Notre Dame Football: 19 Observations as Irish Hang on Against Michigan

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 01: Zach Gentry #83 and Khalid Kareem #53 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a 24-17 win over 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: Zach Gentry #83 and Khalid Kareem #53 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a 24-17 win over 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 rivalry with Michigan was all it was built up to be. Luckily for the Irish fans, the Irish were able to hang on for the 24-17 win.

Notre Dame football raised a few eyebrows Saturday night. The Irish jumped out to a 14-0 lead after just two offensive drives. The Irish were only able to muster 10 points the rest of the game, but that was enough to hold off the Wolverines. Here are 19 final thoughts for 19 rushing attempts for Notre Dame quarterback, Brandon Wimbush.

  1. Brandon Wimbush played very well in this game. At halftime, he was 10/15 for 150 yards. While his passing numbers in the second half weren’t great (2/7 for 20 yards), they don’t show the story of how he was able to manage the game, even under duress.
  2. Wimbush was effective with his feet, converting multiple third downs, including a quarterback draw on 3rd and 16.
  3. Brandon’s best throw actually didn’t count. In the third quarter, with the Irish leading 21-10, Wimbush hit Miles Boykin on a beautiful back shoulder throw for a touchdown. But the play was negated for an illegal man downfield.
  4. Wimbush’s second half passing struggles aren’t an indictment of the second-year starter, however. Michigan’s defensive line began to exert their will, stopping the run and abusing Notre Dame’s young tackles. Wimbush was able to manufacture just enough to keep Notre Dame’s head above water.
  5. Speaking of the offensive line, while it wasn’t awful, it wasn’t great, either. We knew points and yards would be hard to come by. Luckily for Notre Dame, that’s likely the best defensive line that Notre Dame will face all year.
  6. Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool were both really good for Notre Dame. They often didn’t have much time to work themselves open, but both made crucial plays throughout the game.
  7. Chris Finke, Notre Dame’s trusty slot receiver, elevated for a ball over Michigan’s backup safety Brad Hawkins. The play came two plays after a huge catch by tight end Alize Mack, which ended in a targeting call and subsequent ejection for starting safety Josh Metellus.
  8. Jafar Armstrong got the bulk of the carries for Irish running backs, coming as somewhat of a surprise. Armstrong looked like a natural runner, scoring two touchdowns. Look for Armstrong to tear up some lesser defenses in the coming weeks.
  9. But it wasn’t the offense that won this game for the Irish. It was the play of the defense.
  10. At one point late in the third quarter, it sure felt like Notre Dame was hanging on for dear life.
  11. Throughout the game, the Irish pass rush was impressive. Khalid Kareem, Daelin Hayes, and Jerry Tillery all stood out.
  12. So did pass rush specialist Julian Okwara, who actually made his biggest play in this game by intercepting a pass while dropping into coverage. Te’Von Coney provided pressure on the play.
  13. Speaking of Coney, he was fantastic. He wasn’t flashy, but his sheer strength and ability to avoid blockers is something to behold. If you watch the game again, watch Coney. He’s in on pretty much every play.
  14. Speaking of guys who were in on every play, I’ve gotta mention Alohi Gilman. The guy is a sure tackler and he diagnoses plays very quickly. He’s an unbelievable upgrade at safety.
  15. Outside of Gilman, Irish defensive backfield wasn’t fantastic, but it didn’t matter because Notre Dame’s pass rush was able to make their lives a lot easier. Though we didn’t hear Julian Love or Troy Pride’s name called a lot, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing.
  16. Many will criticize Brian Kelly for being overly conservative in the fourth quarter. That might be fair, but given the way Notre Dame’s tackles were struggling and the way Notre Dame’s defense was playing, I think he managed the game well.
  17. Outside of one interception, Notre Dame avoided major mistakes.
  18. Michigan, however, did not avoid mistakes, and that’s why the game ended the way it did. Michigan botched a snap on a field goal and Shea Patterson turned the ball over two times, including a fumble that sealed the game with 46 seconds left.
  19. Injury-wise, Notre Dame came away from this game pretty clean. Khalid Kareem rolled his ankle, but returned to play.

dark. Next. Notre Dame Defense is Best on the Field

Notre Dame is back at home next week against Ball State. Luckily for the Irish, the Cardinals don’t present the same type of challenge.