Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

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

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32 SEPT. 10, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED What Worked Fast Start Fuels Offense Notre Dame came into this game as a home underdog, and the Irish offense was facing conceiv- ably the best defense it will line up against all sea- son. Plus, senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush began the season with doubt swirling around him. All of that made it imperative that Notre Dame started the game off well, building confidence with its own players and making Michigan play catch up all night, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and a 21-10 halftime advantage. Michigan made it close at the end, but after Notre Dame went up 14-0 at the 7:09 mark of the first quarter, Michigan didn't make it a single-digit game again until it scored its final touchdown with just 2:18 left in the game. Offense Thrives On Third-Down Michigan led the nation in third-down defense each of the last two seasons, holding opponents to 26.1 percent in 2017 and 21.0 percent in 2016. That makes Notre Dame's 7-of-15 performance (46.7 percent) all the more impressive, and it was vital to Notre Dame's success. Ohio State was the only opponent with more first downs against Michigan last season, and Notre Dame's seven first downs were the second most against the Wolverines over its last 26 games. The degree of difficulty was the most impressive part, and it started early for the Irish offense, with Wimbush beating the Michigan blitz by hitting junior wideout Chase Claypool on a crossing route that picked up 16 yards to convert a third-and-10. On the second drive, Wimbush threw a perfect fade pass to senior tight end Alizé Mack, who hauled in the throw for a 26-yard gain. Wimbush used his legs to convert a third-and-six three plays later, setting up Notre Dame's second touchdown. Wimbush also made an outstanding run to con- vert a third-and-18 in the third quarter, picking up 22 yards on the play. A penalty on a third-and-11 touchdown pass to senior Miles Boykin took away what would have been a backbreaking third-quar- ter touchdown, but the Irish ultimately were held to a field goal on that drive. Defense Makes Plays When It Counts It wasn't always pretty for the Irish defense, but the unit stepped up with big plays in key moments in the win. On Michigan's second series, the Wolverines marched deep into Irish territory, getting all the way down to the Notre Dame 25-yard line. On third-and-six, junior end Khalid Kareem sacked Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson for a 16- yard loss, knocking the Wolverines out of field goal range. After a short punt gave Michigan the ball in Notre Dame territory, the Wolverines marched to the Irish 2-yard line before the defense rose up again. Senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery sacked Pat- terson for an eight-yard loss. On the ensuing third- down play, junior safety Alohi Gilman broke up a pass intended for senior tight end Zach Gentry near the goal line, and Michigan had to settle for a field goal. With Notre Dame stalling on offense in the third quarter, junior end Julian Okwara picked off a Patterson pass to stop another drive. Notre Dame gave ground in the fourth quarter, but on Michi- gan's final drive, Tillery was credited with sacking Patterson and knocking the ball out to ice the game. What Didn't Work Special Teams Woes Keep It Close With the exception of senior placekicker Justin Yoon, the Notre Dame special teams struggled mightily in the win. In fact, had it not been for some egregious special teams errors the game likely would not have been very competitive. A 25-yard punt by Tyler Newsome late in the first quarter gave the Wolverines the ball at the Notre Dame 41-yard line, setting up a Michigan field goal. After Notre Dame took a 21-3 lead late in the first half, the Irish allowed Michigan sophomore Ambry Thomas to take the ensuing kick back 99 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-10. Defense Gives Too Much Ground In Coverage Notre Dame played quality defense against the Wolverines, but some coverage miscues allowed Michigan to get some chunk plays. They included senior linebacker Te'von Coney not getting out underneath a route allowing Michigan to convert a third down in the first quarter, junior safety Jalen Elliott not picking up a crossing route to get the Wolverines into possible scoring position, and junior corner Julian Love getting smoked for a 52-yard bomb to open the second half. There were too many plays where Michigan got yards with too much room in coverage, which is something the Irish will have to clean up. ✦ Michigan Game: What Worked And What Didn't CLOSER LOOK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at Big plays by senior tackle Jerry Tillery and the rest of the Irish defense fueled Notre Dame's 24-17 vic- tory over Michigan. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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