News and Notes

SOUTH BEND- *Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis said on Tuesday that the Irish-Michigan contest would be a physical one. Michigan entered the game averaging 249 yards per game on the ground and a deep stable of running backs.

Weis was right. The Wolverines pounded the ball 41 times on the ground compared to 22 passes. The 41 attempts totaled 120 yards. But it's the number of carries that's important. Michigan controlled the clock for 34 minutes compared to the Irish's 26.

Michael Hart got redemption on Saturday by running for 124 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. The junior back injured himself during last season's game and was never the same in 2005. Against Notre Dame, Hart was back to form. Michigan used a variety of different runs to make the rush attack successful.

"I think they did a nice job of tweaking their running game because to date they hadn't spent a whole heck of a lot of time on inside run," Weis said. "It's been almost all stretch. It's been almost all outside zone with an occasional cut back.

"Today especially, you know, they intertwined those backs, they got them both going. Hart really had a big day. Rushed for 125 yards or whatever it was. I think they got that inside run game going, a nice complement to the outside zone stretch play they've been running.

"Today I thought they did a nice job of complementing the inside run with the outside zone. I think that opened up some holes. Not that you're not ready for it. But, remember, last year they were a pounder counter team. This year they've been a stretch team. They added those isolation inside runs today which I thought was a nice complement to what they've been doing."

"We knew they were going to do inside zones and outside zones," Travis Thomas said, who registered three tackles and a sack on aturday. "We kind of neutralized the outside zones and took advantage of some draws and things up the middle. But maybe they saw some things they liked in our defensive schemes and took advantage of it."

"They got some creases in there," defensive end Victor Abiamiri said. "They have an experienced offensive line. They got a bunch of big guys up there."

*The big play consistently beat the Notre Dame defense last season. Through the first two games, the Irish had been successful in preventing the 40-yard touchdown run or pass. On Saturday, Michigan exploited the 2005 weakness in big fashion.

The first instance was in the first quarter when Wolverine wide receiver Mario Manningham got behind Irish corner Ambrose Wooden down the right sideline. Chad Henne lofted a perfect pass to him for a 69-yard touchdown to give Michigan a 13-7 advantage. Manningham would burn Notre Dame twice more for touchdown receptions of 20 and 22 yards, both on the Irish's Terrail Lambert. It helped Wolverines build an insurmountable 34-7 lead.

"Mario was excellent today," Henne said. "All spring and summer, we were practicing the deep ball and one-on-one routes and today he showed his talent. You can't match up with him one-on-one because he's too fast."

"Anytime you give up a big play, it hurts," Travis Thomas said. "When you give up a series of them, it's hard to come back from. That hurt us today. But that wasn't the only thing that hurt us. It was a team loss just like the two wins before this were team wins."

*Tom Zbikowski did not look like a happy camper after the game. The senior safety and captain of the defense totaled eight tackles in the contest. On special teams, he returned one punt for four yards. Zbikowski did not see this type of performance coming for the team.

"There wasn't any indication," Zbikowski said. "We felt good coming into this game. We felt pretty prepared. The coaches got the players prepared. But the players didn't show up today."

*The 26-point loss is the largest in the year-plus Weis era. The other three defeats have been by three, one and seven points. The Michigan defeat had a different feel to it because the outcome was not in doubt in the fourth quarter. As is customary after a defeat, Weis doesn't start publicly pointing fingers. It would be easy to rip the performance of many of his players. But the Irish head coach always stands tall and looks himself in the mirror first.

"I think the first thing you'd have to do is let the team know that you'll be the first guy to take the responsibility for the loss," Weis said. "I think it's easy from where you are to sit there and say, ‘Well, Quinn, three interceptions, a fumble for a touchdown, that's 24 points.' We can go right down the line. I got the numbers in my head already. But the bottom line is the team wasn't ready to go. Whose responsibility is that? I mean, it's just mine."

*Notre Dame fullback Asaph Schwapp did not play on Saturday. The sophomore has been nursing a knee injury all week in practice. Ashley McConnell filled in his place and made a contribution in the passing game. The senior caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Quinn in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-all.

*Darius Walker could not get a thing established on the ground. The junior back rushed 10 times for 25 yards. The 10 carries is more a product of the Irish being in the comeback mode so early in the contest. The 25 yards was the second fewest of his career. Last season in the BYU win when Weis exploited the Cougars through the air, Walker totaled 17 yards on six carries. Walker did catch seven balls, which ties a career high set last week vs. Penn State and against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl

*Derek Landri blocked a PAT in the first quarter. It was Notre Dame's first blocked PAT since November 21, 1998 against LSU.

*Next week, the Irish travel to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. The Spartans beat Pittsburgh on Saturday 38-23 on the road to improve to 3-0 on the year. Last season, Michigan State came into Notre Dame Stadium and beat the Irish 44-41 in overtime to spoil Weis's home debut. After the win, a Spartan player took a MSU flag and stuck it into the ground at midfield. When asked Saturday after the game about whether or not he'll use any motivation for the Spartan contest, Weis had this moment in the back of his mind.

"There's one incident in particular that I'll use as motivation," Weis said. Top Stories