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Posted on Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 8:12 p.m.

The breakdown a day later: Notre Dame-Michigan

By Michael Rothstein

Each week, we'll re-watch the Michigan game some time Sunday (or early Monday if its a road game) and give another breakdown of what went down.

So here's a review of Michigan's dramatic 38-34 win over then-No. 18 Notre Dame on Saturday.


-4 wide, single-back on the first play. Forcier throws over the middle to Koger. Koger is a nice talent for Michigan to have, big target for Forcier, especially early in games Forcier seems to like to go to him. Hit him twice on the first series.
-Koger had a block-in-the-back penalty on the second series. Bad play all around, as Koger ended up blocking Sergio Brown into Kelvin Grady for the loss.
-Forcier, perhaps more than anything else he does, is really good at sensing pocket pressure. He’s also pretty good with the fake handoff, shown on the first play of the second series with Brandon Minor.
-Great deep throw by Forcier and good route by Darryl Stonum on the second series, but the end of the route seemed off as Stonum got separation from Raeshon McNeil. Two good things, but an incompletion nonetheless.
-That Greg Mathews catch on the second series was unbelievably impressive. He hung in the air for a while, jumped over Darrin Walls. Good adjustment by Mathews, too, to make the catch. Possibly the most forgotten about big play of the game.
-Michigan picked on Walls early. Later in the drive, Forcier threw to Walls’ side on a completion to Stonum.
-Carlos Brown made a nice adjustment and read on a throw by Forcier that appeared to be behind the running back. He juggled it with one hand before grabbing it.
-On Mark Ortmann’s holding penalty (second series), he initially crushed the Notre Dame defensive lineman before the hold.
-On Minor’s long run on the second series, excellent blocking by Koger and the right side of the Michigan line. Mark Huyge was the critical block there to open up the hole. It set up the Wolverines’ first touchdown.
-On Minor’s touchdown, the reason he scored was second effort. Toryan Smith and Darius Fleming initially stood him up. Bad finishing tackling by Notre Dame, too.
-Michigan didn’t get much on the fourth series. Three-and-out with two plays, a Carlos Brown run and Martavious Odoms reception, snuffed at the line.
-Forcier faced more pressure against Notre Dame.
-Denard Robinson’s first snap, he just couldn’t get a seam and was hit hard by Robert Blanton.
-On the next play in the fifth series, Forcier made a really bad throw, should have been picked by Blanton. He overthrew Grady and almost right into Blanton’s hands. He also hung out Greg Mathews on the following play, throwing into double coverage and high. As Mathews went up for it, he was crushed.
-Sixth series, Forcier pressure a lot, but came back with a good pass to Darryl Stonum on the run. Perfectly placed ball between three Notre Dame defenders in some sort of coverage.
-Robinson made another appearance at quarterback in the series and had a decent run. Also showed some power with his running once he was wrapped up. Then he came out again, replaced by Forcier for a run. Then Robinson back in for a play but the reverse to Odoms (perhaps the play that was supposed to be run last week against Western Michigan when Robinson dropped the snap?) that was snuffed out by Notre Dame. Next play, Forcier back in.
-Another undervalued play was Rich Rodriguez’ decision to go for it on a 4th-and-11 in the final minute of the first half. Forcier made another good throw on the run to Mathews for the first down. He looked down Mathews the entire time once he started running. Drive resulted in a field goal.
-The next play, nullified by penalties on a hold by Huyge and a pass interference call on Sergio Brown, was a great touch throw by Forcier to Carlos Brown. Pass was broken up, but that had to do with the PI. The throw was on Walls’ side.
-On the first drive of the second half, Forcier had a great fake on both the play-action and then getting Darius Fleming in the air so he could run around him. That’s more of that uncanny poise he’s shown. On the TV broadcast, you could even what may have been a player go ‘ohhhh,’ because of the play.
-On the opening drive of the second half, great cut by Minor on his first long run. He froze the Notre Dame defense for a second to get extra yardage. The next play, Minor had a huge hole created by David Moosman and Mark Huyge. Minor showed his speed there.
-Michigan clearly didn’t look comfortable with Forcier under center instead of in the shotgun. The three plays were two Minor runs that went nowhere and a botched snap.
-The second drive of the second half was all Minor. He was able to hit holes well, ran a lot on the right side.
-Robinson made another appearance on the drive, again running to the right side. As Notre Dame exploited Boubacar Cissoko and threw at him, Michigan really took advantage of the weak defensive line and ran a lot on the right side of the defensive line.
-On that drive, finished by a Forcier touchdown pass to Koger, perfect read by Forcier to find the open man at the goal-line. He also saw his pressure - two guys running right at him - and threaded the ball between them.
-Another appearance by Robinson on the next drive but went nowhere. At the end of that drive was Forcier’s pooch punt, which was pretty impressive.
-The next drive, the one crossing between the third and fourth quarters, was huge for Michigan. Gutsy fourth-down play call with Forcier taking advantage of a giant hole up the middle. He just faked Fleming out, made him fall down as he cut and he didn’t get up. Forcier just faked him. He also showed pretty good speed, outrunning Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith. It was all Forcier on that play, who would have been crushed by Fleming if not for that fake.
-On the first play of the next drive, Stonum made the catch and then got hurt. Same drive, Forcier makes his two worst decisions so far as a Michigan quarterback. He threw a ball that could have been picked off as he was being dragged down. Intended for Greg Mathews, he should have thrown it away. Two plays later, he made an errant throw intended for Mathews that went right to Kyle McCarthy. The pick, though, didn’t look like Forcier’s fault. Mathews cut the route short by about three or so yards it looked like.
-On the second to last Michigan drive, Forcier had a really nice run to get to midfield. Some struggles, too, with a rare handoff exchange botch with Carlos Brown. He also overthrew a wide open Kevin Koger.
FINAL DRIVE: Great blocking by Minor on the first play, a pass from Forcier to Mathews. The second play, Minor’s gain was because of good line play, huge hole. The third play, a John Ryan sack of Forcier, was a smart play by Forcier. If he had thrown it, it very likely could have been picked off. Fourth play, great recognition by Odoms to run with Forcier, who was pressured. The offensive line collapsed a little bit. Fifth play, good throw by Forcier, threaded between a few Notre Dame defenders. Forcier put that ball in the best place possible to ensure it’d be caught or incomplete. Sixth play, good recognition of Forcier to hit Savoy over the middle. Savoy looked lost for what to do with the ball. Seventh play, Great recognition and movement by Forcier, who could have ran as well to gain yardage. But he found Savoy near the sideline, which probably gained more yardage than he would have gotten on the ground. Eighth play, Forcier made a great read scrambling to find Savoy. It was a dangerous pass, too. Bad awareness by Walls, who lost Savoy initially because he spent too much time watching Forcier, figuring he might not throw. It was a bad, bad play by Walls, who got bailed out by Savoy’s drop. Walls, may have gotten a small fingertip on it. Ninth play, Forcier backs up, scrambles a little bit and finds an open Mathews on an out route. Walls and Harrison Smith, again, got caught watching and defending the goal-line. Bad recognition there by that entire side of the secondary. Good protection, too. The offensive line forced the entire Notre Dame rush to the left to give Forcier the passing lane, too. Heck of a play by the entire offensive unit.

