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Takeaways from Michigan’s dominant victory vs. Notre Dame

Jim Harbaugh had one of his finest nights as Michigan’s head coach as the Wolverines imposed their will on Notre Dame

The No. 19 Michigan Wolverines improved to 6-2 on Saturday night after thrashing the No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 45-14 under the lights at The Big House on a rain-soaked field.

The positives drastically outweighed the negatives for Michigan tonight. In fact, it’s hard to find a negative takeaway that’s even worth discussing. With that said, let’s get to the takeaways from Michigan’s victory.

Running backs and offensive line have impressive night

Shea Patterson ended up with two touchdown passes, but the most eye-popping takeaway on the offensive side of the ball resided with the offensive line and the production of Michigan’s running backs.

  • Hassan Haskins- 20 carries, 149 yards
  • Zach Charbonnet- 15 carries, 74 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Tru Wilson- 6 carrries, 45 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Christian Turner- 4 carries, 31 yards

There was heavy rain and strong winds for much of the game and Michigan needed the run game to get churning, and it did from their opening possession until the final whistle. Whether it was an inside run, outside run, counter, or trap, Michigan was able to mix their run calls up and have continuous production. On top of the impressive output, the unit didn’t commit a fumble, marking the second week in a row they haven’t put the ball on the ground.

Notre Dame’s defense and d-line has been a real good one throughout the season and how Michigan’s o-line was able to throw them around and make them look like Rutgers is something that bodes well for their cohesiveness the rest of the season.

When it comes to Michigan’s running backs, it’s clear they have an excellent one-two punch with Charbonnet and Haskins who both can get the hard yards after contact and also have the ability to make defenders miss in the open field.

Credit to offensive line coach Ed Warinner and running backs coach Jay Harbaugh on this night, their dudes were prepared. Yes, it may be a pro-spread scheme Michigan utilizes these days, but having a stout run game will always be important no matter what year it is and can propel a team to victory.

Aggressiveness along with execution on defense

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown will live and die attempting to solve problems with aggression, and his mantra works out when his unit doesn’t make mental errors.

Notre Dame may have scored 14 points, but this was a near shutout for the Michigan D, allowing just 180 yards of total offense, half of which came when the game was out of reach for the Irish. Michigan chased starting quarterback Ian Book out of the game near the beginning of the fourth quarter after he went just 8-of-25 for 73 yards with a touchdown. Book was under duress for most of the night and Michigan’s D didn’t allow the scrambling quarterback to gain much on the ground (13 yards). Book has had a fine season to this point, but the game against Michigan was the low point in his career.

The Notre Dame offensive line is considered to be one of the finest in the country, but they looked very pedestrian against a relentless attack from Michigan’s front seven, where they really didn’t do much of anything that could be deemed positive.

From a coverage standpoint, Michigan was lights out, sticking to wideouts like glue and breaking up passes when necessary. Notre Dame’s run game faced the same sad fate with the likes of Cam McGrone, Khaleke Hudson, and Jordan Glasgow flying sideline to sideline and and putting a halt to any outside run attempt.

This was an impressive performance from the Michigan defense and shows that when they’re playing cohesively and not making mental mistakes they can take away deep throws and crossing patterns as well.

Play-calling on offense is hitting its stride

Offensive coordinator Josh Gattis had himself a fine night. Gattis’ flow of play calls coincided with attacking Notre Dame’s weaknesses. And when ND made adjustments, Gattis had an answer that led to the chains continuing to move and Michigan continuing to put up points.

After the game offensive lineman Michael Onwenu said he didn’t want to define the type of offense Michigan has, saying that it’s going to change each week based on their opponent. Onwenu’s words looked to be truthful against Notre Dame, and could ring true in games to come.

Michigan attempted to throw the ball a bit early on, but Gattis didn’t stick to some pre-printed play-call script, he just rolled with what was hurting Notre Dame. Later in the game with a big lead when you’d think Michigan would just run every play, they chose to pass the ball and netted three passing TD’s, two from Patterson and one from McCaffrey. No quarter given, no quarter received, this looked like the attacking offense Gattis promised before the season began. Gattis said Michigan would dictate to the defense what they do on offense, and that’s what happened versus Notre Dame.

This is Gattis’ first season calling plays and his confidence is likely growing in this role, it seemed like play calls were getting in quicker, leading to a faster tempo and players being lined up in faster fashion than previous weeks. The Michigan offense looked like they could speed up and slow down the tempo how they so pleased, and when an offense has that ability they can sit on a lead or come from behind if need be.

We’ll see how Gattis’ play-calling pans out in the games to come, but against Notre Dame, along with the last three quarters at Penn State, it truly seems like Gattis is hitting his stride as an offensive coordinator.

Maybe the most impressive win of the Harbaugh era

Let’s put the “Jim Harbaugh can’t win big games” narratives to rest, shall we? Yes, I’m talking to the Paul Finebaum’s of the world.

Michigan absolutely stomped on the throat of No. 8 Notre Dame and played a relentlessly aggressive and physical brand of football. Even when Michigan had a substantial lead in the fourth quarter they continued to throw the ball with Patterson, and then Dylan McCaffrey.

Michigan imposed their will on Notre Dame, started out fast and played fast on the field. So much of football is mental and Michigan clearly believed in themselves after losing narrowly to Penn State a week ago. This team didn’t crumble after a gut-wrenching defeat, they came out against a perceived top tier team and crushed them, and that counts for something.

No one would have ever guessed that a team would score 45 points in as nasty of weather as there was at The Big House throughout the game, but Michigan found a way to do so.

This is the type of win that makes a team start believing that they can beat anyone if they execute, this looked like the type of team that could give Ohio State a run for their money at Michigan Stadium next month.

It’s time to give a tip of the cap to Harbaugh and the Michigan team and say ‘good job’. Hardly anyone picked Michigan to win this game, the talk surrounding the program has been drastically negative, and the Michigan coaching staff and the players didn’t give up on this season after their second loss, they played their best game yet.

Michigan’s performance leads one to believe that they have a highly realistic chance of winning their next three games (Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana) and heading into The Game against the Buckeyes with a 9-2 record. If Michigan is to have any chance of beating Ohio State, they needed to start picking up steam in all three phases of football, and they were able to do so versus the Fighting Irish.