Wolverine Overtime: Michigan Rises and Strikes Down Notre Dame

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 12:  Quarterback Tate Forcier #5 of Michigan runs for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Domenic Centofanti/Getty Images)

The echoes woke up on Saturday in the Big House, but instead of Rockne, Gipp or Parseghian, the echoes resounded from Weis and much of the Notre Dame fan base.

In the aftermath of Michigan’s 38-34 win over Notre Dame, Charlie Weis refused to take the blame, instead choosing to join the chorus of his fan base in pinning the blame on the officials.

And even as a Michigan fan as thrilled with the win as anybody, I can honestly say I feel for them—at least partially.

The main quip with the officials was the reversal of Armando Allen’s touchdown catch-and-run with 2:22 left in the first quarter.

On that play, junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw a perfectly timed screen to Allen who raced 41 yards to the end zone to tie the game at seven. However, officials reviewed the play and ruled that Allen touched the sideline at the 22-yard line.

I must say that if I were a “Domer” I would be pretty mad about that one. I think we should all admit that from the angles we saw on TV, it was just too close to tell whether Allen touched the line or not.

When I saw the replays, my maize and blue colored lenses told me the edge of his foot touched the line for sure. But those with Irish eyes saw it the other way. [Editor's note: this video from WNDU appears to show Allen's heel touching the line.]

I think it was one of those plays in which the call on the field should have stood, whichever way it was called. If the side judge had ruled him out of bounds, I think it should have stood. But he didn’t, and I feel thankful that it was overturned.

Credit here goes to Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez who, after seeing the replay on the Michigan Stadium big screen, called time out to give the officials time to review the play.

“I thought taking the timeout would give them more time to review, and I still have my challenge,” Rodriguez said. “You don’t want to burn a timeout unnecessarily in the second half. The first half doesn’t bother me as much to take the time out to give them a chance to review. That’s what I did. I said, I’m not going to challenge it, but this gives them enough time to see what I see on the screen up there.

“They said, yes, Coach, they are reviewing it. And they said you still have the timeout. I said that’s fine, as long as it gets called right.”

Whether it was called right or not is anybody’s guess, but it’s hard to tell how it would have affected the outcome of the game.

Notre Dame ended up with a field goal on that drive. The four-point difference between the would-be touchdown and the field goal was the difference in the final score, but it’s impossible to predict how the game would have played out had the score been 7-7 instead of 7-3 after that drive.

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Nevertheless, Michigan receiver Darryl Stonum returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, sending Michigan’s defense right back onto the field.

Another situation that had Weis fired up was the way the game ended (or didn't end, according to Weis).

Michigan kicked off with 11 seconds remaining. The squib kick seemed as if it bounced by Notre Dame return-man Theo Riddick and through the back of the end zone.

The game clock initially ticked down to 10 seconds, prompting questioning from Clausen. The officials got together and ruled that Riddick did, in fact, touch the ball, which replays clearly confirmed. The clock was then set to nine seconds.

Clausen then completed a pass across the middle to Golden Tate. Tate caught the ball at the 40-yard line near the left hash mark with five seconds remaining and was tackled at the 47-yard line near the right sideline.

The clock hit zero, the officials signaled the end of the game and Michigan players and coaches engulfed the field.

Weis kept his team on the sidelines as he pleaded with the officials to put a second back on the clock. But they were long gone and the final score stood.

“First it went from 11 to 10,” Weis said of the clock. “Then I complained and it went to nine. It went from 11 to 10 to 11 to nine. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe we’d have one more second, throw a Hail Mary.

"Their answer to me was they thought that Theo [Riddick] tipped the ball in the field of play on the kick, which would then start the clock. If he did, which I couldn’t really tell whether he did or he didn’t, so I’m going to take their word for it that that happened.”

The one thing Weis may have a right to be mad about is that the officials didn’t look to see if any time remained after Tate was tackled near the sideline.

The replay (at the 3:25 mark) seems to show one second still on the clock when the ball hits out of bounds.

Had the officials gotten together and looked at the replay, they may have put a second back on. However, it likely wouldn’t have mattered, because Tate was tackled in bounds and the clock would start when the ball is set.

It’s doubtful that Clausen could have gotten another snap off.