-Started off in a three-man front. Got no pressure with it. Defensive line struggled early. Van Bergen got picked up a lot. Craig Roh looked more freshman-like. Eric Olsen, Notre Dame’s center, dominated the middle on the first series. The entire first quarter, Michigan got good pressure on Clausen once, maybe twice. And it was on a safety blitz.
-Stevie Brown, from the first play, was seemingly everywhere. Two tackles on the first series. Also was around a couple other plays. In the first quarter, whenever Michigan gangtackled, Brown seemed to be right in the middle of it.
-Michigan got lucky early. Kyle Rudolph had a step on Troy Woolfolk in the first series but Clausen overthrew him high. He did show good sideline-to-sideline speed on another play in the first series, though.
-Notre Dame’s Golden Tate was talking all day to the officials about pass interference. On the first series, Clausen missed him in the end zone, but Tate was looking for a flag. In the second quarter, Tate wanted pass interference on a deep pass broken up by Donovan Warren. There was some contact, but not enough to warrant a flag. Plus, Warren was trying to make a play on the ball.
-Brandon Graham had a nice read on Clausen’s quarterback draw. Also had left tackle Paul Duncan on his back as he cut inside.
-Mike Williams got great pressure on the safety blitz on the second series. He got in so cleanly because of Bobby Burger, who faked trying to block him and then ran out on a route. He didn’t even make contact with Williams.
-Michigan’s defensive line was horribly gashed on the third series.
-Bad overrun by Boubacar Cissoko on the second play of the third series. He just missed badly on trying to make a big hit on Golden Tate. He didn’t even graze him.
-Cissoko was picked on all day by Notre Dame. He seemed too concerned by Floyd and Tate’s speed and wasn’t playing crisp. Sat off coverage a lot, no bumping and sitting back too far. He also was the cornerback in coverage on Notre Dame’s first touchdown pass to Golden Tate. Again, too much cushion on a play inside the 5-yard line. Another cushion on another Michael Floyd catch. Even the broadcaster, Sean McDonough, noted that Cissoko couldn’t cover Floyd at all.
-Michigan didn’t have any recognition on screen passes. On the first one for Notre Dame, when Armando Allen looked to have a touchdown that was reversed, there was no one close to Allen or any of the offensive linemen set up to block.
-Another poor defensive effort on a screen pass in the second quarter. It was nullified by a holding call on Sam Young on Brandon Graham, but that was on the back side of the play, so it likely wouldn’t have changed the result much. Bad hold by Young. Bad defense by Michigan. A third screen, also with a huge game, was called back due to an illegal shift. Penalties hurt the screen game, which was really effective.
-Speaking of that play, Allen’s foot was really, really close to the line. Watching it again, don’t know if he was out of bounds. Certainly not enough to absolutely overturn it.
-Michigan handled the one Wildcat play Notre Dame ran with Allen pretty well. Read the handoff to Golden Tate decently. Reminded a lot of the first play of the 2007 Notre Dame-Michigan game, with Allen taking a direct snap over his head that almost resulted in a safety.
-Officials missed what could have been a personal foul on Notre Dame’s Sam Young after a play. His helmet got ripped off by Stevie Brown at the end of a play and he kept blocking him well after the play was over. No call, though.
-Obi Ezeh’s roughing the passer call was very legitimate. He hit Clausen well after he threw the ball and after taking two or three extra steps.
-Warren was beat badly on the touchdown catch by Floyd in the second quarter. Floyd just leapt over him for the catch.
-The Wolverines have to be concerned with their run defense. The front seven was beaten badly by Notre Dame’s offensive line. Huge holes for Allen to run through in the first half. And when they ran, they’d either run away from Brandon Graham or double him.
