SOUTH BEND, Ind.
-- In a classic battle between two of college football's top programs, No. 20 Notre Dame won a close 25-23 game against No. 7 Michigan that went down to the wire Saturday (Sept. 14) at Notre Dame Stadium. The Wolverines (2-1), who fell behind 16-7 at the half, gained the lead heading into the fourth quarter, 17-16, but were unable to beat the Irish (3-0).
The Michigan defense limited the Irish to 3-of-13 on third down and collected six sacks in the game. Fifth-year senior outside linebacker Victor Hobson (Mt. Laurel, N.J./St. Joseph's Prep, Pa.)
led the team with 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks. Junior inside linebacker Carl Diggs (Warren, Ohio/Harding HS)
added eight tackles and fifth-year senior safety Charles Drake (Los Angeles, Calif./Westchester HS)
contributed six tackles, two TFLs and two sacks.
Fifth-year senior tight end Bennie Joppru (Wayzata, Minn./Minnetonka HS) led Michigan with a career-best seven catches for 80 yards and scored an eight-yard touchdown. Sophomore wide receiver Braylon Edwards (Detroit, Mich./Bishop Gallagher HS) added four catches for 95 yards and junior tailback Chris Perry (Advance, N.C./Fork Union Military, Va.) gained 78 yards on 16 carries and scored on a two-yard run. Senior/junior John Navarre (Cudahy, Wis./Cudahy HS) completed 19-of-42 passes for 230 yards and one TD.
Notre Dame took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 advantage on a one-yard TD run by tailback Ryan Grant. The Irish's first offensive touchdown of the season was started with a 41-yard pass from quarterback Carlyle Holiday to wide receiver Maurice Stovall on second down.
A Michigan fumble by senior fullback B.J. Askew (Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain HS) on its opening possession provided Notre Dame with excellent field position at its own 49-yard. The Wolverine defense held firm and forced a 47-yard field goal attempt by placekicker Nick Setta. Senior/junior defensive end Shantee Orr (Detroit, Mich./Denby HS) broke through the middle and blocked the field goal attempt to thwart the Irish scoring chance.
With 2:52 remaining in the first quarter, sophomore cornerback Marlin Jackson (Sharon, Pa./Sharon HS) tied the score as 7-7 with a 19-yard interception and return for a touchdown. Jackson picked off the Holiday pass in the right flat and went into the end zone unimpeded for the defensive TD.
The Irish were driving early in the second quarter but the Wolverines' defense came through with another big play. Grant rushed near the goal line where junior defensive end Larry Stevens (Tacoma, Wash./Woodrow Wilson HS) forced a fumble into the end zone and junior/sophomore cornerback Zia Combs (Lexington, Ky./Henry Clay HS) fell on the ball for a touchback and U-M possession.
Michigan had a chance to take a lead with 7:35 remaining in the second quarter but senior/junior placekicker Troy Nienberg's (Glandorf, Ohio/Ottawa Glandorf HS) 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Cedric Hilliard. The Wolverines gained excellent field position prior to the field goal attempt as Jackson hit Holiday from the blind side to force a fumble that Stevens recovered. With the ball at Notre Dame's 16-yard line, the offense was unable to gain a first down on the series.
Notre Dame took a 9-7 lead on a safety with 3:35 remaining in the second quarter when the Wolverines were called for holding in their end zone during a third-down play.
The Irish pushed the lead to 16-7 as Holiday scored on a three-yard quarterback keeper with 23 seconds left before halftime. Notre Dame gained the short field at U-M's 27-yard line with 1:35 remaining in the second quarter following a fumble by wide receiver Tyrece Butler (Indianapolis, Ind./Decatur Central HS), and the Irish, aided by a pass interference call, proceeded to move 27 yards in four plays for the score.
Michigan trimmed the deficit to 16-10 with 2:49 left in the third quarter as senior/junior placekicker Philip Brabbs (Midland, Mich./H.H. Dow HS) connected on a 19-yard field goal. The Wolverines moved the ball 72 yards in 10 plays and had a first-and-goal at the Irish three-yard line but were unable to punch it for the score. Navarre completed two passes to Joppru for 32 yards and tossed a 38-yard pass to Edwards that set up the first-and-goal situation.
On the ensuing kickoff, Arnez Battle returned the kickoff 16 yards before being stripped of the ball by redshirt freshman Ernest Shazor (Detroit, Mich./M.L. King HS), and Brabbs recovered at the Notre Dame 32-yard line. Michigan used the short field and gained its first lead of the game with four seconds left in the third quarter, 17-16, as Perry scored on a two-yard run. Perry carried five times on the six-play scoring drive, gaining 25 yards. Navarre and Joppru hooked up on the other play, a seven-yard pass that gave U-M a first down.
Notre Dame answered and gained a 22-17 lead as Grant scored on a three-yard run. The Irish moved 76 yard in five plays and used a pair of long pass plays. Holiday found Jenkins in the left flat for 28 yards to move inside Michigan territory and connected with Jenkins a play later on a 47-yard pass to U-M's two-yard line.
Michigan's Perry fumbled following a 13-yard run on the first play of the ensuing series and Notre Dame recovered at the Wolverines' 43-yard line. Notre Dame increased its lead to 25-17 as Setta connected on a 46-yard field goal with 10:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. The five-play scoring drive covered 14 yards.
The Wolverines moved down the field and scored with 2:53 remaining in regulation as Navarre hit Joppru for an eight-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 25-23. U-M was unable to tie the score as Shane Walton batted down a pass from Navarre to Edwards on the two-point conversion attempt. The 11-play scoring drive covered 81 yards.
Starting at its 14-yard line, Notre Dame gained a first down on offsetting penalties -- holding by Notre Dame and personal foul against Michigan. With a fresh set of downs, Michigan's defense held and forced a punt by the Irish with 1:33 left.
Following a 42-yard punt by Joey Hildbold, the Wolverines took possession at their 30-yard line and gained a first down. U-M was forced into a third-and-15 play from its 38-yard line with 28 seconds left, and Navarre's pass was tipped at the line and intercepted by Shane Walton. Notre Dame ran out the remaining time for the victory.
Michigan closes the non-conference slate with its first-ever meeting against Utah Saturday (Sept. 21, 12:05 p.m.) at Michigan Stadium.
Contact: David Ablauf, Jim Schneider (734) 763-4423