Sunday, September 2, 2018

No. 12 Notre Dame 24, No. 14 Michigan 17: Irish hang on despite late rally by the Wolverines

Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus- Getty Images

By: Jon Opiela
Twitter: @jonopiela24

NOTRE DAME, Ind.— The opening week matchup between the No. 14 Michigan Wolverines (0-1) and the No. 12 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1-0) drew national attention throughout the offseason. In the renewal of a storied rivalry, the two programs played a contest that lived up to the hype. Notre Dame defended its home turf, despite a late touchdown by Michigan and hung on for a 24-17 victory.

“It was a good win. Proud of our football team. You know that game was right in front of you,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Look, the numbers are not going to jump off the page, but we did what we needed to do against, arguably, probably the best defense that we’re going to see this year.”

“Yeah, we would have liked to come out victorious,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We didn’t make enough explosive plays. Probably didn’t run the ball as well as we would like. Credit to Notre Dame’s defense.”

Notre Dame running back Jafar Armstrong found the end zone twice in the first half for his first two collegiate touchdowns. Armstrong opened the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and added a four-yard score in the second quarter. Armstrong’s second score capped off a 15-play drive, which featured a fourth-down conversion and a roughing the passer penalty on third and long.

Ambry Thomas lit a spark within Michigan when he returned a kickoff 99 yards for Michigan’s first touchdown on the season.

Brandon Wimbush completed 10 passes in the first half, finding seven different receivers. Chris Finke hauled in a highlight reel grab over a Michigan cornerback Brad Hawkins for a 43-yard touchdown. Finke led the Irish with three receptions for 55 yards.

“I don’t think he makes that play last year,” Kelly said. “I think his physical ability is one thing, but his strength now to go up and take that away from a defender.”

Down 21-10, a potential Michigan field goal was evaporated on a botched snap on its first drive in the third quarter.

Chase Winovich had a huge game defensively for the Wolverines. Seemingly finding his way into every big situation, Winovich finished with six tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. For the Irish, Te’von Coney and Khalid Kareem combined for 19 tackles. Kareem also contributed two sacks.

The debut of Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson came with mixed reviews to the maize and blue faithful. Despite battling cramps and injuries in the second half, Patterson threw for 227 yards on 20 completions and one interception. For the Irish, Wimbush threw for 170 yards on 12 completions and the touchdown to Finke.

“I thought he competed well. I thought he did the things that we were asking him to do,” said Harbaugh of Patterson. “And for a first time out, with his new team, I thought he did a good job.”

Looking Ahead:

Notre Dame will return to Notre Dame Stadium again next week to take on Ball State (1-0) at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Michigan returns to Ann Arbor to take on Western Michigan (0-1) at Noon ET on Fox Sports 1.

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