-On the first defensive series of the second half, good pressure by the defense forced Clausen to run. Could have hit him, but there was a bit of an overrun by the defender.
-Horrible fumble by Jonas Gray. Stevie Brown got credit for a strip, but Gray essentially dropped it on the exchange because Brown got the rush in close to the same time.
-Michigan didn’t seem to blitz much, but in the third quarter they sent a strong blitz and Clausen was shelled as he threw the ball by Ezeh and Jonas Mouton. Guard Trevor Robinson was turned around on the play. The next play, Clausen made a horrible throw and the Michigan defense stuffed out a screen for the first time all day.
-On the next drive in the third quarter after the pooch punt by Forcier, Clausen went right at Cissoko by going deep to Tate. Tate was, before the ball even got near him, raising his hands complaining about pass interference, which it didn’t look like. Rodriguez thought the ball was uncatchable. And while that’s going on - and didn’t notice this at the game yesterday - Tate went up to Cissoko and got in his face, too. It was a legit call from an actual interference standpoint as Cissoko hooked him with his arm when he turned back to look at the ball.
-The next play, Craig Roh got held by Sam Young, nullifying a huge play by Kyle Rudolph. Then, back to abuse of Cissoko by Floyd. Cissoko pushed him down again after he was down in front of a ref. Surprised that wasn’t called.
-Stevie Brown really did have a good game. Addressed it earlier, but he’s been in on a lot of plays in this game. More pressure on this drive, too, from Graham on a third down.
-On Notre Dame’s first drive of the fourth quarter, Michigan’s defense was bailed out again by an Irish mistake. Golden Tate dropped a sure touchdown pass that hit him in the hands after he beat Donovan Warren in coverage. Tate dropped two passes in the drive that were touchdown passes - the second one over Cissoko.
-Floyd, though, was a beat. He might be the best receiver in college football after rewatching this. He, literally, was everywhere on the field and beat up every Michigan defensive back out there. The way he makes cuts and finishes routes is extremely impressive. Plus, he has unbelievable leaping ability.
-More issues for Cissoko, who dropped a sure interception on a rare Clausen misfired pass. Later in the drive, he got beat trying to jump a route to Tate that ended up as a touchdown to cut the Michigan lead to 31-26. The two-point conversion was broken up by Stevie Brown.
-Another drive and more picking on Cissoko. If Clausen had made a better throw, he could have been called for a pass interference penalty. They also went at him again on the play where Michael Floyd was hurt. Floyd went up, jumped over Cissoko for another catch but landed out of bounds.
-On Notre Dame’s final touchdown, the defensive front again looked tired and unable to handle the run. The Irish’s interior offensive line did a very good job of run blocking all day.
-Love the Statue of Liberty call on the two-point conversion, but it almost ended up doing nothing as Allen might have lost it.
-Notre Dame’s last meaningful offensive drive, Allen got the ball and ran off-tackle left. Good block by Kyle Rudolph on the run. Also, curious decision by Weis to give the ball to Robert Hughes, who isn’t as fast as Allen and hadn’t played much at all, on the next play. It started a string of odd playcalls for Charlie Weis. After that play and with Allen back in, Notre Dame took a shot deep to Golden Tate. Defended well by Donovan Warren, who had a better day when he would be matched up on Tate. He broke up another pass to Tate that would have been a touchdown earlier and made a game-saving breakup on the final drive. But, if you’re Notre Dame, why don’t you run the ball? Too much bravado there from Weis. Way, way too much. It let Michigan keep its timeouts and gave them more time. His next play, a throw to the freshman Shaq Evans, was curious again. Bad throw to a rookie, who had beaten Cissoko on the play when he cut back.
It also set up the final, game-winning drive.

