Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0

Tag: Notre Dame

7Sep 2014
Uncategorized 45 comments

Notre Dame 31, Michigan 0

Oh, how I long for a “pocket.”

What just happened? I found this question reverberating around in my head from the second quarter onward. The scoreboard – whether it said 31-0 or 37-0 at the end – was not reflective of what this Michigan team can do, and it was not reflective of Notre Dame. Notre Dame has some good players, and so does Michigan. Notre Dame has some good coaches, and so does Michigan. Notre Dame was missing some people, and so was Michigan. Are Notre Dame’s coaches, starters, and backups 31 points superior to Michigan’s? Well, yeah, I guess they are. But I have no idea why. Michigan had 289 total yards to Notre Dame’s 280. It wasn’t that the Fighting Irish totally destroyed Michigan’s offense, or that their offense ripped up the Wolverines’ defense. They just made plays when they needed to make plays, a trait absent from Michigan for the last couple years.

This is where I jump on Doug Nussmeier. When it comes to play calling, I don’t think Nussmeier helped quarterback Devin Gardner at all on Saturday night. Notre Dame realized early on – probably as early as last year – that if they blitzed relentlessly, they could either get to Gardner or at least pressure him into bad throws or mistakes. Instead of pulling out plays to ease the pressure, Nussmeier basically said, “At least one receiver is going to beat his one-on-one matchup, so you’d better find him with Jarron Jones or Sheldon Day in your face.” Al Borges and Vincent Smith perfected the throwback screen. Al Borges and Jeremy Gallon perfected the throwback tunnel screen. Borges loved to run lead draws. Nussmeier’s way of slowing down the rush was to run zone read play action. When the bubbles and quick throws stopped working, he never seemed to take the next step to ward off the blitz. I would have liked to see more sprintouts, half rolls, tunnel screens, etc. He just thought the offensive line would magically stop the overload blitzes. Michigan moved the ball in chunks because they won one-on-one matchups – Devin Funchess vs. Cody Riggs, Dennis Norfleet vs. Jaylon Smith, etc. – but this isn’t Alabama, where he can count on his offensive linemen winning one-on-one matchups. I was afraid that, at some point, Nussmeier would fall victim to thinking that he could just count on being bigger, faster, and stronger than the opponent. I hope he came to realize the errors in that thought process in the aftermath of this game.

This offensive line isn’t as bad as last year. Center Jack Miller was repeatedly shoved back into Devin Gardner’s grill, and that’s a problem. But not every team has a Jarron Jones. Mason Cole and Erik Magnuson had several communication issues on the left side, but that comes with the territory of starting a true freshman left tackle. Regardless of the numbers, I thought the offensive line looked closer to the one that opened up huge holes against Appalachian State than the one that soured the taste in our mouths in 2013. Michigan is not a team that can wear teams down by running the ball, but they should be able to run the ball enough to keep most defenses off balance.

Blake Countess looks uncomfortable. I don’t think Countess is a wussy corner like Deion Sanders, but Countess does look awkward in press coverage. He is not physical at the line of scrimmage, and because he lets receivers get free releases, he’s opening up his hips too quickly. That style does not jive with what we’re seeing at the other corner in the form of Raymon Taylor/Jourdan Lewis. If Countess can’t play press man like defensive coordinator Greg Mattison wants this year, then perhaps he should move into the slot, where his ability to bait quarterbacks would be more useful.

So much for that wealth of cornerbacks. One place I thought Michigan had the advantage going into this game was at corner, where Michigan’s experienced and/or talented guys could win out against some inexperienced – but still talented – wideouts. Then I saw that Jabrill Peppers was on the sideline with his bum ankle, replaced by the lesser talented Delonte Hollowell. Then after the first defensive series, starter Raymon Taylor went to the locker room with an injury and never returned to the game. Just like that, Michigan was missing two of its top three corners. Hollowell was picked on repeatedly by Notre Dame. Jourdan Lewis picked up two pass interference penalties, at least one of which was highly questionable. The next guy in was Channing Stribling, who still looks a half-beat too slow for playing football against the big boys. I thought the numbers were leaning toward Michigan, with five Notre Dame academic fraud suspects off the field and a starting safety missing due to injury. However, those absences quickly started to even out with Peppers, Taylor, and tight end Jake Butt standing on the sideline.

But the linebackers looked good. After being unimpressive last week against Appalachian State, I thought starting linebackers Jake Ryan (11 tackles) and Joe Bolden (10 tackles) looked markedly better last night. They were reacting quicker, and they held a solid crew of running backs to 25 carries for 61 yards.

The refereeing was bad. The second pass interference penalty on Jourdan Lewis was hogwash, and it appears that Michigan is a step late in wanting to be all hands-on with their corners. That’s soooo  2013. Somehow, Devin Funchess got hit early on a crossing route that resulted in an incomplete pass, but the officials kept their hankies in their pockets. There was also no reason for Notre Dame’s Corey Robinson to be ruled down on the three-yard line when Stribling tackled him on a skinny post; the ball should have been placed at the 6″ line. You can’t blame the refs for a 31-point loss, but they certainly didn’t help Michigan find any success early.

