Michigan can't rally, drops rivalry game to Notre Dame

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    Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush runs through Michigan defenders.


  • SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Michigan came to Notre Dame with grand visions of making a nationwide statement to a primetime audience. The Wolverines left for their two-and-a-half-hour bus ride back to Ann Arbor on Saturday wondering if the past eight months was all a mirage.

    The 12th-ranked Fighting Irish put No. 14 Michigan in its place with a humbling 24-17 defeat, exposing the same shortcomings that plagued UM during its dismal 8-5 2017 season. The offensive line was suspect at best, which stunted the run game, and the pass catchers had trouble stretching the field vertically.

    Michigan running back Karan Higdon cuts between Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love and safety Alohi Gilman.
    Michigan running back Karan Higdon cuts between Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love and safety Alohi Gilman.

    What happened: Notre Dame put the home crowd in a frenzy, scoring on its first two possessions to build a 14-0 lead. It was 21-3 before Michigan’s Ambry Thomas returned a kick 99 yards to trim the Wolverines’ deficit to 21-10.

    Michigan’s defense stiffened and held Notre Dame in check, but the offense couldn’t compete the rally. Shea Patterson directed a fourth-quarter scoring drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Karan Higdon, but the Toledo-born quarterback fumbled as Michigan was driving in the final minute and the Fighting Irish recovered.

    A defensive struggle was predicted by many, with those prognostications centering on Michigan’s defense. But it was Notre Dame’s defensive unit that created headlines, limiting the Wolverines to 307 total yards and just 58 rushing yards on 33 carries.

    Patterson finished 20 of 30 for 227 yards, but he had two costly turnovers — an interception and a fumble. In relief of Patterson, who suffered from cramps in the fourth quarter, Dylan McCaffrey completed 4 of 6 passes for 22 yards. Higdon carried the ball 21 times for 72 yards.

    Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush was 12-of-22 for 170 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

    It was over when: Patterson fumbled with 46 seconds left as Michigan was trying to drive for a potential game-tying touchdown. Notre Dame’s Khalid Kareem knocked the ball loose as Patterson scrambled at the Michigan 37-yard line, and Te’von Coney recovered.

    He said it: “Maybe it’s not a stunner that Notre Dame is winning. But it’s stunning that Notre Dame has scored 21 points in 22 minutes on Michigan’s vaunted defense.” — NBC play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico

    Wolverine standout: Someone had to step up with receiver Tarik Black’s injury, and the person players pointed to — Nico Collins — proved he could be a downfield threat this season, hauling in three catches for 66 yards.

    Play of the game: Trailing 14-0 in the first, Michigan was in desperate need of points and had the ball on the Notre Dame 25. On third down, Patterson took a 16-yard sack, which pushed the Wolverines out of field goal range and zapped any momentum Michigan could have built.

    Statistically speaking: Michigan’s fielded the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3-ranked defenses the past two seasons. This year’s group was tabbed to be better. They were anything but great in the first half, allowing 233 yards and 5.8 yards per play. 

    On Notre Dame’s first two possessions, the Irish rolled up 14 points and 143 yards (10.2 yards per play). Notre Dame amassed only 69 yards in the second half, but the damage inflicted in the opening 30 minutes was enough to hang on.

    The amount of mental blunders was jarring, as the Wolverines were flagged seven times for 52 yards. Safety Josh Metellus was ejected because of targeting less than six minutes into the game.

    But the statistic that’s most staggering? Michigan is 9-9 in its past 18 games.

    Next week: Michigan welcomes in-state foe Western Michigan (0-1) to the Big House on Saturday for the Wolverines’ home opener and Patterson’s first appearance in Michigan Stadium. A noon kickoff is scheduled on Fox Sports 1. Western Michigan lost its opener 55-42 to Syracuse.

    Contact Kyle Rowland at krowland@theblade.com, 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @KyleRowland.