Those were Jack Miller’s words after Michigan’s lopsided loss to the Irish Saturday night, but a microphone placed in front of anyone else on Wolverines sideline would have rendered the same result. That the historically lackluster showing came in the final match-up of these storied rivals made the pain even more pronounced.
- Michigan was shutout for the first time in 376 games, dating back to October 27, 1984
- The 31 point margin of victory was the largest margin for the Irish in the series
- It was also the first time the Irish shut out the Wolverines in 42 meetings.
Few if any predicted that kind of display dominance for either team, but especially not for the suspension and injury depleted Irish. Early on the Wolverines appeared up to the challenge. Gardner was 5/5 in the first quarter for 60 yards, the running game notched over five yards per carry (7 rushes for 38 yards), and the defense was solid (though not spectacular). They were down 7-0 heading into the second stanza, but it was all downhill from there. Everett Golson picked the defense apart in the 2nd quarter, completing 11/15 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Gardner, meanwhile, went 3/9 for 30 yards. The Wolverines were reeling in part from the absences of Jabrill Peppers and Raymon Taylor, but Notre Dame's absentees were greater in number. Simply put, the Wolverines were overwhelmed by a team that went into the contest with more adversity to overcome. Those in the winged helmets made no excuses. They tipped their collective cap to a better opponent and began focusing on picking up the pieces.
“We lost a lot of momentum,” Gardner said. “Football is a game of momentum and we lost a lot of it. Not converting third downs and not getting them off the field on third downs… those are things we are going to look at.”
Many looking at Gardner’s performance found it eerily similar to a few of his less-than-inspiring showings last year, but his head coach didn’t share that opinion.
“I don’t think he slipped into all those habits,” said Hoke. “I think he is a better quarterback. I know he is. He is a better quarterback than he demonstrated today.”
The Wolverines are in for a long long season if he isn’t. That is probably why Hoke doubled down in his support of his beleaguered signal caller when asked if he contemplated replacing him in the second half.
“He’s our quarterback,” Michigan’s headman said emphatically. “Unless he somehow doesn’t come to work every day (or) doesn’t come to learn… he’s our quarterback and we wanted to put points on the board.”
“We’re going to play some other really big games on the road this year, and for him to keep improving he needs to play quarterback.”
And he’ll need to be one of the leaders the rest of the team rallies around. The pool of undying supporters gets noticeably shallow after losses like the one Michigan just suffered. Now is when the benefit of all the offseason work on leadership and chemistry will either show or it won’t.
“Definitely not the way we wanted to end the series and perform tonight, but it is over,” said Miller. “We are fresh off it. It hurts, but all we can do is move forward the next week and try to be better. It’s a long seaon and by no stretch of the imagination are we down and out."
“We are going to dive into this film tomorrow and put this behind us,” said Gardner. “It’s a long season and this is only the second game.”
“There’s always adversity, and facing adversity is part of football,” Joe Bolden added. “It’s part of life. And we are going to respond. We are going to respond as a team, and we are going to respond as a brotherhood.”
Can the Wolverines learn from the mistakes without dwelling on them? That’s easier said than done. Teams have been known to wilt mentally at times like this, but that’s one concern Hoke insists he doesn’t have.
“I really don’t,” he said. “Not with this team… because of what we have seen every day from them. From their work ethic (to) how they care about each other.”
In other words he believes in his team's resiliency.
Time will tell just how warranted that belief is.