Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dear Diary...Notre Dame-Michigan

Diary #2 comes to you live from Vienna, VA. Some interesting games on thus far today. Billy’s Fighting JoePa’s were thoroughly unimpressive in their dispatching of Syracuse—though I’m sure he can reason it out as they were working on something they’re terrible at just like last week. Whether they’re actually getting better at the things they’re terrible at seems to be irrelevant…but I digress. Michigan State is struggling with Central Michigan, North Carolina suddenly awoke in the 4th quarter to tie things up with UConn, and Wisconsin is in a dogfight with Fresno State. Entertaining day thus far.

As I wrote before I’m dangerously confident and optimistic going into this game. This is a real opportunity for a national showcase. It’s not so much that this is a game with huge national significance, but more the fact that it’s literally the only game on national television at 3:30. With a pretty weak schedule (that gets weaker with every time people like Michigan State lay eggs on ESPN) these opportunities where all eyes are on us are relatively few and far between.

I’m looking for the Irish to come out with guns-a-blazing. In 2005 they came out of the gate with a beautiful drive that ended with a Rhema McKnight touchdown. Michigan’s only chance is if we come out of the gate like we did against Michigan State in 1998 (we were down 42-3 at halftime). Let’s kick off the day with a little pre-game.

3:15 Holly Rowe is interviewing Rich Rod pre-game and amazingly he doesn’t break into tears. Earlier in the day she broke the news that Manti Te’o would be starting because Toryan Smith is banged up. She also chimed in that he’s the highest rated recruit we’ve landed in two decades. Jimmy Clausen would disagree. So would Ron Powlus.

3:19 Jesse Palmer gives his pre-game thoughts on the matchup. My roommate C-Loss points out that he’s actually a pretty good analyst…and dreamy. No disagreements here. There is no way John Saunders could look more disinterested.

3:23 Flipped over to the Michigan State debacle. Central Michigan moved down the field to cut it to one point with under a minute left but missed the two-point conversion. Game over? No, of course not. The Chippewas recover the onside kick and drive into field goal range. He’s got a 47-yarder to destroy our strength of schedule

3:24 Wide left…but MSU jumped offsides, so he gets another shot. Michigan State screws us every year one way or the other. Mark Dantonio decides to ice the kicker for a second time.

3:26 Kicker sneaks it in the uprights by about six inches. God I hate Michigan State. On to more important things.

3:30 Michigan takes the field and we get our first look at The Big House…it’s a pretty intimidating sight. They’ve organized a “Maize Out” and the entire place looks like it’s sponsored by French’s mustard.

3:31 My buddy Hinkle gets the first noteworthy text of the day: “+1 Michigan—no one fell touching the banner.” The truth hurts.

3:32 Matt Millen is in the booth and he’s excited! Everyone in the state of Michigan has officially hit their mute buttons. In case they’re wondering about what they’re missing, he’s just said that Michael Floyd and Golden Tate are 1st round worthy and he’d draft them if he were still in the NFL. I mean they’re really 1st round worthy. He’d draft them no matter who was on his roster already. Don’t think he wouldn’t. Dare him to. Go ahead.

3:38 Barry Gallup back deep with Theo Riddick. I didn’t even know he was on the team anymore. I think he’s 12th string.

3:40 After taking a knee on the kick Armando gets strung out on the first play of the game. Entire left side of the line did nothing. Next play he busts a 24 yard rush right up the middle. Beautiful block by Olsen to spring him.

3:41 Jimmy’s first throw is a laser over the head of Rudolph who had a step. Third down.

3:42 Kyle Rudolph slant over the middle, he breaks a couple tackles and goes for 24 yards. ABC flashes a graphic that says Ethan Johnson now has 2 catches for 30 yards.

3:44 Armando takes a pitch to the left for five yards. Great, patient run right there, looked like he had nothing.

3:44 Jimmy misses Golden open in the endzone, Golden is complaining about being held. Judging by how on point Jimmy has been I tend to believe him.

3:45 Drive stalls on a 11 yard line after a failed QB draw. Nick Tausch blocks his kick wide right. I’m going to throw up. I still want him in there instead of Walker.

3:47 Forcier comes out slingin the ball. He completes his first pass for a first down by the Irish put the clamps on him. Fleming chases him down (after two more “Ole’s” by blitzers…FINISH HIM, GOOD LORD) on 3rd down to force a punt. Good defensive stop, time to take control here.

3:54 Three and out for the Irish, 3rd and 2 being a broken play. Matt Millen comments “that wasn’t good.” It’s like he read my mind.

