Michigan Clips No. 18 Notre Dame, 38-34
Sept. 12, 2009
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -A dropped TD pass didn't deflate Tate Forcier. The Michigan freshman simply threw another one on the next play.
After LaTerryal Savory bobbled and dropped a reception that would've been a go-ahead touchdown with just seconds remaining, Forcier hit Greg Mathews for a 5-yard score with 11 seconds left, lifting the Wolverines to a 38-34 win over No. 18 Notre Dame on Saturday.
"It will go down in history as one of the greatest games in the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry," Mathews said. "I'm glad I got a chance to play in it."
Armando Allen ran for a touchdown and got the 2-point conversion on a nifty Statue of Liberty play with 5:13 left after Jimmy Clausen threw his third touchdown pass to give the Fighting Irish (1-1) the lead. But Charlie Weis chose to throw instead of trying to run time off the clock and Notre Dame's defense could not deny Forcier and the Wolverines (2-0).
"I think it was mistake that they were throwing the ball because they let us save our timeouts," Forcier said. "Those timeouts definitely came in handy.
"I wasn't expecting them to throw the ball. It really helped us."
Weis defended his choice to put the ball in the air after running for a first down and a short gain to start a drive deep in Notre Dame territory.
"They loaded up the box and made it clear that they weren't going to let us do that, so we had to throw the ball," Weis said. "On third down, we could have run and made them use a timeout, but we were trying to win the game."
Forcier's 31-yard TD run on a fourth down gave the Wolverines an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter. He threw an interception on his next drive to aid the Irish's comeback, but the freshman bounced back by converting a third down with a pass before his clutch connection with Mathews in the front corner of the end zone.
Savoy dropped a sure score in nearly the same spot on the play before. Forcier made a series of heart-stopping jukes to jitterbug away from tacklers in the backfield with no time outs before he found Savoy, who almost appeared surprised by the ball.
A season after losing a school-record nine games, Rodriguez has college football's winningest program at 2-0 for the first time since 2006 with a rout of Western Michigan and an emotional win over the rival Irish, whose winning percentage ranks second in the nation - behind Michigan's.
Weis, meanwhile, will likely face a lot of questions and second-guessing as he tries to address what went wrong at the Big House and why he hasn't been able to win many big games in his five seasons. Two years ago, Notre Dame lost a school-record nine under Weis and dropped six more last season. That included a loss to a bad Syracuse team coached by current Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.
The former Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots fell to 30-22 with the Irish.
Weis also called two long passes when Notre Dame led by three points and probably could have iced the game with a first down. Instead, the Irish had to punt, leaving Forcier time for a winning drive.
"This is a very disappointing, disheartening loss," Weis said.
Rodriguez, though, was not in the mood to offer sympathy.
"We've all lost close games," Rodriguez said. "You think they would've felt bad for us?
"Charlie is a good football coach and he's got a good football team. They're going to win a lot of games. The quarterback is an NFL guy. They've got two of the best wide receivers I've seen in years and their running back is a big-time player. And did you see the size of the linemen? They could eat peanuts off our guys' helmets."
Forcier was 23 of 33 for 240 yards, two TDs and an interception. He ran for 70 yards and a score - squirting up the middle on 4th and 3 to put Michigan up 31-20.
Brandon Minor ran for 106 yards and a score and Kevin Koger caught a TD pass.
Mathews had five catches for 68 yards, filling in for Junior Hemingway, who did not dress because of an ankle injury, a week after he caught two TDs.
Darryl Stonum returned a kickoff 94 yards to give Michigan a 14-3 lead.
Clausen completed 25 of 42 passes for 336 yards and three TDs, but he missed some throws throughout the game that proved to be costly.
Michigan struggled all day to cover Notre Dame's star receivers, Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. Tate, who infamously burned the Wolverines last season on a play in which he was the only receiver to go out for a pass, had nine catches for 115 yards and two TDs.
Floyd had seven for 131 yards and a score, but left the game late in the fourth quarter.
Allen ran for 139 yards - including the TD and a 2-pointer that put Notre Dame in a position to win - only to see it slip away, leaving Clausen to address the Irish after Weis did.
"I told them the same thing that Coach said," Clausen said. "We have to decide how we're going to go from here."