By Steve Kornacki
Each day leading up to Saturday's (Sept. 6) Michigan-Notre Dame showdown in South Bend, Ind., MGoBlue.com will count down U-M's most memorable wins in the historic rivalry. Thursday takes a look back at Michigan's dominating win over the host and No. 2-ranked Irish in 2006.
Date: Sept. 16, 2006
Score: Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21
It was a dismantling, pure and simple. And Michigan's 26-point victory over Notre Dame set the tone for what became one of the Wolverines' most powerful teams ever in 2006.
The Fighting Irish were ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll and figured to be in the national championship hunt. The No. 11 Wolverines were expected to again challenge for the Big Ten title but visited Notre Dame Stadium as definite underdogs.
This one, however, played out much differently than anticipated. The Wolverines scored the most points ever tallied in one of the 41 meetings between the two schools and also dominated on defense.
Wolverines linebacker Prescott Burgess got things rolling by returning his interception of quarterback Brady Quinn for a 31-yard touchdown on Notre Dame's opening drive.
And Wolverines quarterback Chad Henne and wide receiver Mario Manningham took it from there with an air assault that began with a 69-yard bomb that gave Michigan the lead for good and continued with 20- and 22-yard scoring passes before the first half concluded.
"I think (we won this way) because we were under the radar," said tailback Mike Hart, who rushed for 124 yards on 31 carries with one touchdown. "We knew they were coming in here No. 2 in the country (with) Heisman candidates, expecting to win the national championship.
Most Memorable U-M Wins vs. ND
No. 1: Released on Saturday
No. 2: Released on Friday
No. 3: Michigan Stuns No. 2 Irish, 2006
No. 4: Remy's Kick Wins It, 1994
No. 5: Leach Bests Montana, 1978
"So, we knew we had to come out here and prove ourselves, and that's what made us play a lot harder. Whereas last year they were hunting us, we were hunting them this time."
The Wolverines were ranked No. 3 in the 2005 game, with the Irish at No. 20, and it was Notre Dame that came away with a 17-10 win in Ann Arbor. This one played out the same way, with a highly ranked team getting humbled -- only in a much more convincing manner.
"I think it's important to understand that that team just came and just whooped us pretty good," said Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis.
Michigan's defense scored twice, with defensive end LaMarr Woodley returning a fumble recovery for a 54-yard touchdown that served as the exclamation point late in the game and held Notre Dame to four yards rushing on 17 carries.
"I don't think anybody thought the defense was going to play the way we played at all," said linebacker Shawn Crable. "I think (we were) the only people who thought we were going to play the way we played."
The Wolverines put pressure on Quinn all day long with a variety of blitzes and successful pass rushes.
"If you let (Quinn) sit back there in the pocket, he'll pick you apart," Burgess said after that game. "We just thought that we had to come out here and put pressure on him. And I thought we did that, and we got the job done."
Quinn was forced to pass in an attempt to get the Irish back in the game. But he was sacked three times and intercepted three times while completing 24 of 48 passes for only 234 yards. Quinn also lost the fumble that Woodley took the distance.
And the special teams also came up with a big play when senior fullback Obi Oluigbo stripped the ball from Notre Dame kick returner David Grimes, before Morgan Trent recovered it 25 yards from the Irish end zone. That set up Hart's 2-yard touchdown run that made it 20-7 before the first quarter was over.
Henne, who completed 13 of 22 passes for 220 yards, added two touchdown passes to Manningham in the second quarter that provided Michigan with a 27-point lead. "Mario was excellent," said Henne. "We practiced deep balls all spring and summer with him and one-on-one routes. And he showed his talent and speed today."
Henne-to-Manningham has been one of the greatest combinations in Michigan history. They hooked up for three seasons, 2005-2007, and both went high in the 2008 NFL Draft, with Henne going to the Miami Dolphins in the second round and Manningham getting selected in the third round by the New York Giants.
Henne still tops the school's passing yardage (9,715) and touchdown passes (87) lists, while Manningham is sixth in all-time yardage (2,310) and fourth with 27 touchdown receptions.
That offense also featured left tackle Jake Long, whom the Dolphins made the No. 1 overall pick in 2008.
And that defense had so much talent that the Wolverines had four of the first 47 players selected in the 2007 draft. Cornerback Leon Hall was a first-rounder for the Cincinnati Bengals, while defensive tackle Alan Branch (Arizona Cardinals), Woodley (Pittsburgh Steelers) and linebacker David Harris (New York Jets) were second-rounders.
That powerhouse team, which rose to has high as No. 2 in the rankings, left its calling card that day in South Bend, Ind.
And Michigan coach Lloyd Carr gave all the credit to his players after the big win.
"Notre Dame is a great institution with a great tradition," said Carr. "And Michigan is the same. So as a coach, when you can win against a rival like that, believe me, it's special, because it's hard. The credit, it sure as hell doesn't go to me. Those guys out on the field, they played the game."
And the Wolverines were definitely in a 'conquering heroes' mood that day.
No. 3 Most Memorable Notre Dame Win, 1980: John Wangler's go-ahead touchdown pass to tight end Craig Dunaway with 41 seconds remaining wasn't enough as Irish freshman quarterback got Harry Oliver close enough for his 51-yard field goal, making Notre Dame a 29-27 winner.