The announcing was bad. I hate hate hate watching games on NBC, because it’s always a Notre Dame slurpfest. And while there weren’t a lot of good things to say about Michigan last night, I don’t remember color guy Mike Mayock saying many nice things about Michigan players. He said NFL scouts “love” Jake Ryan, and he complimented Devin Funchess’s ability to be big. Otherwise, he fawned over Everett Golson, Cam McDaniel, Greg Bryant, Jaylon Smith, Jarron Jones, Sheldon Day, Cody Riggs, Will Fuller’s speed (though not his hands), and even Notre Dame’s quarterbacks coach. Thank goodness that by the time Michigan plays Notre Dame again in the distant future – the year 2000 – Mayock won’t be around anymore.

Turnovers don’t exist. Michigan has zero takeaways in two games.

I don’t know where this team goes from here. This seems like a game that could make or break some teams. I don’t think anyone was under the illusion that Michigan was going to win a national championship this year, but the shutout could fracture a locker room and make some people question whether this unit is going anywhere. Again, I look at how Michigan moved the ball at times, and I think it might just be an unhappy coincidence that the Wolverines didn’t string together enough plays to create a couple scores. Notre Dame has a high-powered offense, and I predicted that they would score 31 points. We all knew they could march down the field and score. Michigan needs to regroup and get healthy next week against Miami, and moving forward, Nussmeier needs to open up his playbook against blitzing defenses to keep them out of Gardner’s face.

5Sep 2014
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Preview: Michigan at Notre Dame

Kathy Ireland

Rush vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense
Michigan got off to as good of a start as possible when they ran 36 times for 350 yards (9.72 yards/carry) in week one, albeit against Appalachian State. That YPC puts them #1 in the country going into week two. It’s only one week, but plenty of other schools played patsies in their openers, too. I don’t expect Michigan to be a great running team this year, but that’s a positive sign. Both Derrick Green (15 carries, 170 yards, 1 touchdown) and De’Veon Smith (8, 115, 2) had outstanding games, with Green as more of a home run threat and Smith as the between-the-tackles bruiser. Notre Dame allowed 141 yards on 3.53 yards/carry last week to Rice, which puts the Fighting Irish in the middle of the pack early. Even without defensive end Ishaq Williams (suspended for academic issues), they have a formidable front seven with defensive tackles Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones, plus defensive end Romeo Okwara and outside linebacker Jaylon Smith. The question mark for them comes up the middle with some questionable talent and little experience at inside linebacker. If Michigan can get past the first level – which still might be a tall task – it could be tough for them to slow down the 220-pounders in Green and Smith. But until I see Michigan perform against a solid defense, I’ll say . . .
Advantage: Notre Dame

Pass vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense
Michigan was also outstanding in the passing game, as starter Devin Gardner finished 13/14 for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns before giving way to sophomore Shane Morris (3/5, 37 yards, 1 interception). Junior wide receiver Devin Funchess – who was awarded the #1 jersey prior to the opener – caught 7 of those passes for 95 yards and all 3 touchdowns. While Funchess is the main target, the connections to other receivers – particulary Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Dennis Norfleet – looked crisp, too. The key for Michigan will be whether their offensive line can block Notre Dame’s defensive line and stymie a likely array of blitzes designed to confuse the young, oft-shuffled line. The Fighting Irish sacked Rice twice in their opener, and they intercepted one pass while breaking up two more in 26 attempts. Their personnel in the secondary has dwindled recently with an MCL injury to starting safety Austin Collinsworth and the academic suspension of cornerback KeiVarae Russell. They’re piecing together a secondary that includes a bunch of young or unproductive players, including cornerbacks Cole Luke and Cody Riggs, safeties Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate, and combo player Matthias Farley. There’s some talent there, but nobody has shown star tendencies. They will have to count on the massive Jones and the quick Day to put pressure on Gardner.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Notre Dame Rush Offense
Michigan was gashed up the middle several times against Appalachian State, and they did not create stops in the backfield. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison took some blame for not making adjustments, but also, there’s no need to bring out every run blitz to stop a team that you’re beating by 38 points. It was not an ideal performance by the Wolverines (156 yards allowed on 29 running back carries), but it wasn’t particularly alarming, either. One issue may be that perhaps Michigan’s best inside linebacker, senior Desmond Morgan, will miss the game with a broken arm. Junior Joe Bolden and fifth year senior Jake Ryan – who moved from OLB in the off-season – have not shown that they can stuff the run up the middle. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish have a nice lightning-and-thunder combination with sophomores Tarean Folston (12 carries, 71 yards) and Greg Bryant (8 carries, 71 yards). Folston is a little bit reminiscent of Fitzgerald Toussaint with his acceleration and jump-cut ability, while Bryant is a little more ponderous but can run through defenders if he squares his shoulders. Notre Dame’s line is nothing special, but they have experience on the interior and some size up front. With Morgan out and a mediocre performance against Appalachian State, I’ll put this category as a notch for . . .
Advantage: Notre Dame

