Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 55

26 SEPT. 10, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED TURNING POINT Notre Dame maintained control throughout the first half by building a 14-0 lead after its first two series on offense and expanding the lead to 21-3. Only a 99-yard kickoff re- turn by Michigan's Ambry Thomas kept the Wolverines within striking distance at halftime (21-10). Michigan received the second-half kickoff and on the first play from scrimmage proceeded to connect on a 52-yard deep pass to sopho- more wide receiver Nico Collins, followed by a 12-yard toss for a first down at the Notre Dame 16. Three straight incomplete passes were fol- lowed by a muffed hold on a field goal attempt. Two plays later, the Wolverines had the ball at their 49-yard line af- ter an interception by cornerback Brandon Watson — but were un- able to convert a fourth-and-four just four plays later. Those two golden opportunities for Michigan to seize momentum were squelched by Notre Dame's resilient, aggressive and sound defense. STAT OF THE GAME The initial inclination was to say Notre Dame's defense limiting Michigan to 58 rushing yards, with none of the 33 runs (designed or ad- libbed) accumulating more than 10 yards. However, we give the edge to Notre Dame's 7 of 15 conversion rate on third down — plus 1 of 1 on fourth down — for two reasons. One, under defensive coordina- tor Don Brown Michigan ranked No. 1 in the country in third-down percentage each of the past two sea- sons at 26.1 percent and 21.0 percent (and his 2015 Boston College unit did the same). Ohio State in 2017 was the lone Michigan foe the past two years to register seven third- down conversions against them, but Notre Dame matched that seven at a 46.7 percent clip. Two, the Irish converted a third- and-10, a third-and-nine and a third-and-six on their first two scor- ing marches, and then two more third downs on the third touch- down drive thanks to penalties, which count the same. WIN OVER MICHIGAN BODES WELL Entering this year 's opener, the Notre Dame-Michigan series had been dead even with a 15-15-1 out- come in the 31 meeting since its re- newal in 1978. Michigan often has still had very good seasons despite losing to Notre Dame, with either Big Ten titles plus Rose Bowl wins in 1980 and 1988 (the only two under head coach Bo Schembechler), or other league titles or major bowl appear- ances in years such as 1989, 1990, 1998, 2002 and 2004. It's been a stark difference for Notre Dame. In the 15 years the Irish lost to Michigan the Notre Dame winning percentage was .555, with 11 seasons of at least five losses and seven at .500 or worse. The lone top-10 finish was way back in 1978. Meanwhile, in the 16 years when Notre Dame won or tied Michigan, the overall winning percentage was .751, with eight top-10 finishes. A highly promising campaign should await hereafter. THREE OBSERVATIONS BY LOU SOMOGYI OFFENSE: QB BRANDON WIMBUSH It wasn't always pretty, but the senior kicked off the 2018 season by showing why he is Notre Dame's starting quarterback. He completed 12 of 22 passes for 170 yards against a Michigan squad that ranked fourth in the nation in pass effi- ciency defense a season ago. He also led Notre Dame with 59 rushing yards, and his ability to extend plays with his legs was a key ingredient in the Irish victory. Wimbush was especially effective early, hitting senior wide receiver Miles Boykin for a 28-yard gain to set up the first touchdown and then connecting with senior wideout Chris Finke over the top on a post route for a 43-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 in the first quarter. DEFENSE: DE KHALID KAREEM The Detroit native made his first start against Michigan, and he responded with the best performance of his career. He set a career high with eight tackles and was a constant disruptive presence along the line, showing why he was earning snaps this spring ahead of 2017 starter Jay Hayes (now at Georgia). Michigan took its second drive of the game deep into Notre Dame territory, but on third-and-six Kareem sacked quarterback Shea Patterson for a 16-yard loss to knock the Wolverines out of field goal range. Kareem and the defensive line made clutch plays throughout the game. SPECIAL TEAMS: PK JUSTIN YOON The senior placekicker got closer to becoming the school's all-time scoring leader, going 3 of 3 on extra points and drilling a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter that gave the Irish breathing room. After sophomore kickoff specialist Jonathan Doerer struggled early, Yoon re- placed him and booted both of his kickoff attempts into the end zone to prevent any returns. TOP PLAYERS OF THE GAME BY BRYAN DRISKELL Senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush threw for 170 yards and a score, and was Notre Dame's leading rusher with 59 yards. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

Articles in this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Sept. 10, 2018