Even so, as a Michigan fan, I know what it’s like to feel cheated over one second. Yet, as mad as I was about that ending, it was hard to point the finger because Michigan never should have put itself in that position.

In that game, Michigan State faced 4th-and-16 with 1:25 to play. Quarterback Jeff Smoker’s pass fell incomplete, but a face-mask penalty on Michigan defensive back Jeremy LeSueur gave the Spartans a first down.

On a following play, Michigan was penalized for too many men on the field, moving Michigan State even closer to the end zone.

Had Michigan not hurt itself, that final second wouldn’t have mattered.

Likewise, had Weis run the ball, forcing Michigan to burn its remaining time outs, or had he chosen to throw a short, high-percentage pass on 2nd-and-10, rather than a deep ball towards Michigan’s best defensive back, he wouldn’t have even needed that last second.

Notre Dame fans: I understand your pain and I empathize with you. You do have a right to be mad. But it’s football and things don’t always go your way.

If Notre Dame would have won and the Allen play not been ruled out of bounds, Michigan fans would have had a right to gripe about that play.

Notre Dame will win a lot of games this year and next year, and they’re a fun team to watch with the great play makers they have at receiver.

I’ll be rooting for you to knock off Michigan State next week and USC next month.

This week, however, I’ll bask in the glory of out-scoring Touchdown Jesus.

In sports, just as in life, it’s not always fair.

Quote of the Day

“Everybody kept saying, ‘A freshman can’t do it.' And I did it. I’m happy.

“I’ve been like that my whole life. Ever since I was a little kid, I never got nervous. It showed today. I didn’t get nervous. Our guys kept saying, ‘We can do this. We can do this.’ I believed in them, and we did it.”

-UM freshman quarterback Tate Forcier after beating Notre Dame in just his second college game. Forcier completed 23 of 33 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown, out-staging Notre Dame junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Quote of the Day II

“They will win a lot of games. The quarterback’s an NFL guy. They have two of the best wide receivers I’ve seen in years, and their running back’s a big-time player.

“And geez, did you see the size of the linemen? They could eat peanuts off our guys’ heads, for crying out loud. That’s a good-looking team. But thankfully, our guys made one more play than they did and we won.”

-UM head coach Rich Rodriguez on Notre Dame. Michigan had a hard time stopping Notre Dame’s offense all day, especially receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate.

Quote of the Day III

“I’ll hand over my job after today’s performance.”

-UM senior punter Zoltan Mesko after averaging only 32.5 yards per punt, well below his career average of 42 yards.

Meanwhile, quarterback Tate Forcier booted a 50-yard pooch punt that was downed at the four-yard line.

Stat of the Day


The combined points between the two teams were the most points scored in the history of the rivalry. The previous high was 68 points in 2006.

It was also the fifth time Michigan has scored 30-plus points against Notre Dame. Michigan has won all five.

Stat of the Day II

The 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore wide receiver Darryl Stonum was the first since Steve Breaston took one back 95 yards against Minnesota on Oct. 18, 2005.

It was only the second since 1994, when Seth Smith returned a kick 100 yards against Wisconsin, and only the 10th in Michigan history.

Hard to believe it’s only happened 10 times in 1,205 games, given all the athletes Michigan has had over the years. That’s one per 120.5 games, or basically one per decade.

Three Go Blue Stars of the Game

1. Tate Forcier.
I started to say the numbers speak for themselves, but they don’t. Forcier did everything Michigan needed him to on Saturday, and more. The freshman refused to be rattled in his first career rivalry game, showing the poise and moxie of a veteran quarterback in leading Michigan on a game-winning drive.

Most of Clausen’s yards came from dropping back and throwing deep to Floyd and Tate. Forcier, on the other hand, made plays happen all day, from juking ND linebacker Darius Fleming and sprinting 31 yards to a touchdown to eluding the pass rush and delivering perfect throws on the run.

2. Darryl Stonum
Stonum's kickoff return for a touchdown put Michigan ahead 14-3 early.

Stonum also caught four passes for 54 yards and hustled down the field on Forcier’s punt to down the ball on the Notre Dame four-yard line.

3. Greg Mathews
The senior wide receiver has been a steady sure-handed receiver the past couple of years. Though he doesn’t quite have the breakout speed, he managed to make a great 40-yard reception on third-and-12 in the first quarter.