3:57 Forcier jukes Brian Smith for eight yards. The guy looks confident and has some wiggle. Next play is a pass behind the line of scrimmage that’s totally snuffed out. Michigan also blocked in the back so you can back that up ten more yards.

3:59 Forcier lobs a bomb down the right side completed for 40 yards. Unlucky, Walls had great coverage and got his feet tangled up when he went up for the pick. He had it read the entire way. Not the breaks we’re looking for.

4:00 After a holding call backs Michigan up Brian Smith sheds an o-lineman and blows up a wide receiver screen.

4:02 Forcier throws a terrible ball to a wide open running back in the flat…back bobbles and comes down with it. Millen comments that it was a bad throw but the most important thing is that he saw him. I’d disagree.

4:03 Two runs and Michigan is in the endzone. 7-0. Not the start we were looking for.

4:08 Drive starts on the 27 and Armando busts a run 12 yards right off the right guard...good block by Floyd.

4:08 Jimmy fires one to Tate for another 15…Golden gets seven after the catch. Jimmy’s throw was a little high…just not quite on point today.

4:09 BEAUTIFUL SCREEN, 41 YARDS TOUCHDOWN IRISH…Good lord that was just a thing of beauty. The defense sold out and Allen had a two-man escort (including Chris Stewart) just waiting to flatten any defensive backs. Goes the distance untouched. We destroyed teams with the screen pass in 2005, it's nice to know we've remembered how to run one.

4:13 They’re reviewing the play…TERRIBLE overturn of the call. TERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIBLE. Absolute bullshit. At the very worst it was inconclusive. These Big Ten refs? I have a piercing headache.

4:18 Jimmy overthrows Floyd in the endzone on third down. Tausch in for another field goal. This one splits the uprights. 7-3 Michigan.

4:20 Michigan takes the kickoff to the house. Touchdown Michigan. This is going as terrible as possible.

4:23 First quarter comes to an end with the Irish facing a third down. We’re the better team. We’ve moved the ball pretty much at will, we stuffed them up pretty good on defense…and we’re down 14-3. This is exactly what Michigan needed and we’ve handed it to them. I should’ve known better than to think this would be anything but a dogfight. Slew of texts coming in has a distinctly different tone from last week. Most are laced with expletives.

4:27 Armando gets the first down with a good run to the right. Our offense looks pretty dam good, we need to finish.

4:28 Clausen hits Floyd for a big gain, he almost breaks a tackle and takes it to the house. Next play he hits Tate over the middle who makes a catch as he gets hammered at the ten.

4:29 Good hard run by Armando gets us inside the five. Clausen calls timeout. We need to punch this in. Badly. We can turn the tide before halftime and it needs to start NOW.

4:33 TOUCHDOWN GOLDEN TATE. No doubt. Easy. 14-10 Michigan after a 76 yard drive. Now we’re talking.

4:38 After the kickoff John Ryan makes a stuff in the backfield…the Brad John Ryan Celebratory Text Countdown begins…“Count it. High fives all around”…42 seconds. He’s slipping.

4:39 “May the Forcier be with You” sign. She looked like a girl that would make that sign. Michigan goes three and out and we’re in businessssssss.

4:40 Another good screen play but it’s called back for a hold on Sam Young.

4:41 Delay of game penalty. 1st and 25. We are taking the gun and aiming it at our own heads. Terrible.

4:42 Michael Floyd for 30 yards. He is unstoppable. 1st and 25 is nothing when you have him spread out wide. Brad chimes in “can you spell Biletnikoff.”

4:43 Incomplete bomb to Tate…defender held onto his arm, Millen says there was “a little holdage, but good coverage.” We’re inching toward the mute button.

4:44 After a ten yard gain by Armando Jonas Gray gets his first carry. Armando has 78 yards already.

4:46 Clausen throws a seed to Golden Tate. Tack on another 15 for a late hit. Millen says it looks like it’s 7-on-7 when ND is on offense. It’s true.

4:47 TOUCHDOWN MICHAEL FLOYD. He’s absolutely unstoppable. We’re moving the ball at will on the Skunkbears, we’ve stuffed up their offense the past couple drives, and there’s so much time left. The collective sphincter of The Big House is sooooo tight right now.

4:51 McDonough comments that “the crowd has gotten pretty quiet.” Dam right it has.

4:53 After a hold on ND we stuff Robinson on first down (HELLO RJ), almost intercept it on 2nd down, and their third down pass sail way long. Aftre a booming 20 yard punt ND takes over at the Michigan 42.

4:55 Armando right up the middle for another 15. He’s up to 97 yards.