-Bryan Wright has a good, strong leg. Touchback on first kickoff.
-Kick coverage wasn’t the best. Barry Gallup Jr. had a large hole on his first return.
-Zoltan Mesko’s first punt, which was short, was not all his fault. The snap was low. His third punt, one which was short and took a huge bounce for Notre Dame, was. Snap was perfect. Kick was bad.
-Darryl Stonum’s first quarter kick return for a touchdown was extremely pretty to watch. Great wedge by Michigan’s special teams unit and a pretty impressive move by Stonum on a Notre Dame defender who tried to tackle him around the Michigan 40-yard line. Completely faked him out and then ran to the middle of the field.
-On the kick return following it, Michigan had good coverage, poor tackling. Two missed tackles gave Theo Riddick about another 5-8 yards. Worse coverage later as no one was in the middle of the field lane to stop Gallup, who galloped past midfield in the third quarter.
-Jason Olesnavage hooked a field goal, but also made one. The hook looked like it was all on Olesnavage (and looked very, very bad). Snap and hold appeared fine.



Mon, Sep 14, 2009 : 5:30 p.m.

Awsome Game. I was there, the place was rockin!! The real test is gonna come on the first road game...and we all know where that is at. I see them losing at Wisconsin, Penn State and I know... Ohio State. I think every other Leauge game will be close. But next year..BIG 10 Fans...BE AFRAID.......BE Very AFRAID. GO BLUE!


Mon, Sep 14, 2009 : 1:51 p.m.

Michigan Rules! GO BLUE! We are back baby...........


Mon, Sep 14, 2009 : 9:58 a.m.

The 'dropped' bomb by ND at the start of the fourth quarter was not Michigan getting bailed out by a mistake. You have to look very closely, but Warren closed the gap and hit the elbow of the receiver at just the right time to close his hands before the ball arrived. Technically pass interference, but perfectly timed and undetectable at live speed. A professional move by Warren.


Sun, Sep 13, 2009 : 9:27 p.m.

ND has some great players and looked like a very good football team for 57 minutes. Too bad for them games last 60.