The biggest play of the day, however, came on the last play of the game, when Mathews caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Forcier.

“It was a slant-and-out,” Mathews said of the game-winning play. “I saw him sitting inside, so I knew we had a chance. I just had to sell the slant as well as I could. Tate was getting pressure. He made a wonderful throw, and I just had to do everything I could to catch the ball.”

Mathews finished the game with five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Five Go Blue Observations

1. The “maize-out” at the Big House looked great on TV, especially the block “M” in the student section. I haven’t been to a game yet this season, but it sure looks like the atmosphere and electricity in the Big House is a lot higher than past seasons.

Maybe I’m just disillusioned after what happened last season, but I think it’s more of a bi-product of Rich Rodriguez and the excitement he is bringing to Michigan football. I believe the fan base has bought into the “All-in for Michigan” mantra and it definitely shows on TV.

I can’t wait to get to another game.

2. I have to mention the difference that Brandon Minor made today. I wanted to put him in my “Three Stars” section, but snuck Mathews in because he made two great plays.

Minor, I think, really made a big difference in this game with his running in the third quarter. He finished with 16 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown. 80 of those yards came in the second half, helping Michigan take control of the clock and keep Notre Dame’s dynamic offense off the field.

But it’s not just rushing that Minor does well. He excels in pass blocking and is a big reason Forcier stays upright.

“Brandon brings so much because he’s so physical,” said UM offensive coordinator Calvin Magee. “He gave us so much protection on those passes, and then he ran hard. The guys follow Brandon because he’s a senior, and he runs hard and he’s physical.”

Minor will be a huge key to Michigan’s success this season if he stays healthy.

3. Credit Martavious Odoms for a big play for the second straight week. He doesn’t get as many looks this season as he did last season, because he’s not the only play maker Michigan has, but he’s still making a difference.

On Michigan’s game-winning drive, Odoms made a huge catch for a first down. On third-and-four at the Notre Dame 36, Odoms secured a low pass from Forcier to pick up the first down and keep the drive alive.

4. I feel like we have to get Denard Robinson on the field more often. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with our offense. It has been great, averaging 34.5 points per game so far.

But Robinson is such a good athlete, I could see him being a Percy Harvin type player. I know Rich Rodriguez says Robinson is staying at quarterback, which is smart this season at least, in case anything happens to Forcier. But I can’t help but think of how explosive he could be lined up in the backfield, in the slot, returning punts, etc.

I know the coaching staff knows what they’re doing, so I’m certainly not questioning them.

5. Michael Floyd and Golden Tate remind me of Braylon Edwards. I think they make Clausen better than he actually is, just like Edwards helped make a true freshman Chad Henne look great in 2004. Just throw the ball up and they’ll go get it.

Five Non-Go Blue Observations

1. I can’t believe Michigan State lost to Central Michigan. I know Central has a good quarterback in Dan LeFevour, but wow. That gives me some hope that Michigan can go into East Lansing and pull out a road win.

2. I was really impressed with Ohio State’s defense against USC. The USC offensive line is supposed to be one of the top lines in the nation and OSU’s defensive line shredded them most of the game.

I am, however, interested in seeing how Ohio State responds this week against Toledo.

It’s not exactly a home game—in Cleveland Browns Stadium—and Toledo’s offense has looked great in its first two games. Granted, those two games were against Purdue and Colorado, and Toledo’s defense has given up a lot of points, but Ohio State better watch out in this one.

3. I’m looking forward to the Florida-Tennessee matchup this weekend. It’s in Gainesville, so I don’t think it will be much of a game, but it should be pretty chippy.

We all know the verbiage going back and forth between first-year UT head coach Lane Kiffin and some of the Florida players in the past few months, so it will be a fun game to watch.

4. Houston pulled off the latest upset of the week, beating No. 5 Oklahoma State 45-35. I still think OSU’s Dez Bryant is the best receiver in the nation.

5. I’m also looking forward to Texas-Texas Tech this weekend. I really like Colt McCoy and hope he wins the Heisman this year, but Tech features a QB that shares my namesake, Potts (not related).

He’s been impressive so far, averaging over 400 yards and five touchdowns per game.

Go Blue!