4:57 On third and long they have another great screen pass that’s once again called back as well as an illegal shift. We need to STOP BEATING OURSELVES. 3rd and 15. Michael Floyd time.
4:58 Dumped it to Jonas Gray. Time for Nick Tausch to stand and deliver. Or I may have a stroke.

4:59 BEAUTY right down the middle. 20-14 Irish. Three minutes left in the half. Feeling much better, headache disappearing

5:01 Old Spice, I love you ad campaigns and I will always use you. Always.

5:03 Michigan takes over at the 30. Fleming chases down Forcier on first down. Best player no one is talking about. When he locks in you are not getting away.

5:05 Michigan is on the move, two big gains and they’re over midfield—1:20 left.

5:06 John Ryan stays at home and blows up a reverse. Props to him, he’s stepping up. I can see Brad smiling from 500 miles away. He didn’t have the opportunity to ever legitimately do this for Luke Zeller so he has to take advantage of these times.

5:07 Going for it on 4th down. Forcier scrambles and hits Mathews for a first down. He’s got a good presence and a nice arm. That conversion stings.

5:08 They’re playing Journey over the PA. The student section is belting out the lyrics. They love the “Born and Raised in South Detroit” line as much as Dip loves the “Yeah Texas” line in Thunderstruck. They’re reaching pretty deep into the well.

5:10 Off-setting penalties on 1st down—holding and pass interference. Frustrating, another example of us shooting ourselves in the foot.

5:12 The rush makes Forcier throw it away. Michigan kicks a field goal to cut the score to 20-17 as time expires.

5:13 Holly Rowe interviews Coach Rodriguez coming off the field. “We have to play the ball better in the air”. Unless they plan on letting their defensive backs play with brooms to defend Michael Floyd they’re in serious trouble.

5:15 I’m encouraged by how the offense looks but alarmed at how we’re allowing Michigan to even be in this game. We’ve given them a kickoff return and a missed field goal. We’ve had four penalties for 30 yards (that cost us a couple big gains…and that doesn’t include the Pass Interference that wiped out a holding call). We had a bogus call cost us four points. In spite of all that we’re leading. So I’m torn—great that we’re still leading, disappointing that we haven’t already put this game out of reach. I’m hoping this takes on the same pattern as PSU-Michigan last year where Michigan jumped out to a lead then got smoked. We shall see.

5:36 Michigan gets the ball and starts to march. Fleming bites on a tiny pump fake when he should’ve decapitated Forcier. They’re up to midfield after five plays. Down to the 33 after another long run up the middle.

5:38 Right up the middle for another 30 yards, down to the 3. Same problem that appeared against Nevada is rearing its ugly head.

5:39 Stuffed on 1st down, fumbled snap on second down, then Toryan Smith and Harrison Smith BLOW UP a run to the right. Great stand. Michigan trots on the field goal unit.

5:41 SNAP HOOKS A 27 YARDER WIDE LEFT. Rut roohhhhhh. That’s an absolutely huge stand started by Darrin Walls chasing down Brandon Minor at the 3.

5:42 Another holding call on first down. I want to choke someone.

5:43 One eight yard game by Golden, then another first down for Michael “Canton” Floyd.

5:45 Jonas Gray fumbles right after McDonough says they haven’t turned the ball over and Michigan takes over. Why isn’t Armando in the game? Jonas has had problems holding onto the ball by all accounts. Another gift. Blood pressure rising.

5:46 Two straight runs straight up the middle and it’s first and goal again. They’ve found our weakness; we have no answer for anything up the middle.

5:47 Touchdown Michigan on a crappy pass to the flat, good catch by the receiver…24-20 Michigan. Just absolutely awful. We’re just handing them opportunities.

5:51 Barry Gallup Jr. takes the kickoff over midfield with a great run. Who knew?

5:53 After two bad plays it’s 3rd and 11…huge play. Michigan sniffs out the screen and it’s three and out. Terrible series there. Maust bombs it into the endzone and suddenly I’m getting very, very nervous.

5:58 We stuff them on first down, bad throw on second down. Our blitzes are getting absolutely stoned. This is the downside to a Tenuta defense—we’re going to blitz no matter what and if they’re not hitting then we’re in trouble. Right now they’re not hitting.

5:59 First down on a great screen play.

6:00 Great tackle by Ian Williams on a quick wide receiver screen to save a first down. Forcier then quick kicks it down to the four yard line. Time for Jimmy to grow up right here.

6:02 First down bomb to Golden and the latest flag in the history of football (later than the OSU-Miami) comes in for pass interference.

6:03 Clausen hits Rudolph for a 70-yard gain…annnnnnnnnnd you guessed it, a hold brings it back. Sam Young. God *#)&$@# Dammit. Replay is questionable. Make-up call.

