Notre Dame’s performance was underwhelming on Saturday night under the lights in Notre Dame Stadium. However, it got the job done. The Fighting Irish definitely did several positive things on Saturday that allowed them to emerge victorious over the Wolverines of Michigan. Here are some that stuck out to me:
Notre Dame’s Pass Defense
Heading into this season, every Notre Dame fan knew that the weakness of the team was its pass coverage. In the beginning of the season, Notre Dame would start two inexperienced Cornerbacks and two experienced Safeties. Furthermore, the Irish had no depth whatsoever in the Secondary. So far, the Secondary has played very well despite an injury to defensive leader Jamoris Slaughter. On Saturday night, the Fighting Irish held Michigan to 138 yards passing while recording 5 interceptions. Part of the success has been the Defensive Line’s constant pressure on the Quarterback. But to the credit of the Secondary, they have not been beaten deep and have tackled well. This season, Notre Dame’s Defense ranks 23rd with 178.8 passing yards allowed per game.
Notre Dame continues its trend of winning the turnover battle in each game this season. The Michigan game was no different. The Irish turned over Michigan six times while only giving the ball up two times themselves. Currently, the Fighting Irish rank 6th in the country in turnover margin with a positive 2.25 margin per game. If you can recall, Notre Dame was near the bottom of this category last year.
Notre Dame also continued its success of hurrying the Quarterback on Saturday. Denard Robinson’s interceptions were a direction correlation to the pass rush of the Fighting Irish. Sheldon Day, Prince Shembo and Stephon Tuitt all recorded sack on Saturday night. Te’o, Lewis-Moore and Fox all added Quarterback hurries. These forced Michigan’s Offense into mistakes and lead to an Irish victory. Notre Dame ranks 8th in the nation with 3.5 sacks per game.
Tommy Rees’ Performance
Looking for a positive on the Offensive side of the ball is extremely difficult. However, Tommy Rees’ slow and steady performance was a positive. The reason Brian Kelly made the move from Golson to Rees was that he knew Notre Dame merely needed to manage the game to be successful. In his mind, Rees was the player who could do that. Rees executed masterfully. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 115 yards. He did not turn the ball over. Rees was responsible for the only Notre Dame touchdown on Saturday. Rees’ 38 yard pass to Tyler Eifert late in the game sealed the deal for Notre Dame. Unfortunately, Rees’ will not get much of the credit because he is not flashy or probably the person who could lead Notre Dame to the next level. But, on Saturday, he was exactly what they need him to be, consistent.