I purposely waited a day to gather my thoughts before writing anything about the Michigan game in an attempt to take the emotion out of it. Needless to say it was a tough loss to take.
I kicked it around with my fellow writers here at OFD via email and discussed the game at length with The Coach over the phone. They all had some great points that I will also try and bring out here.
I typically watch all of the games a second time on Sunday morning because you always see more the second time around. I thought better of it this morning and just deleted the game off of my DVR. In this case I am pretty sure that I already gathered the most important points. No need to relive the frustration.
So one day removed here are my thoughts on the game.
Hat tip to Denard Robinson. To put it simply that kid is serious. If I were to re-write my post on the all time greatest running quarterbacks a few years from now Robinson would probably be in it. He really is that good. Any Wolverine fans that want Dick Rod gone at the end of this season had better start hoping that Denard gets derailed somewhere along the way or he just might put the Wolverines on his back and win a bunch of games this season. I don’t think any other individual player will give ND as much grief as Robinson did on Saturday.
I rounded out my preseason depth analysis on the quarterbacks with the following comment.
An important side note is that Crist, more than any other member of the team, needs to stay healthy throughout the season. The gap between 1 and 2 is significant.
This proved to be true when Crist spent the majority of the first half on the sidelines with vision problems after taking a lick on the opening scoring drive. A serviceable backup is key and it would appear we still have a long way to go there.
I am always in favor of taking the points early in a game. I fully realize that I’m a guy on a couch that doesn’t have the same amount of information to work with that the staff does but that turned out to be one of those "gutsy" calls gone wrong.
The up side for the offense was that despite essentially conceding 8 of 9 first half possessions the Irish still outgained Michigan 535 to 532. I think Crist will eventually be a monster in this offense but I have to remind myself that this game was also his second start. Eric had a great post yesterday on how Dayne is coming along.
Kyle Rudolph is a complete freak. He was damn near unstoppable and the fact that his 95 yard TD to take the lead in the 4th was subsequently overshadowed by losing the game was a major downer. Crist loves finding his big TE and Rudolph is going to have a monster year. I hope it doesn't turn out to be his last.
Armando Allen continues to impress me. He is running harder than ever this season. The offense kind of abandoned the original game plan in the first half then stayed a little pass happy in the 2nd half trying to play catch up. Had they stuck with the original game plan Allen might have done some serious damage. I continue to believe the rushing attack will be the surprise of the season.
I like the thought of getting Duval Kamara more involved and working T.J. Jones in the slot while Riddick continues to work through the transition to receiver.
All things considered I was pleased with the defense. I realize that sounds ridiculous after watching Robinson go nuts but bear with me. With Crist out they essentially spent the entire first half on the field and you just can’t give a kid like Robinson that many chances. His 87 yard TD jaunt with less than 2 minutes remaining in the 1st half was very indicative of that. But the D bounced back and held Michigan scoreless until Robinson sealed the game with a TD plunge with 27 seconds remaining. You have to be able to make that last stop to win the game. They will get there.
As a whole the defense was also laying some licks which is a very positive development this season. I thought Manti Te’o had a good game in the middle with 13 tackles. He settled down some this week. His sidekick Carlo Calabrese also impressed me with 10 of his own. He is another young player with a big up side. The corners continued to tackle well but I felt like they were giving Robinson freebies by lining up with so much cushion. Again, guy on a couch.
If we can continue to get a little better on the edge and at safety I think this defense could be very good in the second half of the season. After two weeks of defending the spread I am very curious to see how they look against the more traditional offenses of Michigan State, Stanford, BC and Pitt. I like their chances.
Before the season started I thought the Irish would go 4-2 through these first six games. I still like their chances of winning 3 of the next 4 and entering the second half with a real chance at finishing with 9 wins. Crist needs to stay healthy and Montana/ Rees must develop quickly.
While it was a tough loss to take the team really did show a lot of guts on Saturday which is big. They put together a great comeback. But Coach Kelly closed out the weekend with a very appropriate quote.
"You learn how to compete for four quarters, you have the confidence that you can win. It ends when you lose. In other words, I’m not going to talk about playing hard anymore, I’m tired of hearing about it. That’s the way we’re going to play no matter what, now we’ve got to win football games. It’s not good enough anymore to talk about, ‘Well, Notre Dame plays hard for four quarters.’ You’ve got to play hard and you’ve got to win."
I like it. I think the days of losing games like this one might be coming to a close. Time will tell. In the mean time let’s get ready for Sparty.