ND picks off Michigan

Robinson intercepted 4 times as Irish take victory

Notre Dame players celebrate after intercepting a pass intended for Michigan's Drew Dileo (9).
Notre Dame players celebrate after intercepting a pass intended for Michigan's Drew Dileo (9).

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- This time, there were no late-game theatrics for the Michigan football team. Then again, there were no first-half daggers for the Wolverines either.

Instead, there were first-half blunders. Five of them, in fact, in a 13-6 loss to No. 11 Notre Dame.

But those didn't ultimately cost the No. 18 Wolverines.

Instead, the loss came as a result of precise execution by the Irish defense, which prevented Michigan from making any substantial dents in Notre Dame's territory or on the scoreboard.

Michigan couldn't capitalize on its chances five times inside the 20-yard line.

The Wolverines (2-2) got to the Irish 10-yard line in the first quarter, but lost yardage on two plays followed by Brendan Gibbons' 43-yard field goal attempt less than six minutes into the game that went wide right.

The Wolverines then reached the Irish 10 late in the first quarter before Nicky Baratti intercepted Vincent Smith's pass in the end zone and less than seven minutes into the third quarter, the Irish recovered quarterback Denard Robinson's fumble at their own 11, thwarting yet another drive, and the Wolverines had to settle for a pair of field goals by Gibbons when they couldn't convert from the Notre Dame 14 and 15-yard lines.

"We had some opportunities in the red zone, obviously, to put some points on the board," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "We had interference penalties that kept a drive of theirs alive twice. We're not playing fundamentally sound enough."

How could the Wolverines combat those red zone issues?

"Score touchdowns," Hoke said. "How do you do that? You keep working your red zone offense, you keep working knocking holes in the defense, you keep running crisp routes, you keep throwing the ball on target."

Robinson finished 13 for 24 passing with 138 yards, but was intercepted four times as the Irish finished with six turnovers (five interceptions and a fumble recovery).

Michigan's senior quarterback shouldered the blame after the loss.

"We didn't make plays when we needed to, and I threw a lot of interceptions," Robinson said. "I forced a lot of throws, and I want to say sorry to everybody who watched football, who watched Michigan football and whoever follows Michigan football. I want to say I'm sorry. It won't happen no more."

Robinson also issued an edict.

"I'm going to be accountable for the rest of the season, I'll tell you that much. I'm going to do whatever it takes to win, and whatever it takes for my team to win, that's what I'm going to do. I don't want to feel like this anymore."

In a game in which the Wolverines never led, the Irish took a 3-0 lead less than five minutes into the second quarter on Kyle Brindza's 33-yard field goal.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who finished with eight tackles, intercepted Robinson twice, including a snag in the second quarter that set up an 8-play, 48-yard drive that finished with Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees' two-yard touchdown run with 1:21 left in the half, which gave Notre Dame a 10-0 lead.

"The key to stopping such a dynamic player like Denard is that you just, well, everybody has to get to him," Te'o said. "Denard, he would start running one way, then totally cut back the other way. Everybody has to get to the ball. You have to really emphasize 11 guys to the ball."

Michigan cut the lead to 10-3 early in the fourth on Gibbons' first field goal, but soon after that Brindza kicked his second field goal with 6:24 left to stretch Notre Dame's lead to 13-3.

Gibbons brought the Wolverines within seven on a 31-yard kick with 3:27 left before the Irish wound down the clock on their final drive.

While Notre Dame finished with 69 tackles and three sacks, Michigan finished with only 51 tackles, led by Desmond Morgan and Jordan Kovacs, who each had seven.

Rees replaced starter Everett Golson in the second quarter and finished 8 for 11 passing for 115 yards.

Notre Dame won despite being outgained 299 to 239 and had only one player finish with more than 50 yards rushing -- running back Theo Riddick, who had 52 yards on 17 carries.

"We're fairly comfortable if we need Tommy to come in and handle some of the offense for us," said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, who declared Golson the Irish's every day starter after the win.

"If we feel like it's necessary, we will. But he's just a great asset to have if you need him. To close out a game, we'll continue to go that route."

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.