6:06 Notre Dame is forced to burn a time out on 3rd down as the play clock is running down. This is just a sloppy team today, Michigan shouldn’t even be sniffing us let alone winning. Terribly disheartening. Weis’s mantra has been let us show you. This is not what I wanted to be shown Charlie.

6:10 Jimmy gets clocked as he throws it and it’s another punt for Notre Dame. Michigan ball at the 36. I mean I don’t know what else to say. Our season really hinges on the next 17 minutes.

6:12 Michigan is moving into Notre Dame territory. Defense looks totally on their heels. Rich Rod 1, Jon Tenuta 0 at this point. On the offensive side of the ball I’d put it at Refs 2, Charlie 1.

6:14 Third quarter ends with Michigan facing a 3rd and 2. The Weis era hinges on these next 15 minutes. There is NO excuse for losing this game. Not one. Time for this team to come of age or risk the foundation of this season/regime crumbling.

6:17 Tenuta brings the house and they STONE them on third down. Michigan is going for it.

6:18 Forcier absolutely makes Darius Fleming look stupid, cuts it upfield and takes it to the house for a devastating touchdown. Please get Fleming crutches for his broken ankles, please get me a Maker’s Mark on the rocks. I’m just sick to my stomach.

6:23 After taking a knee in the endzone on the kickoff the Irish take two plays to get a first down. Jimmy then fires one long on first down. He needs to calm down, that last one was really forced.

6:25 Golden Tate drops a touchdown pass. Perfect pass by Clausen. I’m speechless. TERRIBLE.

6:26 Notre Dame burns their second time out as the play clock runs down. This is an abomination. Absolutely terrible. I had no idea Bob Davie was in charge of our timeouts today. This leads to an outburst that almost gets me kicked out of the house.

6:28 Michael Floyd with the first down catch. HUUUUUGE. Another slant to Floyd for another 12 yards. Can we just throw it to him every down until they prove he can be stopped?

6:29 Jimmy tests this theory and nearly gets it picked.

6:30 Another delay of game penalty. I mean I’m beyond words.

6:32 After a 10 yard pass to Tate Armando runs for a hard-fought first down.

6:33 Golden drops another touchdown. I mean are we in some sort of bizarro world right now?
6:34 TERRIBLE TERRIBLE spot on a third down run by Armando. TERRIBLE. This officiating is atrocious.

6:35 Jimmy sneaks it for a first down.

6:36 TOUCHDOWN GOLDEN TATE. The Irish cut it to five. Golden still has work to do to make up for both drops. Michigan sniffs out the two-point conversion and it stays a five point game. How big is that missed field goal right now?

6:39 Mike Anello trips up Odom and the Michigan takes over inside their own 30. Once again it’s time for the defense to deliver. And by deliver I don’t mean let Forcier run it right up the middle for fifty yards on 4th and 2.

6:42 After a first down the defense digs in and stones two straight plays. It’s 3rd and 11. STEP UP DEFENSE.


6:47 Terrible throw by Jimmy. There would’ve been pass interference but it was so far out of bounds it was ruled uncatchable. Armando gets another hard-fought first down.

6:49 Jimmy throws another terrible ball out of bounds in the endzone and Floyd is hurt after slipping on the track around the field. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with Jimmy. This is absolutely the worst case scenario. Floyd is not getting up and they take a commercial break. Who the hell has a track around their field? Are we in high school right now? Do we need to clean the stadium for relays tomorrow?

6:52 Floyd going to the locker room. Crap.

6:53 Armando runs for ten on third and two. It is SO NICE to have a running game.

6:54 TOUCHDOWN ARMANDO ALLEN. Now we have to get two.


6:56 Stupid penalty for celebration. They haven’t shown a replay so I have no idea whether it was legit or not. Shades of the ’99 game? This could be a huge penalty.

6:57 Great field position for Michigan after ND has to kick off from the 15. Time for one last stand on defense. Walls with a great hit behind the line for a loss on first down. Tenuta is jacked up right now.

6:58 We sit back in coverage and Forcier weaves up the middle for 12. The kid is good but come on.

6:59 They review his first down pass and it stands. Probably a good call, but just as clear as the Armando Allen overturn.

7:00 FUMBLE ON THE HANDOFF. Forcier pounces on it and it’s 3rd and 14. Three minutes left. HUUUUUUGE.

7:01 Forcier misses a WIDE open receiver. 4th and 14 and they’ve decided to punt. What a huge stand by the defense. Time for us to ice this game.

7:02 Notre Dame and Michigan trade stupid penalties and we’ll try this a third time. What a sloppy game. Eighth penalty of the game.

