Notre Dame Football: Winners and Losers from the Week 4 Game vs. Michigan
My weekly assessment of the winners and losers comes at a time of jubilation for Notre Dame fans, who have seen their beloved Fighting Irish vault into the Top 10 of the national rankings for the first time since November 19, 2006.
Notre Dame's nudge into the 10th spot of the AP Poll came courtesy of the Irish's 13-6 victory over the then-18th-ranked Michigan Wolverines on Saturday evening.
The contest was ugly on both sides, making for quite an interesting selection of winners and losers from the Irish's fourth consecutive victory to begin the season.
Let's get started.
Winner: Notre Dame's Defense
Notre Dame's most bothersome nemesis during the past two seasons has been Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
The 948 yards of offense Robinson had racked up against the Irish during the previous two meetings between these two storied programs was more than enough motivation for a markedly improved Notre Dame defense.
Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco formulated an excellent game plan that forced Robinson to commit five turnovers on the night.
The one-time Heisman Trophy candidate was limited to 90 net rushing yards on 26 carries, after Robinson had accumulated 351 yards on the ground during the Wolverines' first three games.
A young and depleted Irish secondary grew up in a hurry, holding Robinson to 138 passing yards, as well as intercepting four of his passes.
Loser: Irish Offensive Line
After successfully controlling the line of scrimmage during last week's victory over Michigan State, the Irish offensive line struggled to establish dominance up front for 60 minutes on Saturday night.
The line was to blame for the Irish laboring to 94 rushing yards on 31 carries against a woeful Michigan front seven.
That inability to run the football was a direct cause of Notre Dame trudging its way to a pedestrian 13 points, despite the defense aiding the offense with six takeaways against the Wolverines.
It's time that Notre Dame fans begin worrying about what they have seen from the Irish front line through four games, especially with an unsettled starting quarterback situation.
Winner: Manti Te'o
It's not often that an individual player would earn the distinction of "winner" two weeks in a row, but Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o fully deserves the recognition.
Te'o continued to shine despite suffering enormous personal loss during the past two weeks, as he forcefully pushed his name into the Heisman Trophy conversation by way of recording eight tackles and two interceptions against Michigan.
Te'o's bottom line gives the Hawaiian native 36 total tackles and three interceptions through four games, putting him on pace to easily bring home All-America honors following the conclusion of the regular season.
The current senior will be returning home to Hawaii this week to spend time with his family in the wake of the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend. Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Loser: Denard Robinson
Playing against Notre Dame, especially in South Bend, is supposed to bring out the best in Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, right?
Not this season. Not against what is, perhaps, the best defense Notre Dame has had since 1975.
After tormenting the Irish during the past two seasons by posting 948 yards of offense in two meetings, Robinson was denied time and again by a scarily stingy Notre Dame defense. A runner by nature, Robinson was limited to 90 yards on 26 carries, a far cry from the 258 rushing yards he accumulated at Notre Dame Stadium two years ago.
But what made Robinson's performance the ugliest of his career was the five turnovers that he committed on Saturday evening.
The Irish defense has done Michigan's opponents a tremendous favor by laying out the blueprint for stopping the pesky quarterback.
Winner: Kyle Brindza
In closely contested, grind-it-out games, special teams can make or break a team's chances of walking away with a victory.
In Notre Dame's case, its special teams quietly came to the rescue during the course of the Irish's 13-6 victory.
Kicker Kyle Brindza was Notre Dame's leading scorer on Saturday evening, knocking in two crucial field goals from 33 and 39 yards, respectively.
The punting game regressed in this game, as Ben Turk had two noticeable shanks and only averaged 37.8 yards per punt. It doesn't seem to be a trend, as Turk had solid performances during the Irish's first three victories to begin the season.
Loser: Everett Golson
It wasn't what Notre Dame starting quarterback Everett Golson wanted or expected, but it happened, anyway.
Golson was relieved by Tommy Rees during the early stages of the second quarter, particularly due to Golson's two interceptions that were deemed "careless mistakes" by head coach Brian Kelly, via UND.com.
And as much as Kelly will stress that there is no quarterback controversy, his decision to insert Rees only contradicts that claim. Going with Rees for the remainder of Saturday's game was the right decision, but it has done the Irish no long-term favors.
Should Rees continually supplant Golson during the remaining eight games on the schedule, the Irish will face yet another quarterback controversy over the offseason.
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