Sep 7, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (28) carries the ball as Notre Dame Fighting Irish nose tackle Louis Nix (1) and linebacker Jarrett Grace (59) defend in the third quarter at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 41-30. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
This game was puzzling, really, and even harder to understand when you look at the statistical comparisons. The Irish played a cleaner game, averaged over 5 yards per carry, and were better on third down efficiency. There were plenty of negative things to look at in this game, but when I ask myself the following question, the dropped balls, lack of emotion and late penalties weren’t the answer.
Why did the Irish lose under the lights in The Big House?
They got out coached and out schemed, it’s that simple. The lack luster and seemingly emotionless play of the defense is another story entirely; so this isn’t necessarily on the defensive scheme. Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon really played that well.
The problem was the offensive play calling. Michigan ran the ball thirty-nine times, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, leading to their huge advantage in time of possession.
Yes, the Irish defense spotted Michigan ten early points and it made sense to come out aggressive and answer the Wolverines; but it didn’t work. Two early three and outs only amped the enthusiasm from the already electric crowd. Even with the game tied, there was never an attempt to establish a running game in the first half.
Throughout the game, the Irish offensive line showed the ability to make holes and Amir Carlisle looked due to break a big play on the ground. Instead, Carlisle got a few carries here and there, but plays were continuously called for passes in the flat for Atkinson; who may have dipped his gloves in wet cement before kickoff.
Chuck Martin and Brian Kelly called twenty more passes for Rees than Al Borges called for Devin Gardner. Tommy Rees went 29-53 (24 incompletions), leading to twenty-four plays that stopped the clock for Michigan, not wearing down the defense and not playing to the advantage the Irish had in the trenches. On the other hand, Michigan ran the ball twenty more times that the Irish, forcing the Irish defense to chase Gardner and Toussaint while keeping the clock moving. There is no doubt that Kelly has weapons all over his offense, but their biggest advantage is still the strength and experience of the offensive line. When your defense isn’t getting the job done, your running game is your best defense.
This game was lost on the sidelines; the play calling just didn’t make sense. Michigan didn’t win the game because they outplayed the Irish, they won because they took control of the game when the Irish chose not to; they had their chances.
The only thing worse than Notre Dames offensive scheme and lack of adjustments was ESPN choosing to allow Eminem to open his mouth during half time. I hope someone helped him find his way home.