Tate Forcier told the press that he doesn't get nervous.
Well, he stated his case in convincing fasion Saturday night, leading the Wolverines on a game-winning scoring drive with under two minutes to play in a back-and-fourth, heavy-weight bout against 18th-ranked Notre Dame.
Forcier, a true freshman, cause problems for Notre Dame throughout the entire game. Both his arm and his legs broke Notre Dame's backs time and time again. He broke a 31-yard run on a fourth down play to put Michigan up 31-20 in the fourth quarter, and totaled 70 yards on the ground for the game.
Forcier also threw for an astounding 240 yards on 33 attempts, with two touchdowns and one what looked to be costly interception with under five minutes to go.
Even though Forcier was lighting-up the Notre Dame defense all afternoon, Michigan still had problems stopping the Irish Aerial attack. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen racked up 335 yards through the air.
Receivers Golden Tate and Michael Floyd combined for 16 catches of 246 yards and three touchdowns. Notre Dame's receivers pretty much had their way with Michigan's defensive backs all game.
Corner backs Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko managed to knock away two passes on Notre Dame's final drive, however, to give the offense the ball one last time. Cissoko was picked on all day by Clausen, but he was able to come up with one big stop on that last drive to prevent another Irish first down.
What a difference a year makes, huh? It was as good a game anyone could have asked for, but little things that last year would have haunted Michigan, now ended up hurting Notre Dame.
Penalties were the main achilles heel of Notre Dame. They had several big plays, including a long touchdown pass on a screen, called back because of holding or pre-snap penalties. While Michigan did comit six penalties of their own, Notre Dame's nine of 75 yards ended up costing them the game.
The win puts Michigan at 2-0, and gives Coach Rodriguez his first win over a hated-rival and top-25 team as the head coach of the Wolverines. The coach knew it was a big game, and he got all he could ask for and more from his team, but especially from his freshman quarterback.
Michigan scored first on a two-yard run by senior Brandon Minor, who returned from an ankle injury during practice two weeks ago. Minor carried the ball 16 times and accounted for 106 yards and a touchdown on the ground today for Michigan. After a Notre Dame field goal, Darryl Stonum returned the ensuing kick off 94 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
As excitment roared throughout the stadium, momentum shifted to the Irish, who scored 17 unanswered points. Jimmy Clausen threw touchdown passes to star wide outs Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, and a 41-yard field goal by Nick Tausch gave the Irish a 20-14 lead.
Fifth-year senior Jason Olesnavage knocked home a 39-yard field goal attempt for Michigan to cut the lead to 20-17 at half.
Michigan came out of the gates in the second half and took it right to the Irish. Forcier lead the Wolverines on a scoring drive which would give them the lead on a short touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Koger to give Michigan a 24-20 lead.
After a chain of completions and runs, Michigan hit a fourth-down bump on the Notre Dame 31, but Forcier rose to the occasion as he did all afternoon, making a defender miss in the backfield and racing 31 yards untouched for a 31-20 lead. The sensational run set Michigan Stadium into a frenzy, but the Irish would soon quiet the 109,000 fans in attendence.
Golden Tate caught his second touchdown of the game on a 21-yard pass from Clausen. The two-point play was intercepted, and the score stood at 31-26 Michigan.
Forcier then made his first, and only, mistake of the game when he threw a pass right to safety Kevin McCarthy. A few plays later, running back Armando Allen, Jr. ran eight-yards for the go-ahead score and also ran in the two-point conversion play to make it 34-31 and stunning the packed Big House.
Allen, Jr., had a huge game on the ground for Notre Dame. The big, physicall Irish offensive line opened up holes for the back on his way to 139 yards on 21 carries. Michigan's front seven had problems throughout the game trying to tackle Allen.
He told reporters that he had worked extra hard this offseason to get his legs in better shape so he can run through more tacklers. It sure paid off Saturday, as he ran all over the Michigan D.
Allen's efforts were not enough, however. With five minutes left, the freshman got another shot. He missed a wide open LaTerryl Savoy on the sideline on third and long, though, and Michigan was forced to punt. The defense came up huge, forcing Notre Dame to punt with under two minutes to play. A short punt and fair catch by Greg Mathews gave Michigan the ball on the 45 yard line.
The freshman went to work, driving Michigan down to the five yard line with several huge passes. Martavious Odoms cause a big third-down pass to keep the drive alive. LaTerryal Savoy caught a pass down to the five yard line to set up the game-winning play.
Forcier dropped back and hit an out-breaking Greg Mathews in the front corner of the end zone for a 38-34 lead with just 11 seconds showing on the clock.
"It will go down as one of the greatest games in the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry. I'm glad I got a chance to play in it", an emotional Greg Mathews said after the game.
Mathews is the oldest of Michigan's receivers, and they needed him to come up big today after having only two cathes last week. He needed to have a good game outside. Five catches for 68 yards and the game winning touchdown. Not a bad day.
After a dominant 31-7 win on opening day, and a back-and-fourth, heart-pounding win today, the Wolverines are 2-0 for the first time since 2006. The outstanding play of Forcier earned him Player of the Game honors, but the win is definitly more important in his mind.
How's that? Well, any other kid would be doing back-flips if he juked-out a linebacker and ran for his first college touchdown in a rivalry game. Forcier, however, got some high-fives and sat by himself on the bench with the headset on. Re-focusing on the game and task at hand. A leader is in the making in Ann Arbor. Watch out, folks.
*Check out this article and more on my own Michigan Football website, at www.michiganfootballmedia.webs.com*