The buzz heading into Saturday's game was all about offense. How can the Irish stop Michigan's multiple playmakers? How can Michigan's suspect defense tame the masterful Charlie Weis?
Call a man out and he'll stand up and fight and that's just what happened on Saturday. The Irish defense, likely tired of hearing how suspect they were, stepped up in a huge way for Notre Dame and carried the Irish to victory, and that's the best news any Irish fan could hope for.
Heading into the season most of my concerns were with the defense. I think we all felt the offense would be fine, but I don't think many of us knew what to expect from the defense.
Inexperience, depth issues, and questions about the level of talent were all concerns for many on the defensive side of the ball. But worry not says defensive coordinator Rick Minter and his defensive staff.
This Irish group plays with a familiar passion—the same passion we witnessed in 2002. When the chips are down, somebody steps up and makes a big play and the Irish had plenty of guys on defense who stepped up and made a big play on Saturday.
Time and time again the Irish defense held Michigan and each time they stepped on the field you likely had the same feeling I had…."oh no."
Who would've ever thought Notre Dame could hold this Michigan team to just 10 points on their home field? Truth be known, I doubt even Minter himself felt that was possible.
But I think that says it all about this Charlie Weis-run team….discipline and yeah, "nasty." Weis threw the word out there from the get-go and I think some thought it was cliché.
I think this Irish defense made believers out the Wolverines yesterday, and they're likely feeling the effect of "nasty" this morning. They also made a believer out of me.
This defensive unit isn't the most talented in the country, but they're going to give you every ounce of effort they have in them, and that likely will be enough to win many of their remaining games.
So how good is this team? Are we witnessing the same smoke and mirrors show we saw in 2002?
We shouldn't get carried away with our euphoria with this team just yet. Notre Dame still has problems as they showed yesterday. Weis' brilliant game plans don't amount to a hill of beans if the Irish players can't execute them. Rick Minter's schemes and blitz packages won't matter if they're not properly executed.
Notre Dame still has most of the same players out there from a 6-6 team last year. They're not the biggest, fastest, strongest or best team in the country at this point, but nobody can doubt their effort after Saturday's game--this Irish team came to play.
Weis has convinced me of one thing so far early in his tenure as Notre Dame's head man---he'll put a team out there that Irish fans can be proud of. And I think that's all Irish fans have been asking for, anyway.