With a true freshman quarterback, a banged up starting running back and Michigan's top deep threat at wide receiver in street clothes, it's not absurd to think that the Maize and Blue had no business winning a game against a veteran Notre Dame team that is chocked full of five-star recruits.
Tate Forcier, and the rest of the young Wolverines, didn't realize that, fortunately.
When Forcier found wide receiver Greg Mathews on a slant-and-out pattern with just 11-seconds left on the clock yesterday afternoon, the freshman QB did what a small select few thought was possible. He got Michigan to 2-0 -- and this time no one can say it was only Western Michigan.
So just how did the Wolverines win?
With an improved performance by the offensive line, a gutty performance by a banged up Brandon Minor, a strong showing come crunch time by a group of receivers that have often taken a lot of criticism, and by a defense that finally stopped the potent Notre Dame offense when it mattered the most.
Breakdown of the Final Possession for Each Team
Notre Dame's Final Possession (excluding the 1-play drive that ended the game)
Notre Dame started its final possession with a 1st and 10 on their own 16-yardline. On first down the Irish came out with a tight end and one receiver set to Clausen's left, plus a pair of receivers wide to his right. Running back Armando Allen took the handoff and followed the lead block of his pulling right guard around the left corner for 13 yards and an Irish first down before being tackled by safety Jordan Kovacs.
On instant replay it appeared that the play was sprung by freshman Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph holding freshman Michigan spinner Craig Roh. It went unnoticed, however, by the officials, and the drive continued.
Michigan snuffed out a Robert Hughes run on Notre Dame's next play. The powerful back was brought down for no gain, then Michigan used its first timeout to stop the clock with 2:29 to play.
After the timeout came the play that Notre Dame fans will debate for years to come. Charlie Weis opted to play for the win. Facing a 2nd-and-10, Weis called for a long ball down the left sideline, a play that had worked to perfection all game long.
This time, though, Donovan Warren provided tight coverage down the sideline, and may have even made some contact that went unseen by the back judge. Warren was credited for a pass break up, and Michigan still held a pair of timeouts.
On 3rd-and-10 the Irish attacked Boubacar Cissoko. Jimmy Clausen and Michael Floyd had picked apart Cissoko over the course of the first three quarters, but with Floyd on the sideline dealing with a late game knee injury, Clausen's was unable to hit freshman Shaquelle Evans on the comeback route. Evans beat Cissoko with his route, but the ball sailed past him and into the Irish bench as he turned.
With the incomplete pass the Irish were forced to punt the ball back to the home team. Eric Maust, though, booted it just 29-yards giving Michigan the ball near midfield with 2:13 on the clock.
Michigan's Final Possession
Michigan opened its final drive on the 42-yardline. On first down Tate Forcier found Greg Mathews, lined up to Forcier's right before the snap, on a crossing pattern. Mathews picked up nine across the middle before being brought by Notre Dame linebacker Brian Smith.
On 2nd-and-inches Michigan came out in the shotgun with Brandon Minor to Forcier's left. Minor took the handoff and powered his way up the middle for a first down to the Irish 42 with just less then two minutes left.
The following play was Michigan's lone breakdown of the possession. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta dialed up a blitz that forced Forcier out of the pocket and brought him down 5-yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Notre Dame blitzed again on 2nd-and-15, but this time the aggression led to a big Michigan play. Forcier broke containment around the right side and found Martavious Odoms for 11 yards. On 3rd-and-7 he found Odoms again, this time on a comeback route just inside the left hash.
It's now 1st-and-10 at the Irish 29 with under one minute to play. LaTerryal Savoy lined up to
Forcier's right and caught a crossing route over the middle, again with impeccable pass protection from the offensive line. Savoy was brought down before he reached the first down marker, though, and U-M used its last timeout.
Out of the timeout Notre Dame once again came after Forcier with a blitz. Forcier once again evaded the Notre Dame pass rushers, though, this time stepping up in the pocket and scrambling along the line of scrimmage to his left. Savoy once again broke open, and the fifth year senior took a Forcier pass in stride before being pushed out of bounds at the 5-yardline.
With 22-seconds left on the clock the Wolverines lined up with 1st-and-goal. Forcier came out in the shotgun, and once again Savoy became his target. Forcier stepped up in the pocket to again avoid a heavy Notre Dame rush. He stepped up in the pocket and broke to his left just barely avoiding a sack that would have forced a rushed field goal attempt. Instead he was able to just float a pass to Savoy.
Just as the ball reached Savoy, though, former Michigan recruit Darrin Walls swatted at the ball, clipping the tail end and altering its rotation. After bobbling the ball, Savoy was unable to pull it in and it fell incomplete with 16-seconds left.
On second down the Wolverines hit pay dirt and put the Irish away. Mathews lined up wide left of Forcier, once again in the shotgun. Mathews hard faked the slant route before pivoting back to the outside. Forcier hit him in stride for the game-winner.
On the scoring drive Forcier was 6-of-7 for 56 yards and the decisive touchdown.
Game won ... and, suddenly, there're visions of a season transformed ...
One Day Later: Week 2
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