The Turning Point…Holding a 7-0 edge midway through the second quarter, head coach Brian Kelly's Irish offense faced a 4th and 3 from the Michigan 36-yard line. He never wavered.
"I just liked the matchups we had on the outside. They had seven guys standing in there at the line of scrimmage," he offered. "I liked our one-on-one matchups; Everett (Golson) throws the ball well on the outside. When you have a good play call on fourth down, I'm all for using it. So I used it."
"It" was an 11-yard slant to Will Fuller to move the sticks, and four plays later, the Irish cashed in, extending their advantage to 14-0 with under four minutes remaining in the half.
They never looked back, and Michigan never recovered.
Offensive MVP -- Everett GolsonTwo games, two such awards, and it's going to be a weekly challenge to unseat the senior triggerman from this perch.
Golson owned the first half and helped manage the second, first staking his squad to a 21-0 advantage at intermission by hitting on 16 of 21 passes for 169 yards and two scores. His final numbers, 23-34, 226 yards, three touchdowns, and no turnovers illustrate his overall control of the contest.
Unlike last week's win over Rice, Golson inflicted ample damage from the confines of the pocket, hitting a variety of seam, slants, skinny posts, hitch routes to methodically move the ball down field and maintain drives.
Golson's longest completion was just 24 yards, a fade route touchdown after rolling right to always-separating sophomore Will Fuller. Golson added completions of 18, 13, 11, 12, 11, 22, and 12 as well.
Offensive Game BallsFuller was Golson's lead target for the second straight week, catching a career-high nine passes for 89 yards with the aforementioned score. It was Fuller's 24-yard fade route that extended Notre Dame's lead to an untouchable 21-0 just prior to the conclusion of the first half.
Joining Fuller in a breakout effort was senior Amir Carlisle, who scored both the first and second touchdowns of his Irish career. Carlisle's first score gave the Irish a 14-0 lead, securing a third-down out route for the score. His second put the game on ice, a tunnel screen from 12 yards to give Notre Dame it's largest lead over Michigan since 1943, 28-0.
Defensive MVP -- Sheldon DayThe junior defensive tackle dominated the line of scrimmage, finishing with five tackles including one for loss and one for no gain, and with four official quarterback pressures.
He was un-blockable at times (and literally unblocked at others), and along with classmate Jarron Jones, provided the type of consistent interior push that took away Michigan's ability to run the ball between the tackles despite its pair of 220-pound bruisers.
"Our ability to really hold their running game in check allowed us -- once we were really able to get ahold of the run game, and getting (Michigan) to third down, we felt like we were going to be in pretty good shape, because we were able to do a lot of things to confuse what they were seeing," said Kelly.
-- Notre Dame's safeties put forth a polar opposite effort from the shoddy showing of Week One, with junior Elijah Shumate the statistical hero, posting a career-high 10 tackles to go along with a pass breakup a QB hurry, and an interception he returned to conclude the contest for a touchdown. (The score was called back by a roughing the passer penalty but the interception remained.)
Sophomore Max Redfield had far and away the best of his 15 games as a collegian, recording six tackles and an interception, the latter a momentum-changing pick to begin the second half.
-- Junior defensive tackle Jarron Jones authored the best performance of his young career, totaling six tables including one for loss plus a quarterback hurry and a forced fumble that resulted in a loss of 17 yards. Jones had two stops after one-yard gains, two first hits in the backfield, and a tackle after three yards that ensured quarterback Devin Gardner would not escape for first down yardage.
-- Michigan had not been shut out since October 27, 1984, a streak of 365 games, longest in FBS history. Saturday night was the first time Notre Dame shut out Michigan in 42 meetings.
Special Teams MVP -- Kyle BrindzaSix kickoffs, five through the back of the end zone, the other returned for a mere 16 yards. (To date this season, 12 of Brindza's 15 kickoffs have been touchbacks.) Add to that six punts Saturday night, two pinned inside the 20-yard line including one at the shadow of the Wolverines goal and it's clear that the senior triple-threat was chief among reasons Notre Dame owned a decisive field position edge throughout the contest.
Brindza made good on his only field goal attempt, a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter.