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Posted on Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 2:20 a.m.

Michigan's defense continues to win the turnover battle and more notes from Saturday's win over Notre Dame

By Pete Cunningham


Michigan cornerback J.T. Floyd, top, and safety Jordan Kovacs take down Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert.

Angela J. Cesere |

After the third quarter of the Michigan football team's 35-31 comeback victory against Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish had out-gained Michigan 373-141 in total yardage and owned a 24-7 lead.

Michigan's offense was sputtering, and Notre Dame playmakers Michael Floyd and Cierre Wood seemingly couldn't be stopped.

But Michigan stayed in the game with a pair of interceptions -- one on the goal line by J.T. Floyd, the other by Jordan Kovacs -- and two fumble recoveries.

Coach Brady Hoke called Jordan Kovacs' interception "huge" as it came after Michigan allowed Notre Dame to score on its two of its first three drives.

Michigan scored on its ensuing drive to get its first points of the game.

"That was a tremendous play, and it was a tremendous play because it started on the line scrimmage and started with the call defensively," Hoke said.

"I think we did a good job of disguising the defense," Kovacs said. "I think the quarterback felt we were blitzing, and he didn't see us dropped into coverage. It was a big play for us. ... It was a turning point in the game, but there were several turning points in this game."

Floyd's goal-line interception and the two fumble recoveries -- on the Michigan 9-yard line in the fourth quarter and 29-yard line in the third -- came on what appeared to be certain scoring drives for Notre Dame. And for the second week in a row, Michigan's defense made up for giving up huge gains with even bigger plays.

Conversely the turnover woes were a continuation of a headache that started last week for Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, whose team turned the ball over five times in a 23-20 loss to South Florida in its season opener. The Irish are minus seven in turnover ration through two games.


Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly talks with quarterback Tommy Rees in the fourth quarter.

Melanie Maxwell |

"We're not good enough," Kelly said. "There's not one individual in that locker room, including the coaches, that are good enough right now. And, consequently, we lost the football game. I mean across the board. It's turnovers, it's our sub-par special teams, our inability to make a stop; it's all of those things."

Being on the winning side of the turnover battle is something Hoke has emphasized in his short tenure, and a complete about-face from the Rich Rodriguez-era, when Michigan was minus-32 over three years, the worst in the country in that span.

"We were plus two today, and had a chance probably to be plus four," Hoke said. Michigan is plus-five on the season for turnovers. "For us, how we see it, (the defense) they hung in there, hung in there."

Denard ratio

With 338 passing and 108 rushing yards, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson accounted for 98.6 percent of Michigan's offense. The performance more resembled Robinson's against Notre Dame last year -- when he played a part in 502 of Michigan's 532 yards -- than his game against Western in Week 1 when he accounted for 50 percent of the team's yardage.

"Everybody was just playing as a team, just doing what we're doing to win for Michigan," Robinson said. "Coach said we have a whole bunch of football left and keep playing until the end, and that's what we did."

Record breakers

Notre Dame senior wide receiver Michael Floyd became the school's all-time leader in receiving yards during the team's opening drive of the first quarter. Floyd entered the game with 2,693 yards in his career, 14 short of former teammate, Golden Tate. Floyd caught a 21-yard pass yards on the Irish's third offensive play of the game to break the record.

Floyd had 100 yards receiving before the end of the first half, giving him 15 career games of 100 yards or more, tying Tate's school record. He finished with 13 catches for 159 yards.

Floyd also entered the game as the school record holder for touchdown receptions (30) and receptions (183).

Attendance record

It was also a record-setting day for at Michigan Stadium with an announced crowd of 114,804. The previous record of 113,090 was set at last season’s opener versus Connecticut.

Injury updates

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said on Friday that oft-injured senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk had hurt his hand at Thursday’s practice. Though Hoke did not disclose which hand, it was obvious before game-time when Woolfolk took the field with a cast on his right arm.

Woolfolk did not start and first entered the game on the first series of the second quarter. Michigan forced a Notre Dame punt on a three-and-out on the series, the defense's first stop of the game. Woolfolk played the majority of the defensive snaps the rest of the game and recorded three tackles.

Woolfolk came out of Saturday's game after taking a cleat to the nose, but returned shortly thereafter.

Also of note, Michael Shaw started at running back in place of Fitz Toussaint, who was described on Friday by Hoke as "a little beat up." Junior linebacker Cam Gordon did not dress for the second straight week because of a back injury.

Working out the kinks

The Michigan athletic department appears to be working out some kinks with its new high-definition scoreboards. While features such as team statistics were featured on the left-hand column of the scoreboard at the beginning of the game, for much of the first quarter the function wasn't working.

The problem appeared to have been solved in the second quarter.

It never happened

The NCAA will not recognize statistics accumulated by the Michigan and Western Michigan football teams in their season-opener last week, Michigan announced Saturday evening.