7:03 Golden fair catches it and (key word) catches it at the 18. Here we go, here’s your ballgame.

7:04 Armaaaaaaaaaandoooooooooooo Allen with a 13 yard jaunt on first down. Let me repeat: It is so nice…SO NICE…to have a running game. Michigan is crying for a hold. Save it for the press conference.

7:06 Charlie goes for the knockout blow and Golden can’t come down with it. Defender was draped all over him.

7:07 Evans was WIDE OPEN on the right sideline, wasn’t expecting it on a good ball from Jimmy. Forced to punt. Bad punt by Maust and now Michigan has the ball at their own 43 with two timeouts left. I’m sweating. A lot.

7:08 Two plays, first down. They’re in Irish territory. Drenched in sweat.

7:10 JOHN RYAN WITH THE SACK ON FIRST DOWN! WOOOOOOOOOOW. To say he has totally redeemed himself after that might be an understatement.

7:12 Two plays and it’s another first down on a helluva catch over the middle. Michigan moves down inside the 25 yard line and burns their last timeout.

7:14 Forcier scrambles and delivers a strike inside the five. He’s becoming a legend. I’m light-headed.

7:15 Forcier finds a wide open receiver in the endzone and it hits him in the chest and falls to the ground. Bullet dodged. I’m nauseous. This kid is a superstar.

7:16 Touchdown Michigan. 11 seconds left. Darrin Walls gets faked out of his shoes. I’m so used to this as a Notre Dame fan. What a terrible terrible existence. They quickly regain composure so they don’t get a penalty. What a novel concept.


7:19 Complete to Tate over the middle. He drops down with one second left. So you know, the clock should stop. It doesn’t. Game over. Notre Dame loses. Those two seconds would be useful right now. Any sort of breaks would be useful. Perhaps a new coach would be useful. Just absolutely disgusted. Back to the drawing board as another season receives a crushing blow in the month of September.

It’s going to take a lot of time to get over this one. The trash-talking texts are rolling in and I’ll get to wade through them for the next seven days. Let’s take inventory here, ten final snap judgments.

1. The Refs were TERRIBLE…I mean there were so many questionable calls—specifically the Armando overturn that cost us four points, the running off of two seconds at the end of the game—that you could legitimately say Michigan had a 12th man.
2. Too many self-inflicted wounds…We weren’t sharp—we took a few delay of games, we dropped balls, we were terrible on special teams, we had to burn unnecessary timeouts…part of that (if not all of it) has to fall on Charlie.
3. Armando had a great game and the run blocking was much improved…Armando had 139 yards on 21 carries and ran hard all day. This was really his coming out party, expect great things for the rest of the year.
4. Michael Floyd is unstoppable…when you throw it to him in the field of play.
5. Jimmy had a pretty solid game but for whatever reason just continually threw balls that weren’t even in the field of play…I mean give the best receiver pair in the country a CHANCE to come down with it.
6. Tate Forcier is on his way to being a superstar and Rich Rod is on his way to success…we had a chance to nip this era in the bud and instead we provided a springboard victory. They’re going to be a force.
7. This is still an immature team…unless that celebration penalty that they never showed was bogus…if it was bogus then please go back to #1.
8. Special teams breakdowns…a kickoff return and a missed field goal?!?! Good teams don’t screw these things up. Also let’s not forget about Maust’s TERRIBLE 25-yard punt at the end of the game. Terrible. Little things that lose games.
9. Golden Tate dropped two touchdowns. Unbelievable.
10. Text from my buddy Pat who is from Michigan and holds a particular black place in his heart for Michigan: “That was a soul crusher.”

Couldn’t be said any better. This is the life of a Notre Dame fan since November of 1993.



  1. From a college football fan standpoint, you couldnt ask for a better game.

    Yes, the ref's had some phantom calls but you cannot blame the game on that. Clausen missed some passes on the first drive that could have led to 6 along with a missed FG. Fumbles in clutch times are not ref's fault either. But yes, they blew.

    PSU sucks. They looked anout as bad as a team could look. You are playing at home vs a kid who has more dunk attempts in the last 4 years then pass attempts (organized and pick-up games) and that is how you play! OSU will Rolle them. Yes, Rolle...he is a beast.

    Directional Michigan strikes again...

    Texas, FSU, Okla St., and others just looked so so so so so bad. Just awful.

    BYU and UF looked dominate. I do not care who they played, they straight up took care of business. BYU is for real.

    Oregon -13...pray for it


  2. The celebration penalty was for Armando putting his finger to his facemask to essentially say "shhhh" to the crowd. Unquestionably the absolute weakest excessive celebration call that I have ever seen.