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Published: Sunday, 9/13/2009

Something special: Forcier's late TD lifts UM over Notre Dame

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Michigan wide receiver Greg Mathews, left, celebrates his game-winning touchdown with offensive lineman Perry Dorrestein. Michigan wide receiver Greg Mathews, left, celebrates his game-winning touchdown with offensive lineman Perry Dorrestein.
TONY DING / AP Enlarge

ANN ARBOR - Some say Tate Forcier wasn't good enough to play for Notre Dame.

No one can say Tate Forcier wasn't good enough to beat Notre Dame.

Looking like a seasoned veteran and a playground legend all rolled into one, Forcier came through with a - hyperbole alert - legendary performance in just his second collegiate game, leading the University of Michigan to a 38-34 win over No. 18 Notre Dame in an absolute beauty yesterday at the Big House.

Forcier, the 19-year-old - another hyperbole alert - wunderkind from San Diego, visited Notre Dame on a recruiting trip but wasn't offered a scholarship by Irish head coach Charlie Weis, who deemed Forcier an awkward fit for ND's system. Through two games, Forcier is the perfect fit for the Wolverines, and his 5-yard touchdown pass to Greg Mathews with 11 seconds left leaves UM with a perfect 2-0 record with a soft portion of its schedule coming up.

This kid appears to be special, something for Wolverines fans to behold for the next four - who knows, maybe three - seasons.

"Everybody kept saying a freshman can't do it," Forcier said. "I did it."

Of course he didn't do it all alone, but at times it seemed that way - particularly on UM's final drive which began at its own 43 with 2:13 to go. After picking up a first down, Forcier was sacked for a five-yard loss beforeconnecting with Martavious Odoms on consecutive gains of 11 and eight yards. Then Forcier targeted LaTerryal Savoy on back-to-back passes, the latter of 17 yards to position the Wolverines at the 4. A dropped pass by Savoy in the end zone was atoned for on the next play when Forcier found Mathews on a slant, culminating in an entertaining chapter to this storied rivalry.

"I'm blessed to have an opportunity to play in this game," Mathews said. "It's going to go down as one of the greatest games in the history of this rivalry."

Forcier, who threw three touchdowns last week, produced this stat line: 22 of 33, 240 yards, two touchdowns. And then there are his rushing numbers - 13 attempts, 70 yards, and a 31-yard touchdown scoring jaunt on fourth down to give the Wolverines a 31-20 lead early in the fourth. Again, Forcier didn't have the look Notre Dame sought when he visited South Bend last year. UM coach Rich Rodriguez obviously saw things differently.

"What we saw today was what we saw on film," Rodriguez said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, what you see on film is what you get."

But Forcier's day is rendered as a mere footnote if ND (1-1) was able to do accomplish more on its last full offensive possession. An auspicious beginning to the drive - a rush of nine yards - was followed by a run of no gain and two incomplete passes, forcing the Irish to punt from their own 29 with 2:13 to go and a three-point lead. Strategy behind the drive will certainly be rethought by Weis as ND exhausted just 54 seconds and forced UM to spend only one timeout.

"They had a change of mentality, and they weren't just going to sit back there and let us run the ball," Weis said in defense of the failed plan.

Perhaps UM is not in a position to win if not for Darryl Stonum using excellent blocking to return a kickoff 94 yards in the first quarter, giving UM a 10-3 lead.

Emotions poured everywhere after the game.

Rodriguez and Forcier shared a lengthy hug at midfield as teammates and coaches flooded the field.

Senior Brandon Graham, speaking to a reporter at midfield, labeled this the biggest win of his college career.

Exiting from the tunnels of the stadium were grown men, many crying, their young sons wondering how many games they'll witness as exciting as this one.

The answer: not many.

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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