Despite being out gained 337-244, the Irish thwarted the Wolverines offense in the red zone time and time again to give Weis and his team a 17-10 upset victory over third-ranked Michigan Saturday afternoon. In front of over 111,000 fans, Notre Dame (2-0) snapped the home team's 16-game winning streak at the Big House by building a lead and hanging on for deal life at the end. But it was the Irish defense that was the story of the game.
"This one feels really good mainly because everyone had this game pegged as an offensive team versus an offensive team," Weis said. "Like I told these guys this morning, you never know how the game is going to be played. I told them this might be a 10-9 game when all is said and done. I think for the way it played out, I'm really happy for our kids. They're starting to figure it out. That's a really happy locker room and they deserve it."
With Notre Dame on to a 17-3 lead with just over four minutes left, Michigan quarterback Chad Henne fired a 25-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham, cutting the lead to 17-10. The Wolverines (1-1) almost got a break when Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn fumbled the ball on the next possession deep in their own territory. But the play was rightfully overturned by the instant replay booth to the dismay of the student body, who hurled debris onto the field. Michigan received the ball in good field position at their own 42 but could not gain a first down as they turned the ball back over and the Notre Dame celebration began.
"I'm so proud of everyone today, especially the defense," Darius Walker said, who ran for 114 yards on 26 carries, his second straight game of over 100 yards. "They had all the power will today and we kind of just fed off their energy. It's a great for the win. We're all excited. We came in. We knew we could do it and we got it done."
Henne was frustrated all day long. The sophomore gained most of his passing yards in the fourth quarter and finished 19-of-44 for 223 yards, a touchdown and a costly interception. He fumbled a quarterback sneak at the goal line that was recovered by Notre Dame's Chinedum Ndukwe with 5:21 left and badly overthrew Jason Avant on a fade pattern on fourth-and-goal from the five-yard line earlier in the fourth quarter. After receiving the opening kickoff in the second half and down 14-3, Henne drove the team down to the Irish 12 before badly under throwing a receiver in the end zone and getting picked off by the Notre Dame's Tom Zbikowski, stalling the Wolverines' current momentum.
"It was a poor decision," Henne said of his interception. "I figured they would have man-to-man coverage on Tyler (Ecker). I figured he would cross his space, but the safety made a great play.
"I didn't play up to my ability. There were a lot of opportunities out there, and I didn't execute."
The Irish did not waste anytime picking up where they left off last weekend. After electing to receive the opening kickoff, Brady Quinn hit Rhema McKnight on a slant for a 5-yard touchdown pass for a 7-0 lead. Quinn went no-huddle for the entire drive with mostly three wide receiver sets to keep the Wolverines off balance. The drive was 12 plays but only consumed 2:58 off the clock. Notre Dame killed the Michigan defense on first downs, gaining 6 or more yards five of six times on the down and did not face a third-down on the drive.
"I wanted to take the crowd out of the game," Weis said about the no-huddle offense. "You'll notice this was a no-huddle offense, not a hurry up offense. That's two different things. This was so I didn't have guys not hear the play in the huddle. All the skill guys had wrist bands on so all we had to do was signal in the play and Brady can pass on out from there. It was so we could take the noise out of the game."
A 30-yard run by speedster Steve Breaston, his only big play of the game, set up Garrett Rivas's 38-yard field goal early in the second quarter to make it 7-3 Notre Dame. On the drive, star running back Michael Hart was knocked out of the game and did not see further action the rest of the day because of a hamstring problem. Hart finished with four yards on three carries while his backup, freshman Kevin Grady, ended up with 18 carries for 79 yards.
Notre Dame responded with another 12-play drive, once again using the no-huddle and a lot of three wide sets. Quinn, who finished the day 19-of-30 for 140 yards and two touchdowns, hit Jeff Samardzija with a 5-yard scoring pass on a play action fake to Rashon Powers-Neal. The throw was tipped at the line by Michigan linebacker Chris Graham but the big 6-5 junior pulled it down to extend the Notre Dame lead to 14-3. Darius Walker had the big plays of the drive, breaking off consecutive runs of 14 and 17 yards to move the Irish into red-zone territory where they capitalized two plays later.
McKnight got banged up on the drive. The senior wide receiver was running a post pattern when his leg got caught in ground and then was hit by a Michigan defender. TV replays showed his leg bending back awkwardly and he did not return to the game.