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Rapid Reaction: Wolverines take down Irish in thriller

Joseph Monardo | Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Good: Junior defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt made the play of the game for the Irish early in the fourth quarter. His diving interception in the end zone put Notre Dame within seven when they were all but finished. Senior Irish quarterback Tommy Rees showed the ability to direct the offense, particularly in Notre Dame’s first scoring drive. He read the defense, made his calls despite a raucous crowd and gave his teammates opportunities to succeed. Freshman linebacker Jaylon Smith played well in a hostile environment, totaling five tackles and one pass breakup on the night. Junior kicker Kyle Brindza made all three of his field-goal attempts after the Irish failed to convert either attempt in the season opener.

 

The Bad: Rees threw a crippling interception to set up a Michigan touchdown just before halftime and another to seal the Wolverines victory with 1:29 remaining. On defense, the bend-but-don’t-break approach encountered severe difficulties and experienced several failures, none more glaring than the failure to bring down Jeremy Gallon after he hauled in an uncontested pass in the middle of the field on his 61-yard touchdown reception in the opening quarter. Notre Dame’s kickoff coverage was found to be severely lacking once again, although Brindza’s strong kickoff performance limited Michigan return opportunities.

 

What we learned: This is not 2012, and the Notre Dame defense is not the stalwart unit it was a year ago. Notre Dame gave up 27 points in the first half against Michigan on Saturday, more than the Irish defense gave up in any full game last season. Tommy Rees can lead this team by making checks at the line and putting the ball where it needs to be most of the time, but he was far from flawless and turned the ball over at inopportune times. With five capable runners in the Irish stable, juniors George Atkinson and Amir Carlisle took on the bulk of the workload, as expected. Rees and the Irish repeatedly called upon Atkinson to catch the ball out of the backfield, and more often than not he exhibited a deficiency in the area that won’t help his bid to become the top option at the position. Notre Dame has a long way to go if it wants to earn a BCS bowl berth. 

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu