Brady Hoke's Michigan Wolverines couldn't push aside the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday
It was perhaps the Wolverines' worst-played game during Brady Hoke's coaching tenure at the University of Michigan.
Saturday's 13-6 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reinforced several aspects of Michigan football that were previously noted: Quarterback Denard Robinson has difficulty throwing the ball when pressured, the Wolverines lack a potent rushing attack—and have all season—when it matters most and the wide receivers aren't performing up to par.
Robinson threw four interceptions Saturday, so blaming the wide receivers—or calling them "losers" this week—isn't exactly fair. However, the dropped balls were prevalent during the entire contest, errant throws from Robinson were plentiful—even when they weren't to the other team— and the Wolverines shot themselves in the foot at Notre Dame Stadium.
Michigan could have very well won its fourth consecutive duel against Notre Dame; it wasn't thoroughly dominated, but Notre Dame had just enough leverage to control the tempo for the majority of the game.
It was hard to watch—for fans of both programs—due to the sloppy play, miscues, turnovers and seemingly illogical decision-making by both players and coaches.
Find out who notched a "W" and who suffered an "L."
Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson meticulously prepped for Saturday's clash with Notre Dame.
"Shoelace" was likely looking to rack up another handful of gaudy statistics like he had done in two previous meetings; he combined for 959 yards of total offense in two victorious starts.
Robinson, however, was blanketed by Gold and Blue defenders Saturday, suffocated to no end en route to throwing four interceptions and committing a fumble.
He had dominated the Irish more than any other player in history. But he clearly wasn't ready for Round 3. The loss was indicative of Robinson's up-and-down career, according to nearly everyone who's watched him play, and the Detroit Free Press.
Robinson was reportedly down and out when he met the media Saturday night; he should have been. He'll always remember his 22nd birthday, the day he completely melted down in one of the biggest games of the college football season.
Michigan does rely on Robinson. But he says it's less of a reliance of his personal performances and more of an expectation to be reliable. There is a difference.
"They don't rely on me," Robinson told Chris Balas of TheWolverine.com. "I've just got to be accountable for one of the things I've got to do, and that's passing the ball when the line is giving me time to throw the ball. Execute the plays. I feel like I wasn't accountable. Just play a role."
Robinson didn't point fingers—he couldn't, actually—toward anyone for the loss. He's a smart enough player to realize that he was a major factor in the Wolverines' lack of success.
Manti Te'o was an animal for Notre Dame on Saturday night.
Battles on the collegiate gridiron are nothing when compared to the battles Manti Te'o's girlfriend and maternal grandmother faced.
Te'o, a senior linebacker at Notre Dame, lost his grandmother to cancer; his girlfriend taken by a bout with leukemia—each woman died just over a week ago. It appeared that Te'o wanted to memorialize his loved ones by playing the greatest game of his career Saturday night against Michigan.
"Football allowed me to be in a little realm, a little world where I know I can honor them by the way I play," Te'o told Mike Hiserman of the Los Angeles Times prior to the Michigan game.
Nine tackles and two interceptions later, Te'o looked toward the sky with a tear in his eye; he played not only for Notre Dame, but he played for them on Saturday.
After the Irish downed Michigan 13-6 at Notre Dame Stadium, Te'o was asked about the support he received from the Irish faithful, who spun Hawaiian leis above their heads as a way to honor Te'o's grandmother and girlfriend.
"I love this school," Te'o told Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. That lei for me represents family. It doesn't represent me. It represents everyone sticking together and everybody realizing what's important in life. That's families sticking together."
The victory spans beyond the football field, obviously. Michigan fans, Irish fans, non-sports fans—anyone who saw that young man after the Michigan game had to smile. Sports are such a minuscule fraction of life's whole. Te'o was more a humble man Saturday night than a victorious athlete.
But he perfectly played both roles.
Michigan's Devin Gardner was limited Saturday night, just like every other Wolverines WR.
Devin Gardner took more punishment Saturday night than any other Michigan Wolverines wide receiver.
In the fourth quarter, as Michigan looked to claim a come-from-behind win over Notre Dame, Gardner was led to the left corner of the end zone by quarterback Denard Robinson on what looked to be a surefire touchdown pass.
In fact, the pass wasn't thrown well at all.
Gardner made an attempt at the pass, as he should have, but veered to the ground, hitting his head on a metal set of bleachers that sat just outside the left side of the end zone.
Gardner had three catches (including an 18-yard reception) and a season-low 40 yards in the 13-6 loss. All the talks of Gardner being an uber-athletic force at wideout are playing out to be hype; he's not showing the ability most thought he would show after being converted from quarterback to wide receiver.
Video of Gardner discussing Notre Dame week.
At 6'4" and 203 pounds, there is no reason why Gardner shouldn't make circus catches every week. Part of the problem is the fact that Robinson has had trouble finding receivers—they can't make plays if Robinson can't get the ball to them.
Where was Roy Roundtree?
He caught the game-winner against Notre Dame—a 16-yard catch that was his lone grab of the game—in 2011, but had three catches for 30 yards Saturday. He made an impact in 2011 but was essentially invisible in 2012.
He's coming of a knee surgery. OK. That's been noted. But he was supposed to be Michigan's go-to receiver this fall.
Jeremy Gallon has 11 receptions and 179 yards this season, second to Gardner, who has 195 yards. But he was noneffective against the Irish.
Either way it's analyzed, the Michigan receivers aren't getting theirs this season, and the Wolverines aren't getting the offensive production from a group that was considered one of the Big Ten's better receiving corps.
There won't be a BCS national title game, not this season, Michigan fans.
A 41-14 loss to Alabama in Week 1 pretty much ensured that, but a 13-6 loss Saturday to Notre Dame sealed the deal.
At this point, reaching the Big Ten title game would be the best-case scenario for the Wolverines, who saw quarterback Denard Robinson throw four interceptions and commit a fumble during Saturday's setback.
Needless to say, Robinson won't win the Heisman Trophy. Nope, not after that nightmare at Notre Dame Stadium.
This season was supposed to be a triumphant return to elite status, the rebirth of Michigan football and Robinson's grand departure.
The Wolverines went 11-2 in 2011 and won the BCS Sugar Bowl. The sky was the limit this year, right?
Doesn't seem so now, does it?
As noted last week, the Wolverines look like they could struggle to win seven games this year. Overhyped, overrated and underachieving—that's Michigan football in 2012.
And Michigan fans are beside themselves.
Notre Dame senior Tommy Rees will be the subject of discussion this week.
Notre Dame senior Tommy Rees may have lost during the offseason due to an arrest. He was picked up after reportedly crashing his car after an off-campus party.
Not smart, Tommy.
But now that he's back in Irish coach Brian Kelly's good graces, Rees could see more action this season, especially after his game management Saturday which helped Notre Dame beat Michigan, 13-6, at Notre Dame Stadium.
Rees completed 8-of-11 passes and threw for 115 yards. Notre Dame remained undefeated and gave Michigan a series loss for the first time in three years.
He should be considered as the Irish's starter, right?
Coach Kelly says Notre Dame plans to move forward with sophomore Everett Golson, though.
Either way, Rees will be a topic of discussion this week—and that discussion will undoubtedly apply a little pressure to the Irish coaching staff, making it difficult not to at least give Rees a serious look for this Saturday's game with Purdue.
If Notre Dame wants to be a serious contender for a BCS title shot, it might be wise to lean on experience rather than potential. But, then again, Rees threw 14 interceptions in 2011; he had his shot.
But he engineered drives and allowed the Notre Dame offense to calm itself under duress against Michigan. Golson threw an interception on his first attempt of the game and looked incredibly nervous.
Rees might win in the long run.
Brady Hoke's Wolverines were thought to be a potentially elite team entering 2012. The Big Ten was supposed to be a power conference.
Michigan could have helped the Big Ten save face this weekend by knocking off 11th-ranked Notre Dame.
Michigan State barely escaped a loss to Eastern Michigan. Don't let the 23-7 score fool you, the Spartans needed a fourth-quarter rally to top the Eagles, who were surprisingly stout at Spartan Stadium.
It took a career day from running back Le'Veon Bell—who rushed for 253 yards—for Michigan State to avoid an embarrassing setback to a Mid-American Conference foe.
Central Michigan, a MAC school, beat Iowa, 32-31, thanks to kicker David Harman's career-long 47-yarder with three seconds to play.
Ohio State struggled against the University of Alabama-Birmingham, finally pulling out a 29-15 victory after an agonizingly slow start.
The Wolverines needed to pound the Irish for the rest of the country to continue entertaining the idea that the Big Ten was the second-best conference behind the SEC.
It's not. And Michigan didn't. The Wolverines lost 13-6 to Notre Dame and the Big Ten bashing commenced.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.