), had two crushing sacks and an equally devastating interception by junior drop end Julian Okwara in Irish territory after a QB hurry by Coney. Patterson completed 5 of 7 throws for 78 yards in the final five minutes, but that was not enough to compensate for the work by the Irish defense in the initial 55. Overall, the three Irish sacks were on third-and-six from the Irish 25 that took Michigan out of field goal range, an eight-yard loss on second down from the Irish 2-yard line to help force a field goal, and the final strip sack credited to senior tackle Jerry Tillery that was recovered by Coney to seal the game. Junior safety Alohi Gilman also had a pair of clutch plays where he broke up passes. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. MICHIGAN RUN DEFENSE Both junior Tony Jones Jr. (nine carries for 45 yards) and sophomore Jafar Armstrong (15 carries for 35 yards, two touchdowns) had their moments against an exceptional front seven, but the most lethal threat was senior quar- terback Brandon Wimbush in ad-lib situations, most notably a 22-yard scramble on third-and-18 from his 20 that helped set up a field goal for a 24-10 cushion. Wimbush was the leading rusher with 59 yards, but the future preference probably would not have him have to carry 19 times. We believed a 150-yard rushing effort against Michigan might be enough to win, provided the turnovers were limited. The Irish came up a little short at 132 and 2.8 yards per carry, but the overall objective to win was fulfilled. ADVANTAGE: Michigan NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. MICHIGAN PASS DEFENSE After a first half in which he completed 10 of 15 passes for 148 yards and a score, Wimbush finished the second half 2-of-7 passing for 22 yards with an interception, which prompted the offense to become more conservative while trusting the Irish defense to win the game. On the second series, senior tight end Alizé Mack and senior wideout Chris Finke both made spectacular grabs on contested 26- and 43-yard completions, the latter for a score. Such grabs in traffic were absent last season until the bowl win. The screen game, far below average in 2017, also displayed upgrade. The first half went to the Irish, the second to Michigan. ADVANTAGE: Even SPECIAL TEAMS The lone area that kept Michigan in the contest during the first half was the Irish kicking game. A 25-yard punt set up a short drive by the Wolverines for a field goal. A bigger issue was the kick coverage team, which included a kick out of bounds after the first touchdown and then Ambrey Thomas' 99-yard return for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 21-10 at halftime. It was better in the second half, with highly reliable senior Justin Yoon converting a 48-yard field goal and fifth-year senior Tyler Newsome drilling a 57-yard punt downed at the 4-yard line. Michigan had its own snafu with a mishandled snap on a 33-yard field goal attempt that went awry. ADVANTAGE: Michigan THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS This was the most telling difference of the game, although Notre Dame's 7 of 15 (46.7 percent) wasn't a huge disparity from Michigan's 6 of 13 (46.2 per- cent). But the Irish converted a third-and-10 on their opening touchdown drive and a third-and-nine on their second, four third downs on its third series, and a third-and-18 before Yoon's field goal. Those were back-breakers for Michigan. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame TURNOVERS Neither team turned the ball over in the first half, and Notre Dame was the first to do so in the second half on its initial possession with an interception. The Irish returned the favor later in the quarter on Okwara's interception at his 36-yard line. On Michigan's final series, Patterson had the ball stripped from him by Tillery during a scramble that Coney recovered to seal the verdict. That gave the Irish a 2-1 lead, although neither team produced scores off turnovers. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SUMMARY The 24-17 final score did not accurately reflect the control Notre Dame had throughout the contest, particularly after breaking out to a 14-0 advantage with 7:09 still left in the first quarter. It reminded us of the quick 14-0 lead taken versus USC at home last year, but the difference was Michigan continued to battle in this highly physical contest. This was somewhat similar to Notre Dame's 24-22 loss at Clemson in 2015 when the Tigers bolted to a 14-0 lead in the first 8:43, extended it to 21-3 … but then had to make a defensive play at the end to avoid a tie in regulation play. Nevertheless, Notre Dame was clearly the better team through 95 percent of the night and earned the win in 2012-like fashion, leaning on the defense. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI The Fighting Irish shut down Michigan's ground attack, limiting the Wolverines to just 58 rushing yards. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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