The Irish offense flirted much of the first half with offensive success, including a six-play, 59-yard drive that landed the Irish on the Michigan one-yard line, only to have their hopes crushed on a Michigan goal-line stand that left the Irish scoreless on fourth and one.
The Wolverines offense also missed some opportunities, settling for three field goals in the first half to leave the field at half with just a 9-0 lead.
The Irish offense came out of the locker room in the second half on a mission, and put the ball in the hands of freshman running back Darius Walker. The talented freshman was the spark the Irish offense needed as he picked up a first down on Notre Dame's first possession.
Notre Dame offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick then went for broke on a Quinn 46-yard bomb to senior Matt Shelton to give the Irish their first points of the game, and narrowing the lead to 9-7 early in the third quarter.
The Wolverines responded with 5:57 left in the third quarter, capitalizing on a Brady Quinn interception. Wolverine kicker Garrett Rivas connected on a 47-yard field goal to extend the Wolverine lead 12-7.
The Irish defense then forced with their own turnover and picked off freshman Chad Henne to give the Irish the ball on the Michigan 29-yard line.
Darius Walker then picked up his first touchdown of his career with a four-yard scamper to the right corner of the end zone, giving the Irish their first lead of the game, 14-12.
The Irish defense then forced a Michigan three-and-out offensive series and senior tight end Jerome Collins blocked the Michigan punt, giving the Irish the ball on the Michigan five-yard line.
The Irish turned to Walker again and he responded with his second touchdown of the day, dancing to the outside again to extend the Irish lead, 21-12.
Notre Dame later extended their lead to 28-12 on a Brady Quinn 8-yard pass to Rashon Powers-Neal in the fourth quarter to secure the Irish win.
The Irish defense had an outstanding day, allowing the Wolverines just 56 yards on 30 carries, and also forced three turnovers.
"We tackled better today, and that was our plan," said Irish defensive coordinator Kent Baer. "We knew they were going to get little routes, we wanted to keep the ball in front of us and just make sure we swarmed and tackled."
While the Irish played about as well as anyone could've hoped for, Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham was cautious to say the victory meant anything other than one victory.
"Please understand, this is still just one football game," said Willingham after the victory. "There's still a lot of improvement we have to make if we're going to be the team I expect us to be."
The good news on the day was the Notre Dame offense scored three touchdowns in four redzone opportunities—something they haven't been able to do in quite some time.
They also responded with 135 rushing yards after their dismal showing of 11 rushing yards at BYU last weekend. Irish defensive coordinator Bill Diedrick was pleased with his unit's effort throughout the game.
"I thought our kids played hard," Diedrick said after the game. "I thought they played well. We knew it was going to be a physical game, and I think our kids answered the bell."
The Irish offense came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, and the spark that lit the fire was Walker.
Walker finished the day with 115 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns and helped the Irish end their four-game losing streak against top 10 teams.
"I think Darius stepped in and played extremely well," Diedrick said. "(He) gave us a little bit of a dimension we did not have a week ago."
Willingham also agreed with Walker's effort lifting the team's confidence. "He gave us a spark," Willingham said. "The right person at the right time can give you that spark that every one feeds of off."
Walker said he was just happy to get the opportunity for his first action as a Notre Dame player.
"When I didn't get a chance to play the first game, I didn't really get down," Walker said. "The bad thing was that we lost. That was the main thing. I'm about the team winning. I got the opportunity today and I tried to seize it."
Irish quarterback Brady Quinn didn't have his best day of his career, fishing 10 of 20 for 178 yards and three interceptions, but he did throw two touchdowns when his team needed big plays from the Irish sophomore.
The Irish are now 1-1 on the season and will turn their attention to their next game against Michigan State. The Irish will travel to East Lansing, Mich. to try to avenge last year's 22-16 Spartan victory at Notre Dame Stadium.