Michigan focused on present, not past, heading into Notre Dame game
ANN ARBOR -- Michigan staged a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback last year against Notre Dame. And then after surrendering that lead, a three-point comeback in the final 30 seconds.
It was the first night game in Big House history. National TV. Second game of the Brady Hoke era, and he already had a signature win.
Yet, it's a loss to the Irish 14 years ago that really sticks with him.
Michigan, playing its first game since winning the 1997 national championship, squandered a 13-6 halftime lead and fell 36-20 at Notre Dame. Hoke was the defensive line coach.
"Pretty vivid," he said.
Hoke is 0-2 in South Bend with Michigan.
He hopes to walk off that field with a different result Saturday, when the 18th-ranked Wolverines (2-1) travel to face No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0).
Michigan's rivalry with the Irish is not on par with its series against Ohio State and Michigan State. Those games are designated with countdown clocks in Schembechler Hall.
But this game remains fierce.
“We talk about the series, about the legacies of it, but there’s no clock,” Hoke said.
The stakes have ratcheted, as Notre Dame is off to its best start in a decade under third-year coach Brian Kelly. It's coming off a 20-3 thumping of Big Ten favorite and then-No. 10 Michigan State -- in East Lansing.
It is hungry for a win in this rivalry, too, after losing three consecutive four-point games -- each fueled by late Michigan comebacks. The last two were engineered by quarterback Denard Robinson, who accounted for 948 yards of offense in those games.
But there were warning signs in last year's game as well, as Michigan came out listless for three quarters. That necessitated the late theatrics.
“We played those games, it was fun, the night game last year was exciting,” Michigan offensive lineman Taylor Lewan said. “But the first three quarters of last year, we played awful. We can’t come out like that. This is a different team, we’re a different team. I’m focused on this game.”
That has been the mantra this week, as Michigan flips the script on a 2-1 start that featured a series of highs and lows.
It's not riding the coattails of last year's game against Notre Dame, either, noting this unbeaten Irish team is much different than the one that limped into Ann Arbor 0-1 last year.
That includes the emergence of a new quarterback, dual-threat sophomore Everett Golson, who played a key role in the win against Michigan State.
"Everett Golson has done a nice job running the offense, managing it," Hoke said. "There are a lot of tight ends involved. They're a good football team. We have our hands full, and we need to get a lot better as a football team.
"I think they're a plus-four (in turnover margin). Last year, the game before us, they were minus-five. They're doing a good job with the football, and we're not getting the football back very much right now.
"That's got to improve."