The problems began after the Irish offensive struggled early. The Irish went three-and-out on their first two series before Nick Setta punted to Michigan's Steve Breaston at the Michigan 43 yard line. Breaston took the punt straight up field down to the Irish 2 yard line. The nation's leading rusher--Chris Perry--then crashed through the middle and the heart of the Irish defense on the next play to give the Wolverines the 7-0 lead--something Perry seemed to do all day.
The Wolverines went on to pound the Irish defense for 82 yards rushing, 166 yards passing and 17 points in the first half as the Irish offense continued to struggle to make first downs.
The second half was much the same as the Irish went three-and-out after receiving the second half kickoff. Punter Nick Setta then punted the ball out of bounds to the Notre Dame 36. It was then all Chris Perry who took off for runs of 27 yards and nine yards scoring another six for the Wolverines. The drive lasted all of 39 seconds before the Irish were quickly down 24-0.
The Wolverines would march on to score two more touchdowns including a grueling and record-setting 13 minute and 26 second, 19-play drive that broke the will of the Irish.
In the end, the Irish could not find an answer on offense or defense for the very talented Michigan team.
Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham was extremely disappointed in his team's effort on Saturday. "I don't think there's anything we can take positively from this game. We were out-played, out-coached, out-everythinged. It's a team effort. You don't lose like this and be able to point a finger at any particular area. We were not strong in any area."
The Irish offense managed just 52 total yards at half and 140 for the game. The limping Irish offense just can't seem to find an answer. "I don't really know what's wrong," said starting quarterback Carlyle Holiday. "All I know is that we didn't do what we needed to do today. For us to be successful, we really need to pick it up."
Willingham agreed when asked what the biggest problem on offense is right now. "The biggest problem is we didn't score points and didn't get yardage," Willingham said.
Holiday hasn't been able to get into a grove in both Irish games so far. Holiday said the offense just can't seem to get it together. "All I know is, especially me, personally I didn't do what I needed to do to win today and maybe have to get everything straight along every part of the offense. I mean, there is credit to Michigan but I think that we shot ourselves in the foot again today."
The Wolverine defense harassed Holiday and shut down the running game all day. Holiday says their pressure is no excuse for the way he and his team played. "They clamped us down but I mean we still have to be able to execute in those situations and we were never able to do that," said Holiday. "I took a lot away from us on the offensive game plan. So I seriously think we have to pick it up in order to win the rest of our ball games."
Holiday was benched in the fourth quarter for freshman Brady Quinn. "I understood the situation. I wasn't being very productive on the offensive side of the ball. Coach told me what to do. He told me to sit on the sideline and watching from that perspective."
Holiday finished the game 5-for-14 with one interception and 55 passing yards. Quinn didn't fare much better going 3-for-10 with one interception and 36 passing yards.
Willingham said his philosophy has always been the same and that goes for quarterback as well. "We'll play the best player," said Willingham when asked if there was a quarterback controversy on his team.
Is Brady Quinn the now instead of the future? "Potentially, but not yet," Willingham said.
Offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said Holiday is his quarterback. "There's not even a concern of that," said Diedrick. He also said he expects Holiday to start against Michigan State. "Oh, no question."
Diedrick said his offense couldn't find a groove from the very beginning. "They got us out of our game plan and we got out of our game plan," said Diedrick on why the offense struggled. "We weren't able to execute and do the things we wanted to, especially early. That kind of put us back on our heels and from then on we could never really get anything started. They were playing very good and we weren't doing anything to help ourselves."
Diedrick told Irish Eyes last week that he expects every team to force Notre Dame to beat them through the air and Diedrick said Michigan was no different. "I think so, probably after the first quarter they said ‘hey, let's load the box and force Carlyle to beat us' and today we were not capable of doing that."
The offense looked inept early against Washington State but came together in the second half. At Michigan, they never got on track. Diedrick said his offense took a step back in this game. "Anytime you don't score any points and you're not very effective in anything, I think it's always probably a step backwards. We've got to regroup and we play the Spartans next week."
Starting center Bob Morton said his team didn't play hard enough to win on Saturday. "Today we didn't play. We didn't fight as hard. Today they were better than us. It's tough, we'll live to play another day. It's going to be a long bus ride home."
As bad as the Irish offense played on Saturday, the biggest surprise was the confused Irish defense. The defense had been the strength of this team but Michigan exposed every weakness.
Starting linebacker Courtney Watson was disappointed with the effort of the team as a whole. "The way we came out and played today they were established before we even started playing," Watson said. "There is nothing else to say really besides that we played a horrible game. It was obvious to anyone watching the game that we didn't come to compete today."
Watson also said he had no idea what the problem was with the defense. "I have no idea; hopefully we'll find that out before the next game. We've got to do a lot of soul-searching. Obviously the players just didn't come to play today. To get shut out, not scoring any points and give up 38 points is embarrassing."Defensive Tackle Darrell Campbell was very frustrated but he said the team needs to find the answers quickly. "I can't even say," said Campbell on what was wrong with the defense. "It was one of those games. The only thing you can do now is go back, look at film, correct the mistakes that were made and come out next week."
Nose guard Cedric Hilliard agreed with Campbell. He said he wants the team to forget about this loss and focus on the next game. "Get back into our routine of things-focus on beating Michigan State next week," said Hilliard on how to fix the problems. "Can't have anybody holding their heads down and everybody has to come out, stay confident and realize that we can still be a pretty good team."
The Wolverines dominated the Irish in every facet of the game. The Irish were out-played on offense, defense and special teams and the score undoubtedly showed that. It's understandable for the offense to struggle early considering their losses along the offensive line. The defense has a solid nucleus of talent that beat many of the same players last year in South Bend. The result of this game left us scratching our heads in bewilderment.