So they thought anyways.
Then, well, they played the game.
And it wasn’t even close. The dream was over, and the scoreboard read more like a nightmare, as the Irish shutout U-M 31-0 for the final stanza in this historic rivalry for the foreseeable future.
“Number one, give Notre Dame credit for how they played,” U-M coach Brady Hoke said. “It was a total butt kicking all the way around that we all took. Going back to work tomorrow as a team like they will. We have got to get a lot better. I think we learned some things that we got to get better at.”
In fact, it was the largest defeat the Wolverines had ever suffered to ND in 41 meetings – U-M holds a 24-16-1 edge in the rivalry – but it was how Michigan lost against the Irish that was the story. Simply put, the Irish sent the Wolverines out of this rivalry with a smack, a laugh, and a frenzied crowd singing “Kiss Him Goodbye” in a memorable beat down Saturday night.
But can Michigan recover? Can they regroup? Can they find their edge on the field again? Because tonight, most likely, is Michigan’s worst lost since losing to Appalachian State at home 34-32 in 2007 on blocked kick heard around the world.
This one stung a little – more like a lot. And it should.
So obviously this a night the Wolverines would soon like to forget. They’ll certainly have to if they want to move forward in 2014.
“It’s Notre Dame,” fifth year senior quarterback Devin Gardner said afterwards. “It’s the last game in the rivalry, and we wanted to come out on top and obviously that didn’t happen. But it is just one game, it is not even a league game. Our goal is to win the Big Ten championship. We are still on course to do that, and that’s what we are working towards.”
However, that’s easier said than done. We’ve heard these words or talks of Big Ten glory. And ND has always been Michigan’s early season measuring stick if success, and tonight, the Wolverines suffered badly. The Irish took the lead, the momentum, and the bragging rights in this rivalry. And now Michigan has to figure out where to go to next.
“… We will bounce back,” Hoke said. “because this is a very resilient, hard working group of young men who know what it takes to win.”
For his sakes, and the rest of Michigan’s season, Hoke better be right. Because this loss to Notre Dame is going to linger for while. And Michigan needs to forget, regroup and move on. Now it’s time to see if they can.
Michigan next plays host to Miami (Ohio) (0-2) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
This was the first time Michigan was shutout in a NCAA record 376 games, a steak that dates back to Oct. 27, 1984 game against Iowa (26-0).