Irish host Wolverines in out-of-conference clash
Daniel O'Boyle | Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Notre Dame plays host to Big Ten leader Michigan in an out-of-conference clash Wednesday at Alumni Stadium.
Michigan (5-2-2, 2-0-2 Big Ten) is unranked but currently sits at the top of the Big Ten standings. The Wolverines have accelerated their attack in the past weeks, scoring 12 goals in their last four games. And while Michigan has never won at No. 7 Notre Dame (7-2-2, 2-1-1 ACC), with the Irish boasting an 8-0-1 home record and a 10-2-2 record in all contests against the Wolverines, the Irish lost, 3-2, in Ann Arbor when the teams met exactly a year ago today.
Irish head coach Bobby Clark said he is aware of the Wolverines’ ability.
“They’re coming in here as currently the top team in the Big Ten, so I think that’s enough to let us know that they’ve had a good season so far,” Clark said. “They’re a good team, and we all know we lost to them last year up in Ann Arbor, so we’ve got to see if we can sort things out again.
“They’ve got some very good players, they’re well-coached, and it’ll be a very good game.”
Both teams enter the game following double-overtime draws over the weekend. Notre Dame looks to improve upon its 1-1 stalemate with North Carolina State, while the Wolverines fought back from 3-1 behind early in the first half to tie with Wisconsin, 3-3. The out-of-conference rivals are also both unbeaten in their last four games, having won three of them.
Clark said Michigan’s direct play style has brought them great success this season and stopping it could be key tonight.
“They’re a fairly direct team, so we’ll have to handle that,” Clark said. “We’ll have to pick up second balls and settle in and play our game. They’ve got players that can play when they get the ball in your half.
“Last year in Ann Arbor, if I remember correctly, they had 23 corner kicks. They would knock the ball up, get in our half and press us very hard, and we had a hard time dealing with their pressure. We’ll have to play quickly and think quickly this time. They’re a good team, though, and this will be a good challenge. And any game between Michigan and Notre Dame is always a fairly big event, so they’ll be ready for it, but I think we’ll be ready too.”
Tonight’s matchup will showcase two of the nation’s most prolific young goal scorers. Sophomore forward Jon Gallagher ranks as the top scorer in the ACC, while Michigan freshman midfielder Francis Atuahene stands as the Big Ten’s leading marksman. Each will have a chance to add to his respective seven-goal tally on the season, with Gallagher heading into tonight’s match having scored four in his last five games and Atuahene four in his last four. Atuahene has also chipped in three assists, while Gallagher has two, putting the two midfielders first in points in their respective conferences.
The game is the latest of Notre Dame’s out-of-conference midweek fixtures, which have brought mixed results for the Irish this season. A comfortable 4-0 victory over Michigan State on Sept. 22 and an impressive 4-2 comeback against Marquette off second-half tallies on Sept. 29 rank among the positives so far. However, the Irish fell, 1-0, to Xavier at home on Sept. 15.
Clark said the quality of Notre Dame’s out-of-conference schedule means no game can be overlooked.
“The out-of-conference games we play are all terrific teams,” Clark said. “Every game is a big game. There’s no easy games for us, whether it’s Michigan, Marquette, Xavier, Northwestern — they’re all very good teams.”
The nonconference action between Notre Dame and Michigan will kick off at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Alumni Stadium.