"The NCAA informed both Western Michigan and Michigan earlier this week that based on the NCAA Football Rules Book, it will keep the records of both teams, score of the game and attendance, but will not recognize the statistics from last Saturday's opening game due to the game not completing the third quarter," a statement said.

The schools terminated their game last week with 1:27 remaining in the third quarter and Michigan leading 34-10 due to sustained lightning in the area. They mutually agreed to hold the score and name the Wolverines the winner.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said all stats and results would stand. However, the NCAA said it will throw them out because the third quarter was not completed.

As part of the ruling, the NCAA gave Michigan and Western Michigan the option to maintain statistics accrued in the game. They each took it, as did the Big Ten and Mid-American Conference.

“Therefore, there will be a one-game discrepancy in statistical information between the NCAA and both schools/conferences moving forward,” the statement read.



Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 4:42 p.m.

I like this defense most specifically it's spirit and grit. Western Mich. should not have even been in the same stadium with Mich and the ending was merciful and manifested itself in a bizarre manner. Notre Dame had an old Wild West shootout flavor to it and just like the old coach RR we're possibly going to go 5 and 0. That's where Brady and Rich Rod differ greatly cause Brady knows if we continue in this wild manner we're going to get our butts handed to us at least 4 times and that's just in the Big Ten. RR thought he could bring that gun slinger style to every game and we paid dearly for his belief that his one man wreaking crew (DR) could win em all. Brady Hoke knows different and I can see he's looking for that one running back to step up to the plate. If Brady can find that running back I think this team is going to rock and roll in the big ten schedule.


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

This Michigan team is showing signs of improving,but like Brady said in post game, we have alot of work to do etc... NO EXCUSES ! It is what it is,and Brady and his coordinators have mostly RR's recruits and doing the best they can with what they have.. I'm sure everyone noticed the size differences of ND ,specially up front both D and O-lines.. They were huge ! compared to our linemen,but again we have what we have.. The next 2-3 yrs will be very interesting with the high caliber recruits coming in. Brady, G-Matt and Big Al will repeat Michigan history,return Michigan football into a National power house once again!! But in the mean time they will coach em up to be the best they can be.. TiM GO BLUE..


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Michigan is not a great team yet, but as some have already said, they are maximizing their potential. Most importantly, they did not give up and showed the type of spirit that is needed to ultimately achieve greatness. While I don't expect Michigan to go undefeated or even to win the B1G, I do expect them to show up in every game and fight their guts out to the end...just like they did last night. And with that attitude and character, playing to their best every down, they will give themselves at least a shot in every game they play.


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Good teams learn how to come back and win games. Hoke good job! Keep teaching, I think when we enter the B10 we can make a splash.


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

I am pleased with the direction of this defensive unit. For the first time in several years I actually held out hope that Michigan could execute a stop on 3rd down. I think J. T. Floyd should be given a hearty pat on the back ... he had a tough assignment in Michael Floyd, who's one of the best. J.T. Floyd covered with everything he had in him. But we are not reading this morning that Michael Floyd beat Michigan. Because he didn't. In many ways I felt as if I was watching Michigan grow up as a team before our eyes in that game. Are they a great team? Hardly. But are they a team who plays up to full extent of their abilities? Yes. And that's all you can ask of a player. Jordan Kovacs is deceptively fast.


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 2:30 p.m.

Great point, I believe I saw Floyd get an interception too, Michael Floyd is a man-child (while sober) and JT kept us in the game enough today....


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 9:34 a.m.

It is unfair to say that Michigan didn't create most of those turnovers through disguising blitz packages and confusing a young Tommy Rees. There was maybe one that Michigan didn't create but that is to be expected when playing in front of a hostile crowd on the road... especially in the offensive scheme ND is running under Brian Kelly. The offensive scheme I am talking about is the pass-heavy spread offense. What ND has is an inexperienced quarterback throwing the ball 40-50 times in a game. That is your offensive game plan. What do you expect? You are going to turn the ball over. 1-2 interceptions should be expected by ND every game. It's the nature of the system you are running and the personnel you have to work with. That number was larger at "Under The Lights" because of the circumstances that come with playing at a venue like that. Rees did a good job, all things considered. If ND fans don't want to turn the ball over, they should probably run a different offensive scheme... one that is focused on establishing the run. 1st rule of the pass-heavy spread: The system is designed to produce the maximum amount of yards per game while sacrificing ball security. The idea that, "If only ND could limit the amount of turnovers..." is an irrational idea. ND's yardage numbers are inflated by the system they choose to run and turnovers are the price they pay for that to happen.


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 2:28 p.m.

Good points.


Sun, Sep 11, 2011 : 7:04 a.m.

Turn over ratio is about measured by mental attitude not physical talent. The team lacks in defensive talent is making it up with mental toughness - a departure from the past 3 years. Current team is not defensively talented enough to compete in the B1G but the mental attitude can help keep any game close - enough stops to let the offense determine the fate of the game. Wouldn't be surprised if more last minute comebacks in the near future.