Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2019

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

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Page 22 of 63 NOV. 2, 2019 23 MICHIGAN RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Michigan exploited two of the primary preseason concerns of the Irish — line- backer and interior tackles — especially with constant cutback runs in which the fits were regularly over-pursued by the linebackers and the reads of the Wol- verine backs were well timed while the Michigan line achieved consistent push. Redshirt freshman Hassan Haskins entered the game with 217 rushing yards but shredded the Irish for 149, while true freshman Zach Charbonnet added 74 with two scores. They averaged 6.4 yards per their 35 carries and both 220-pound backs frequently picked up many yards after initial contact. ADVANTAGE: Michigan MICHIGAN PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Senior quarterback Shea Patterson had only 30 passing yards after three quarters, mainly because the Wolverines had established a comfort level and rhythm with the run, notably 18 consecutive plays in the first half that were not passes (albeit some on quarterback scrambles). Yet in the 21-point fourth quarter, Michigan quarterbacks completed 5 of 6 throws for 104 yards after the rain had abated and the Irish were focusing on trying to halt the 303-yard ground attack. ADVANTAGE: Michigan NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. MICHIGAN RUN DEFENSE Since last November, defenses have had the blueprint or "book" on senior quarterback Ian Book and the Irish offense to load the box and take advantage of the reluctance to go downfield. Consequently, there was little running room with a more crowded front, and perimeter carries were especially easily run down. Notre Dame did not give up on the run like at Georgia, but it was ineffective, resulting in 47 yards (31 carries), the sixth lowest in the 10-year Brian Kelly era. ADVANTAGE: Michigan NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. MICHIGAN PASS DEFENSE To the credit of Michigan and its defensive coordinator Don Brown, the Wolverines mixed coverages, including zone, to challenge the Irish pass at- tack. Earlier this season, former Ohio State head coach (2012-18) and current FOX Sports analyst Urban Meyer had noted that if the esteemed Brown had an Achilles heel, it was stubbornness in staying with primarily man-to-man principles while not mixing in other coverages to throw off an offense's rhythm. That was not the case versus the Irish, and only a couple of sensational catches by senior Chase Claypool were the bright spots. At one point Book completed 1 of 12 attempts en route to the worst game of his career (8 of 25 for 73 yards). Michigan also bracketed junior tight end Cole Kmet the way Notre Dame did USC's Michael Pittman. Book was sacked only once, but he was consistently ha- rassed into bad throws or throwaways, while also either displaying reluctance on downfield reads or releasing the ball late. ADVANTAGE: Michigan SPECIAL TEAMS After two possessions, it appeared the Irish would have a huge advantage here. On the first, Michigan gifted Notre Dame a first down at the Wolverines' 40-yard line by roughing the punter. On the second, sophomore linebacker Bo Bauer tipped a U-M punt that was going to roll dead around its own 35-yard line — until Irish senior linebacker Jonathan Jones tried to pounce on it but did not recover it. U-M drove to a field goal from that Irish miscue, but the ramifications became far deeper. Freshman punter Jay Bramblett pinned the Wolverines inside their 20-yard line four times and the field position advantage was often in Notre Dame's favor. It just was unable to capitalize. The punt return men on both sides were reluctant to field catches in the slippery conditions, which usually cost both teams field position via bounces. The fumble by Notre Dame is what gives Michigan the slightest edge. ADVANTAGE: Michigan THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Neither team shined in this area, with Notre Dame finishing 3 of 15 (20.0 percent) and Michigan 4 of 13 (30.8 percent). However, the two most critical conversions were by Michigan. Leading 10-0, Patterson completed a third- and-seven pass to freshman wide receiver Mike Sainristil for 13 yards while scrambling from the pass rush. That set up the second touchdown. After Notre Dame cut its deficit to 17-7 — aided by a controversial third- and-10 pass interference call on the Wolverines — Michigan had third-and-11 at the Notre Dame 12-yard line. There, another poor interference call, this one on fifth-year senior cornerback Shaun Crawford, set up Michigan's third touchdown that regained its momentum. ADVANTAGE: Michigan TURNOVERS Notre Dame entered the game No. 1 nationally in turnover margin (plus-1.67) while Michigan was 84th (minus-0.29) — and its 14 turnovers placed it 109th. For Michigan to win this 2-0 was telling. The aforementioned blocked punt and ensuing snafu swung momentum early and had an almost domino-like effect. A lost fumble by sophomore backup quarterback Phil Jurkovec also set up a U-M touchdown, but that was of less consequence with U-M already up 38-7. However, this marked the second straight game the Irish did not force a turnover, and they have generated only one the past three games. ADVANTAGE: Michigan ANALYSIS Everything in football still begins at the line of scrimmage, and there is no more succinct way to put it than Michigan dominated both sides on an inclement night in which the ability to run effectively, efficiently and without turnovers was paramount. To out-rush Notre Dame 303-47 reflected that su- premacy, and it was augmented by also winning the turnover battle (2-0) in a season where miscues had become common for Michigan. Above all, Michigan displayed a spirit, toughness and an edge that Notre Dame did not. This contest was as much about the emotional as the physical. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Michigan's passing attack came alive in the fourth quarter with 104 yards and two touchdowns, including this 16-yard scoring grab by junior wideout Nico Collins. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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