MICHAEL CONROY / ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
SOUTH BEND, Ind. Jimmy Clausen threw two touchdown passes and Notre Dame took advantage of six Michigan turnovers to get some revenge for consecutive blowout losses to the Wolverines with a 35-17 victory Saturday.
Notre Dame started fast, grabbing a 21-0 lead with the help of two Michigan lost fumbles in opening minutes. Irish linebacker Brian Smith also returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Notre Dame didn't come away completely unscathed, however. Coach Charlie Weis was knocked over on the sideline by a Michigan player during a punt return in the first half and spent the rest of the game on crutches with his left leg wrapped.
The 18-point victory was the third largest in the 37-game series for the Irish (2-0), but well short of the 38-0 loss to Michigan (1-2) two years ago and 47-21 setback last season, part of a humbling 3-9 campaign for the Irish.
Considering how sloppily Michigan played in the second consecutive meeting between the two rivals with neither team ranked, it's hard to qualify this as a breakthrough victory for the Irish but it certainly was sweet.
And it came on the same day Notre Dame honored former coach Lou Holtz by dedicating a statue of him before the game. Members of his 1988 national team, Notre Dame's last title winner, also were on hand for the victory.
The second half was played in a steady rain as the Wolverines made four of their six turnovers.
Clausen was 10-of-21 passing for 147 yards with two interceptions.
Steven Threet was 16-of-23 passing for 175 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions for Michigan. Sam McGuffie ran for 131 yards on 25 carries and had four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. The Wolverines moved the ball better than they did in their first two games in new coach Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. They just couldn't hold on to it.
It started when Boubacar Cissoko fumbled the opening kickoff, but managed to recover and returned it to the 9. Four plays later, after Michigan was penalized 15 yards for an illegal chop block, Threet threw a lateral to Brandon Minor, who dropped it. Smith recovered at the 11-yard line, leading to the first of two touchdown runs by Robert Hughes.
On the ensuing kickoff, Michael Shaw couldn't handle the ball and Mike Anello recovered for the Irish. Clausen threw a 10-yard fade to Duval Kamara for a 14-0 lead.
Following a fake punt, Michigan advanced to the Notre Dame before turning the ball over on downs. That set Notre Dame and Clausen up for a 48-yard touchdown pass to Golden Tate.
McGuffie turned a short pass from Threet into a 40-yard touchdown and K.C. Lopata's 23-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-10.
The Irish answered with an 87-yard TD drive, highlighted by a 60-yard pass to Tate, who broke three tackles before being caught at the 25-yard line. Hughes scored on a 1-yard run to make it 28-10.
Kevin Grady carried Smith into the end zone on a 7-yard run to cut the lead to 28-17 at halftime.
For the second straight game, Notre Dame safety David Bruton forced a big turnover. With 4 minutes left in the third quarter, the Wolverines were driving when Bruton hit Grady at the 5, knocking the ball loose. Notre Dame safety Sergio Brown recovered at the 7.
A week earlier against San Diego State, Bruton forced a fumble inches shy of the goal line and recovered to spark a come-from-behind victory.