Pass Defense vs. Notre Dame Pass Offense
Michigan has an All-Big Ten corner in Blake Countess, a guy who’s supposedly playing his best ball on the opposite side, a 5-star freshman in the slot, and perhaps their best pure cover corner (Jourdan Lewis) coming off the bench. Redshirt sophomore Jeremy Clark played his first extensive time at deep safety last week, and he did fair. Michigan did not get a great pass rush, despite notching two sacks (by Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton), but Appalachian State ran a lot of short routes. Notre Dame should have some longer developing plays, but they also have a better offensive line. The tackles should be the most vulnerable, so Frank Clark’s pass rush off the edge should be a key. Notre Dame got some big plays in the passing game against a Rice team that had a pretty solid pass defense last year. Last week’s standout was sophomore Williams Fuller (4 catches, 85 yards, 1 touchdown), but five players averaged 17 or more yards a catch, including tight end Ben Koyack (3 catches, 51 yards). Redshirt junior quarterback Everett Golson finished 14/22 for 295 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was a good day, but he will face a stiffer test against Michigan’s sticky secondary.
Advantage: Michigan

Roster Notes

  • Michigan offered the following Notre Dame players coming out of high school: OT Alex Bars, OG Hunter Bivin, CB Devin Butler, WR DaVaris Daniels, DT Sheldon Day, OT Steve Elmer, QB Everett Golson, OT Mark Harrell, DT Jay Hayes, WR Corey Holmes, DT Jarron Jones, OT Christian Lombard, TE Tyler Luatua, CB Cole Luke, DE Jacob Matuska, OT Mike McGlinchey, OT Colin McGovern, OG John Montelus, LB Nyles Morgan, OG Sam Mustipher, LB James Onwualu, CB Cody Riggs, DE Isaac Rochell, S Elijah Shumate, LB Jaylon Smith, TE Durham Smythe, CB Nick Watkins, CB Nic Weishar, DE Jhonny Williams
  • Players from the state of Michigan include: K Kyle Brindza, OT Steve Elmer, DE Jhonny Williams
  • Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly used to be the head coach at Grand Valley State University

Last Year

  • Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees was 29/51 for 314 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions
  • Michigan held the Fighting Irish under 100 yards rushing (19 carries, 96 yards)
  • Devin Gardner had his best career game to that point, finishing 21/33 for 294 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception, plus 13 carries for 82 yards and another score
  • Blake Countess had 2 interceptions
  • Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30


  • Devin Funchess goes for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • Michigan averages 4.0 yards/carry
  • Graham Glasgow plays left guard, moving Erik Magnuson to left tackle
  • Michigan struggles to stop the run
  • Michigan 34, Notre Dame 31
15Aug 2014
Uncategorized 3 comments

Notre Dame suspends four players for academic fraud

KeiVarae Russell

This is notable because it’s a Michigan rival, the second opponent on the 2014 schedule, and a consistent threat in midwest recruiting. If things go sour for Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and the program, that could bode well for the Wolverines. Plus, you know . . . it’s somewhat fun to watch them suffer.

Regardless, I won’t be dancing on their grave just yet. The Fighting Irish have done a good job of recruiting – as always – so there are some potential impact players behind those who have been suspended.

WR DaVaris Daniels
Daniels is a junior whom Michigan recruited out of high school. Last year he caught 49 passes for 745 yards and 7 touchdowns, and he was Notre Dame’s leading returning receiver. Now that title falls to junior Chris Brown (not that Chris Brown), who caught 15 passes for 209 yards and 1 touchdown in 2013. Wide receiver T.J. Jones and tight end Troy Niklas both moved on to the NFL.

LB Kendall Moore
Moore was a senior who was expected to be buried on the bench despite making 17 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 interception in 2013.

CB Keivarae Russell
Russell had 51 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 interception, and 8 pass breakups last season. He was Notre Dame’s top returning cornerback. Opposite him would have been Cody Riggs, a fifth year senior transfer from Florida; Riggs had 51 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and 3 pass breakups as a safety for the Gators in 2013. Russell’s backup was sophomore Devin Butler (another former Michigan target), who made 5 tackles and 1 pass breakup in 2013.

DE Ishaq Williams
Williams had 17 tackles, 1.5 tackes for loss, and 1 sack in 2013. His lone career sack came against Michigan last year. While he started just one game last season, he was expected to start at defensive end this year. His backup is sophomore Isaac Rochelle, who had 10 tackles last year.