Notre Dame fans experienced football déjà vu on Saturday.
For the second year in a row, the Michigan Wolverines scored a go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of play. With 27 seconds left on the game clock, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson sealed the come-from-behind victory with a two-yard touchdown run, sending Notre Dame fans home disappointed.
Irish fans had strong hopes for victory earlier in the quarter after quarterback Dayne Crist connected with Kyle Rudolph for a 95-yard touchdown pass with 3:41 left in the game that put Notre Dame ahead 24-21.
Sophomore Michael Schultz said the energy inside the stadium after the touchdown was electric.
“I almost fell off the railing from jumping up when Notre Dame scored,” he said. “It was wild.”
Sophomore Emily Hefferon said she felt the touchdown gave Notre Dame a shot at victory, but once the Wolverines got the ball back things started to turn for the worse for the Irish.
“When Rudolph scored our last touchdown, I felt pure euphoria,” she said. “But once Michigan started moving the ball I started to feel dread. It was like we couldn’t get over the hump of those final minutes.”
Even though there was time left on the clock, Schultz said he knew the Michigan touchdown had sealed Notre Dame’s fate.
“They did not leave us with enough time to score. It was like, ‘Wow, this just happened two years in a row,'” he said.
The Irish looked sharp on the first offensive series, which ended when Crist ran the ball into the end zone for a touchdown. However, Crist had to leave the game for the rest of the first half after experiencing blurry vision in his right eye. Schultz said Irish fans experienced unnecessary confusion when they realized Crist was not behind the center the next time Notre Dame had the ball.
“We didn’t know why all of a sudden [freshman quarterback] Tommy Rees was in,” he said. “The stadium needs to announce what is going on because no one had any idea why Crist was out.”
Junior John Rozema was initially scared not only for the result of the game, but for the well- being of Crist.
“I was worried about Crist. I thought he was seriously injured,” he said. “He had his helmet off with the baseball cap on, and he just seemed very far away from the action.”
Rozema also said it might not have necessarily been a good idea to bring back Crist in the second half.
“I don’t know much about injuries, but it seemed like Notre Dame was taking a lot of risks with their players,” he said. “There was a run by Crist that just looked dangerous. If he had been seriously injured, that could have ended our season.”
Michigan led coming out of halftime 21-7, and Hefferon said initially she felt things could only get worse for the Irish.
“Going into halftime, Michigan had all the momentum,” she said. “I didn’t think it was going to be close. I thought for sure, we were going to lose.”
Hefferon said part of the reason people seemed to be dreading the outcome of the game after the first half was the lack of tenacity by Notre Dame after Crist left.
“Michigan was on the ball the whole way,” she said. “I just didn’t see as much of an effort from Notre Dame in the first half.”
However, Notre Dame scored 10 points on a touchdown and a field goal in the third quarter. After the downpours prior to the game and the overcast skies through the first half, the skies begin to clear. Junior Katie Carter said the play of the Fighting Irish in the second half was more upbeat, which coincided with the change in weather.
“Michigan had the momentum for a while. But when the sun came out and hit the stadium, and we started to score, it just felt like we were meant to win,” she said.
The final run by Robinson capped off an amazing day for the Michigan quarterback, who set a school record for total offense with 502 yards. Despite Robinson’s play, Hefferon felt the Notre Dame defense played well.
“Denard Robinson was moving the ball fast, but I was impressed with our defense, especially compared to last year,” she said “There were a lot of close defensive plays that we came out on top of.”
Carter, however, said while Robinson seemed to be putting his success on the field ahead of his teams.
“Denard Robinson is talented, but he seemed like a ball hog. He was selfish, like he thought he should be doing everything,” she said. “Notre Dame played more like a team.”
Notre Dame had one final series to score, but on the last play Crist tossed the ball long into the stands.
Rozema said while the final play left a bitter aftertaste, he is looking forward to the next Notre Dame game against Michigan State.
“Obviously that last throw that ended the game from Crist that landed in the audience, that was soul-crushing,” he said. “We will come back strong next week against Michigan State.”