I just finished re-watching the whole game, and have a few thoughts:
- The defense did not get enough pressure on Jimmy Clausen, but I don’t think you can blame Brandon Graham for that. When there was pressure on Clausen, chances were BG was involved. After a third quarter pressure on Clausen that forced a throw away, Graham can be seen on the sidelines yelling: “They don’t want to f— with me.” No, they don’t, BG. I doubt there’s a player in the country more deserving of a sack right now than #55.
- I could not have been more wrong about Greg Mathews: the guy really came to play, and he was busting his ass on every snap. His first-quarter one-handed catch was tremendous, he came up with several clutch grabs (including the winning touchdown, of course), and if you want to question his effort, take one more look at Forcier’s interception. Mathews goes from being the targeted wideout to chasing down Kyle McCarthy 20 yards downfield and making a very solid effort to strip the ball.
- Speaking of outside receivers, how about Darryl Stonum? There’s another guy who put it all on the line, and he did it all Saturday: The electrifying kickoff return, four big catches for 54 yards, and batting Forcier’s pooch punt to make sure it didn’t go into the end zone. Stonum really showed his athleticism off on the kickoff return TD; not a lot of guys could make a cut like that and get back to full speed in a split second. This might be the game people look back on as Stonum’s coming out party.
- The crowd was a huge factor. By my count, Clausen used three timeouts with the play clock nearing zero (including ND’s second timeout of the second half with 13:04 left in the fourth quarter) and was guilty of two delay of games as a direct result of the noise level. It was LOUD.
- The tackling is much-improved from where it was last year. Despite Notre Dame gashing Michigan with the run and the pass, when Wolverine defenders got their hands on Irish players, they tended to go down. There were only a couple critical missed tackles (Boubacar Cissoko’s missed tackle on Golden Tate’s late TD comes to mind), and there were several tough takedowns in the open field that saved big gains or scores.
- Two guys on offense really stood out to me for their receiving and blocking: Kevin Koger and Martavious Odoms. Koger had a crushing block on Brandon Minor’s run down to the one-yard line in the third quarter (where Michigan’s drive eventually stalled), make a great play hauling in a touchdown pass, and was wide open when Forcier missed him on third down late in the fourth quarter. Odoms had two critical catches on the final drive, and looked good blocking downfield.
- Stevie Brown sure has been a pleasant surprise, hasn’t he? Brown helped cause the fumble by Jonas Grey that really swung momentum back to Michigan after Olesnavage missed the short field goal, and his speed is really a factor on defense now that he doesn’t have to keep the entire offense in front of him.
- Finally, nothing summed up the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame better than this: after the game, as the officials were running up the tunnel, Weis tried to chase them down to start complaining about the clock. He made it three steps before giving up, then pointed towards the tunnel and sent a couple assistants scurrying after the officials. I don’t even need to crack a joke after that.