Let's hear it for the defense. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
You'll excuse me if I set aside the matter of offense for a few hundred words. The subject has been discussed ad nauseum since the final whistle blew, and there isn't much to add. Denard Robinson = historically bad.
What is unfortunately lost in all of this is the yeoman-like effort of Mcihgan's defense. Long felt to be an afterthought in this game, resigned by fans and media alike to simply be that thing into which Notre Dame would have to run headfirst into all evening on the way to upward of 30 points, the Michigan defense actually came out and looked good. The Notre Dame offense was choppy, and Everett Golson immediately flat lined, but time after time it was Michigan's defense making crucial plays and keeping the entire thing competitive well after the offense had run out of ideas.
Notre Dame's first half included two punts, two interceptions, and two scoring drives totalling 49 yards. Despite Michigan's offense turning the ball over five times in the half and three times on its own half of the field, Notre Dame managed only a ten point lead going into half. Add in two forced punts in the third quarter and Michigan's defense did all it could to give the offense a chance.
First and foremost, the defensive line put forth a solid effort, holding up at the point of attack and funnelling most of the run plays to a linebacker. This wasn't a unit reborn, but considering how little we've seen from the front four this year, this shows that things may not be as bleak as previously thought. Notre Dame totalled just over 100 yards rushing, but it was at a meager 3.0 ypc average.
Particularly impressive upon first viewing was the play of Thomas Gordon at safety. While Jordan Kovacs had his own Kovacsian day in run support, Gordon flashed the kind of play in run support that would make his co-starter proud. Add in a good interception in the end zone (in what could have been a huge play to keep it to a three-point game had the offense done anything to capitalize on that). Even Raymon Taylor turned heads with his athletic interception on the first play of the game (a far cry from JT Floyd, who I thought struggled).
Michigan's chances this season were supposed to hinge on the fortunes of the offense and the play of Denard Robinson. While the first three games gave mixed signals, the strong defensive effort against Notre Dame is a positive sign for the future when staring down a Big Ten slate that looks to be short of offensive brilliance.
Now about jump starting the other side of the ball...
More from around the blogosphere after the jump.
Opportunity Seized - MGoBlog (Ace)
In a game that felt like karmic retribution for the last three years, however, Michigan never seized control, instead making error after crippling error until there were no more errors to make. The defense did everything in their power to overcome the offense, holding Notre Dame to just 239 yards on 4.8 yards per play and forcing two interceptions of their own. They could not stop Robinson from turning the ball over, though, and in the end it was a triumphant Tommy Rees kneeling the clock out.
1. Of all the weeks to write an ode to Denard Robinson, and to Denard Robinson's performances against Notre Dame, specifically, all of a sudden the one immediately preceding the most spectacular meltdown of his career does't look like the most sage choice. For every dagger Robinson stuck in the Fighting Irish in those exhilarating, last-second comebacks in 2010 and 2011, he was repaid tonight with interest. Interest in the form of interceptions.
Knowing - Hoover Street Rag
First of all Denard, that's a pretty big apology and probably unnecessary in the grand scheme. The people who understand that you are still a net positive, that you are still one of the most dynamic and special players to have wandered through our football lives, well, they don't need it and those who cannot understand any of those things will not care how you feel, they will instead focus on what you did and why it was so awful. But in an era when personal accountability is used as a punch line or a sound bite all too often, I appreciate the spirit in which it was offered, because I believe from everything I read, it was sincere.
"We always try and go to the next play. You have to," Hoke said. "The guy has done a pretty good job being a quarterback at Michigan ... Just better decision making, and move forward. "What are you going to do, sit there and talk about each one of them? You've got to move forward."
I wish I were wrong. I pretty much had the lowest score prediction in the Michigan blogosphere, and even I didn't expect the sloppy snoozefest that occurred on Saturday night. I was criticized on my game preview for picking a 24-20 score because the offenses were powerful and the defenses weren't. Well . . . we saw what happened. The defenses were okay, but the offenses aren't where they should be for either school. Notre Dame should be more explosive for offensive genius Brian Kelly, and Michigan should be better with a senior quarterback. Brian at MGoBlog sort of criticized my understatement that this would be Denard's worst game against Notre Dame, but I guess I wasn't clear enough; the pressure up front was bound to make Denard jumpy. I just expected more breakdowns in the defensive backfield.
Notre Dame 13, Michigan 6 - Tremendous
[Denard Robinson]'s not as good as his biggest fans claim and he's not nearly as bad as his biggest detractors would say. He is a quarterback though; to dispute this is troll. He's led Michigan to a BCS bowl victory; something Chad Henne never did. John Navarre never did it either. He's their all-time leader in total yards. He had the best performance a Michigan quarterback has ever had against Ohio State. He'll potentially hold the ten greatest total yardage games in Michigan history.
Quick Hits: Notre Dame 13 Michigan 6 - CBS's Eye on CFB
WHAT MICHIGAN LOST: The magic of Denard Robinson against Notre Dame is gone, but really so is Robinson's aura in general. Denard has faced two solid defenses so far in 2012 -- Alabama and Notre Dame -- and in those two games he's 24-for-50 for 338 yards, 1 touchdown and 6 interceptions. He's also only managed to rush for 117 yards and a score in those two games. Not terrible numbers outside the turnovers, but not exactly what we've come to expect from Robinson.
Six plays that changed the game - Maize and Blue News
Rumbling, Stumbling, Fumbling: While Michigan’s best drive of the first half relied heavily on the pass, the struggles with interceptions prompted the Maize and Blue to turn to their running game early in the third quarter. The Wolverines’ first drive of the second half was an impressive showing, marching 10 plays for 63 yards and eating up nearly six minutes of game clock. The drive consisted of eight runs and only two passes. Moving once again into the shadow of Notre Dame’s goal posts, the Wolverines continued to shoot themselves in the foot. On a third down and three play from the 16 yard line, Robinson dashed for eight yards. While the play started out great for the Maize and Blue, the signal caller fumbled the ball, giving it back to Notre Dame. It marked the third time in the game that Michigan reached the opponent 10 yard line without scoring any points.
"I think our defensive line did an amazing job in getting pressure on him," Te'o said afterward. "And whenever you get some pressure of any kind on the quarterback and rush his throw and rush his progression, we have to as a defense try and do your job and read your keys and make plays."
Post Week 4 - 2012 Bowl Projections - Off Tackle Empire
Why Michigan: Getting dominated by one of the best teams in the nation is one thing. Looking absolutely incompetent against Notre Dame is another.
Just Ugly: Had we known Michigan would out-gain Notre Dame, convert more than 50 percent of third-downs, hold the Irish to three yards per carry, punt once and force Tommy Rees to take over in the first half we would have been jubilant. Six turnovers and six points from five trips to the red zone alters the complexion of a performance. It was an offensive coordinator performance worthy of seppuku.