At First Glance…

O'Malley's game notebook presents a handful of game balls, reviews the game's decisive drives, finds a hidden key to the contest, and offers numbers of note in Saturday's 13-6 head-knocker in South Bend.

Offensive MVP: Theo Riddick

Like the rest of his scrimmage mates, senior running back Theo Riddick did little of note through the games first three quarters. But on two crucial fourth quarter drives, Riddick ripped off 53 all-purpose yards on 13 touches, including the game's decisive third down conversion, an 8-yard burst through the heart of the Wolverines defense on 3rd and 8 to effectively end the contest.

Riddick also helped take the Irish from their own 25-yard line to the Wolverines 22, setting up sophomore Kyle Brindza for a crucial field goal that extended Notre Dame's lead to 13-3 with 6:24 remaining. Riddick accounted for all but one snap and 16 yards on the 11-play, 53-yard drive that followed Michigan's first score of the evening.

Riddick finished with 84 all-purpose yards on 22 touches (17/53 rushing; 5/32 receiving).

Offensive Game Balls: Aiding Riddick's effort was backup quarterback Tommy Rees as the junior led Notre Dame's offense to all 13 of its points including the game's only touchdown, a 2-yard designed quarterback draw that marked the first rushing score of his college career. Rees finished 8 of 11 for 115 yards, his only pass of note a game-deciding 38-yard strike to tight end Tyler Eifert on 3rd and 4 from the Notre Dame 31-yard line with 2:30 remaining.

After three quarters of inconsistent play, Notre Dame's offensive front again rose to the challenge when the team needed a time-consuming drive from its own territory, this time churning out a field goal on 11 plays in 6:24 to extend the Irish lead to 13-3, and thereafter finishing the final 3:27 of the contest with a pair of third-down conversions as Michigan fought to regain possession for a final shot, trailing 13-6.

Defensive MVP: Manti Te'o

Just 22 days ago, senior linebacker Manti Te'o had never intercepted a collegiate pass, nor recovered an opponent's fumble. Tonight he's the proud owner of three career interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and the catalyst of a 4-0 start in South Bend for the first time since Te'o and his classmates turned 12 years old.

Two interceptions of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson augmented an effort that included a QB hurry (that resulted in a teammate's interception), tackle-for-loss, and eight tackles, one of the most complete games of the Butkus candidate's college career, and his first win over the rival Wolverines.

Te'o became the first Notre Dame player to record multiple interceptions vs. the Wolverines in program history.

Defensive Game Balls: Junior Dog linebacker Danny Spond played his best game as a member of the Irish. In just his second career start, Spond, who missed most of August camp and the first two games of the season with a migraine condition that required hospitalization, tallied a career-best seven stops, along with a forced fumble and pass breakup.

"Danny Spond played very well," said head coach Brian Kelly. "He played in space, which is difficult for a 250-pound linebacker, played physical, was able to set the edge. As you know, it's so important against a guy like (Denard Robinson) to set the edge. I think there was one time on a bubble in the fourth quarter where the ball got outside him, but other than that, he was on point."

Spond's classmate, junior cornerback Bennett Jackson, led the irish with nine tackles while adding a fumble recovery and interception, his third and fourth turnovers created through four games.

The Irish defensive front starred again, registering 16 stops with three sacks and a QB hurry. Michigan runners were limited to 3.9 yards per carry on the evening, albeit a season-high vs. the stout Irish front seven.

Special Teams MVP: Kyle Brindza

A backup to senior Nick Tausch at the start of the 2012 season, Brindza has connected on six consecutive field goals since shanking his first attempt early in Game Two vs. Purdue. Brindza hit on kicks of 33 and 39 yards Saturday night, the latter providing a 13-3 edge with 6:24 remaining.

Unsung Play of the Day

Michigan's rushing attack earned its keep vs. the Irish defense in the third quarter Saturday night, churning out 91 rushing yards on its first two possessions of the second half. But the Wolverines managed but three points on the two extended drives, with one turnover courtesy a diving forced fumble by Danny Spond, who stripped quarterback Denard Robinson of the football after the latter had hit the right edge for a 5-yard gain and what would have been a first down at the Irish 10-yard line.

It was Robinson's fifth turnover of the evening and eighth against the Irish defense over the last two matchups.

The Numbers Game

Notre Dame intercepted five consecutive Michigan pass attempts to conclude the first half, four from the arm of quarterback Denard Robinson and one on a half-back pass from Vincent Smith. Smith's pass was picked off by true freshman safety Nicky Baratti; it was the first theft of Baratti's four-game career...

- Notre Dame is 4-0 for the first time since 2002 and just the fifth time in the last 30 years...

- The Irish have won back-to-back games vs. ranked teams for the first time since Charlie Weis' first two games in 2005, a 42-16 win at #23 Pittsburgh and 17-10 victory over #3 Michigan in Ann Arbor.

- Notre Dame's defense provided the offense with starting field position at the Michigan 17, 39, and 48-yard lines in the first half but the Irish managed just 10 points (and an interception) on the three drives. Michigan started once in Irish territory, the Notre Dame 10-yard line following an interception of Everett Golson's first pass, but the Wolverines failed to score, missing a 35-yard field goal attempt wide right...

- Saturday was the fifth time in the last six games Notre Dame scored two touchdowns or fewer, the season-opening win over Navy in Dublin the exception. The Irish managed one touchdown in the 2011 home finale vs. Boston College; two at Stanford to conclude the regular season, and two in the 18-14 bowl loss to Florida State, though one was a defensive score.

Notre Dame likewise scored two touchdowns vs. Purdue two weeks ago before finishing with another pair, both in the second quarter, against Michigan State. The Irish breached the end zone once vs. Michigan, a two-yard run by Tommy Rees…

- The Irish offense has converted just four of its last 23 third-down conversion attempts, but its final two third-down chances Saturday proved successful to secure victory….

- Notre Dame is now 18-3 under Brian Kelly when leading after three quarters…

- The Irish defense limited Michigan to 299 yards of total offense. The Wolverines had 340 yards in the final 17 minutes of last year's comeback win over Notre Dame in Ann Arbor.

- Irish defensive end Stephon Tuitt recorded his sixth sack of the season while OLB/DE hybrid Prince Shembo picked up his third...

- Notre Dame intercepted 1/5 of Michigan's 25 pass attempts Saturday evening.


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