Notre Dame Football Game Recap: Irish Defense Best On Field

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 01: Jafar Armstrong #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium on September 1, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 01: Jafar Armstrong #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Michigan Wolverines at Notre Dame Stadium on September 1, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The renewal of Notre Dame Football’s rivalry with Michigan lived up to the hype. In the end, it was Notre Dame’s defense that ruled the day.

For Notre Dame football, the offense rolled early, and the defense rolled all game.

Notre Dame’s offense started off hot and cooled late, but the defense was outstanding all game long. Michigan Quarterback Shea Patterson was stymied all game by the Irish pressure.

Michigan made it interesting with a touchdown late in the fourth, but time was not in the Wolverines’ favor. The Irish defense needed to make one more stop to seal the deal, and when the did, they called upon one of their senior leaders. One thing was clear: At least for tonight, Notre Dame’s defense was the best unit on the field–better than Michigan’s.

First Half Highlights

Notre Dame got the ball to start the game after Michigan deferred, and Chip Long’s offense was ready for the challenge. Brandon Wimbush led a great first drive highlighted by a big third down conversion on the third play of the game. He went on to throw a nice fade route to Miles Boykin, and picked up a healthy chunk on the ground after a facemask penalty. One play later, Book handed to Jafar Armstrong and he took it the rest of the way for a 13 yard score.

The defense also came out of the gates hot. Michigan picked up one first down, but held on third down with nice gap pressure from Jerry Tillery and Daelin Hayes to force a Michigan punt.

The Irish offense wasn’t done just yet. Backed into their own end zone followed by a nice punt by Michigan, Wimbush called upon Alize Mack. Notre Dame has big receivers and in the first half they used them to their advantage. Mack went up over a few Michigan defenders, made a terrific grab, and took a big hit along with it. Fifteen extra yards were tacked on and Michigan safety Josh Metellus was ejected from the game for targeting. A few play later, Wimbush launched a ball into the end zone and Chris Finke went up over two defensive backs for a touchdown. 14-0 Notre Dame early on.

Again, the Notre Dame defense held. Michigan was driving and within field goal range, but a Khalid Kareem sack took quarterback Shea Patterson and the Michigan offense out of field goal range.

After a three and out by the Notre Dame offense, senior punter and captain Tyler Newsome shanked a punt and set up Michigan with some more good field position. Fortunately, the Irish defense stiffened and Michigan settled for a field goal. Tillery had a key sack on second and goal and Alohi Gilman made a nice pass breakup in the end zone on third. 14-3 good guys.

The offense was able to rebound on the next drive and match the three points with seven. This drive was highlighted by Wimbush’s legs. He showed poise in the pocket and was able to evade pressure. The drive was once again finished off by Ian Book after Wimbush took a late hit, and once again Jafar Armstrong scored on the very next play. 21-3 Irish.

Unfortunately, the score didn’t stay that way for long as Michigan took the next kickoff back for score. Something, Notre Dame fans are far too accustomed to over the last several years. 21-10 Haftime lead.

Second Half Highlights

The second half was much of the same for the Michigan offense, but the Notre Dame offense followed suit. A 21-10 halftime lead screamed that this game could very well reach the 30’s, but the teams had other plans. This turned into the defense battle many expected.

On the first play of the second half, Patterson found an open receiver down the field. That would turn out to be the longest play for Michigan all game. The Irish defense in their own end, and Michigan welcomed special team issues of their own. A botched snap by the holder, and Michigan walked away with no points.

Notre Dame would give up the ball soon after. Wimbush was pressured and threw one up for Chase Claypool. The ball floated out of his reach and ended up in the hands of a Wolverine player.

This turned out to be a tale of two halves. The Notre Dame defense would instantly jump on the Michigan offense. Great pressure by Jerry Tillery and outstanding pursuit by Asmar Bilal forced Michigan into a hole on second down. Drue Tranquill come up big on third down and Michigan failed on a fourth down conversion attempt.

Both offenses started to struggle until late in the third. Wimbush found his legs again. On 3rd and 22, Chip Long called a QB draw and Wimbush took off running. He picked up the first down and tad more and suddenly the offense was in business. The Irish QB would once again show off his poise and legs evading a free Michigan rusher to find Chase Claypool down the sideline for a first down. A few play later, an illegal receiver down the field penalty would come back to haunt the Irish as Boykin made a great catch in the end zone. They would end up settling for a Justin Yoon 48 yard field goal.

Michigan would get the ball again, and after a nice effort by Shea Patterson to avoid a Bilal sack on first down, he would not be able to avoid Coney on second. Coney forced Patterson to throw earlier than wanted, and the pass was picked off by Julian Okwara.

Both offense would continue to stall (mostly because Kelly played the conservative game). With Patterson the sideline with cramps, backup Dylan McCaffrey was called upon to lead the Michigan offense. He proved to be competent leading Michigan to a few first downs, but the Notre Dame defense would once again force a turnover on downs.

Notre Dame allowed Michigan to get back into the game late with a touchdown just over two minutes to play, but when it mattered most the Notre Dame senior leaders came through. Up by 7 and under a minute to play, Tillery would force a fumble and Coney jumped on the ball.

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Game. Set. Match. Notre Dame is victorious, and Michigan remains winless on the road against ranked teams under Jim Harbaugh.