Welcome to the 2018 football season Irish fans! Now that the dust has settled in ND Nation. It’s time to recount the events of Saturday evening. In the hot and humid confines of Notre Dame stadium, two formidable foes squared off in a renewal of a rivalry. Coming into the game Saturday, you could feel the electricity by those in attendance. The Fighting Irish have waited since January for this game. The fans are included in that as well. There is a lot that goes into a game of this importance. There is recruiting, training, scouting, and developing a game plan that will hopefully pay off when the clock goes to 0:00 in the fourth quarter. To start a season with so much on the line, speaks to the commitment the Notre Dame coaching staff has to the players.
The thunder of four F-15E aircraft electrified the fans in attendance, as they flew over a sea of green wearing fans in the stadium. That thunderous noise needed to be superseded by the fans in the stadium. Michgan won the coin toss and they opted to defer to the third quarter. This is the first opportunity the Irish will be able to showcase how hard they have worked, from last winter to the last days of August. The Irish struck like lightning on the opening possession. A Wimbush to Claypool pass for 16 yards, followed by a Wimbush to Boykin connection for 28 yards, had Michigan looking for answers. A facemask penalty set the Irish up in the Red Zone. 1:25 into the game, Jafar Amstrong scores the first touchdown of the season as well as his first career touchdown. The energy in the stadium was just electrifying.
The defense was just as amazing. They appeared very stout in their game plan. The defense only allowed Michigan six offensive plays on the Michigan first possession of the new season. Starting on the four yard line, the Irish marched on to a second touchdown in only eight plays. This time Finke was the recipient of a 43 yard touchdown pass from Wimbush. This score put the Irish up 14-0.
Late in the first quarter, Khalid Kareem effectively stops a Michigan drive by sacking Michigan QB Patterson for a 16 yard loss. Both sides of the ball are executing and the fans in attendance returned with an enormous roar after the play was over.
The second quarter started just as the first quarter ended. Jerry Tillery was not left out of the sack category. Tillery matched up on Patterson and dropped him for an 8 yard loss. The roar of the fans was the loudest I have heard in three years of attending games. The defense maintained the “bend don’t break” mentality and allowed a field goal on the opening drive by Michigan in the second quarter.
The Irish dominated again on the offensive line. this time Tony Jones Jr was the man behind Wimbush. Three consecutive rueshes of 12,2 and 5 powered the Irish to mid-field. With passes to Houston Griffith and Finke, coupled by 3 penalties by Michigan, the Irish find the endzone again with Armstrong running in for his second career touchdown from four yards out. The Irish take a commanding 21-3 lead. Then a miscue on special teams. Jonathan Doerer take the ensuing kick-off 99 yards for a Wolverines touchdown. The energy revolving around the game just left in a gasp. Michigan tries to make it interesting and makes the score 21-10. The ensuing Irish drive stalled after eight plays. The Irish take a 21-10 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was an ugly quarter for both teams. Both teams gassed after playing two quarters in the high humidity. Both offenses should signs of wear from the first half. The first play from scrimmage Michigan gets a delay of game penalty. The Wolverines ran five plays before having to punt after the defense tightened up. Wimbush comes in for the first drive and throws the games first interception and promptly the Irish defense is back on the field and got back to work as they did not allow Michigan to score in the third quarter.
The Irish offense saw an opportunity to eat some clock and that’s what they did. After a minute drive, Justin Yoon kicks the first field of the campaign. Yoon made his 48 yard field goal with 3:07 remaining in the game. The 12th man was back at work as the fans gave Yoon the love he deserves. The third quarter draws to an end with the Irish up 24-10.
Everyone knows the key to victory is clock management. The real key is to manage the clock and put points on the board. The fourth quarter belonged to Michigan, but did it? Michigan time of possession was 10:40 to ND’s 4:20. The difference here was DEFENSE. Michigan had three possessions in the fourth quarter. Three of those possessions ended up with stalled drives at the ND 44 (6:49 POS), a touchdown (2:49 POS), and lastly a possession in which they didn’t cross the 50 yard line (1:02). Though they scored, the ND defense was just stifling. The defense stepped up and carried the team on their back in the second half and Onward To Victory! The final score ND 24-Michigan 17.
Brandon Wimbush Press Conference
Media Question: You guys scored in the first 90 seconds of the game. What was working for you on the first drive?
Brandon’s Response: I think just repetition of those plays. You practice your first nine, at least three or four times a week, and you know, Coach Long makes us you know, pay attention to the details of each. You know, each one of those plays and I think we were able to run those and execute them to, you know, a good point where we were able to score pretty quickly.
Media Question: Just obviously so much hype coming into this game, to come away with a victory to get to 1-0 and to beat a rival like Michigan? What does it mean to start the season like this?
Brandon’s response: “Some of the greatest feelings are coming back into the locker room and seeing people that mean so much to you, from the top of the university to Tommy Rees, just smiling. Everybody is smiling and feeling great. Like I said, it’s one heck of a feeling and I hope this boat continues to roll. We’ll do whatever we have to do.”
My question to Brandon: The second half, the defense really dug in and helped you guys out. What words do you have to say for your defense?
Brandon’s response: “I thought they played outstanding. They let up three points till the last couple drivers there, and I think the D-Line, you could say, we have one of the better d lines in the country, even from this first game, so I’m excited to see them grow. As a whole, I think they did a great job, and like I said, they will continue to grow and to get better as the year goes on.”
Brian Kelly Press Conference
Notes From The Box
The Irish touchdown by Jafar Armstrong (soph) was the first of his career. It was also the third consecutive year the Fighting Irish scored on their opening drive.
The overall game was a balanced effort. The offense put it all on the table, especially in the first half with 21 points. In doing that, they got dehydrated and lacked energy in the second half. They still managed to move the ball against a tough Michigan defense. The Michigan defense appeared to be stunned by the way the Irish moved the ball at will.
The defense. Enough said there. The D-line was stifling at times and kept Patterson thinking as to where the rush was going to come from. Kareem Khalid had two sacks and his battery mate Jerry Tillery had one sack. The defense for the most part did what they were supposed to do, keep Michigan out of the endzone and except for the late score they did just that.
The final piece of the puzzle was the fans in green and making it very uncomfortable for the Wolverines when they were on offense. That stadium was the loudest I personally have heard it in three years. The intensity of the fans in my opinion, brought energy to the defense and the offense. The 12th man definitely made a difference in the game.
Players Of The Game
Brandon Wimbush-12-22 170 yards passing, 19 carries 59 yards, 1 INT
Khalid Kareem-9 tackles 7 solo, 2 sacks 1 QBH and 1 FF
Next up for the Irish is Ball St. 3:30 on NBC
Cheers and Go Irish!!!