Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stunning Collapse Puts Irish, Kelly at 0-2 Searching for Answers

Notre Dame's Gary Gray (4) watches as Michigan's Roy Roundtree (12) catches the game-winning TD for the Wolverines

Another week, same old story for the Fighting Irish. For the second game this season you might think the Irish actually won by looking at the stats column.

Notre Dame had more total yards (513 to 452), rushing yards (198 to 114), better 3rd down efficiency (8-14 to 3-9) and dominated time of possession (37:01 to 22:59).

But, like last week, as your eyes glaze down the stats column you pass over the most telling stat: turnovers.

It was a 5 turnover performance that ultimately prevented the Irish from having any shot of beating South Florida a week earlier. True to form, it was another 5 turnover performance that practically gift wrapped an undeserving victory for the Michigan Wolverines last night.

Make no mistake about it, Michigan did not win the game last night. Notre Dame lost it. And what a heartbreaking 35-31 loss it was for the Irish.

There were several key junctures where the Irish had opportunities to close out the Wolverines. From the red zone in the first half Irish QB Tommy Rees threw into traffic at Michael Floyd who was covered by no less than three Wolverines defenders. Instead of going up 21-7, the Irish stayed at 14-7 before forcing a three-and-out and eventually kicking a field goal to make it 17-7.

Then there was the fumble by Rees, who let the ball slip out of his hand as he was attempting to throw, at the goal line when the Irish were about to expand on a tightened 24-21 lead late in the 4th quarter.

Rees was chosen earlier in the week by Coach Kelly to start in favor of the previously anointed starter Dayne Crist. Several mistakes were made, especially the fumble mentioned above along with a few ill-advised interceptions, but Rees ultimately played good enough to put the Irish in position to win the game. He did, after all, manage to lead them down the field and connect with WR Theo Riddick, who recovered nicely after an awful opening game performance, for what appeared to be the go-ahead score with 30 seconds left.

Luck was not on Notre Dame's side though. Take the Michigan fumble at the 1-yard line. Irish S Harrison Smith forced the ball loose but it bounced directly into the eager and sure hands of Michigan's QB Denard Robinson who easily waltzed into the end zone for a score.

Late in the 3rd quarter, Notre Dame's DE Kapron Lewis-Moore had an opportunity to bring down Robinson with a sack. With Lewis-Moore tightly gripped to his leg, Robinson somehow managed to remain balanced and throw a precision pass to WR Junior Hemingway for a 77-yard gain.

What sticks out most from Robinson's performance, though, is that he completed a meager 11 passes all night. But from those 11 passes he generated 338 yards, which goes to show how poorly Notre Dame's secondary played.

As bad of a passer as Robinson is he somehow managed to tear apart the Irish secondary seemingly at will. Pictured at the top of the article, CB Gary Gray was largely responsible for those bombs thrown by Robinson. He looked confused on a 43-yard touchdown to Hemingway in the 2nd quarter and allowed a 14-yard touchdown to WR Jeremy Gallon early in the 4th quarter. On the game's final offensive play Robinson went over top of Gray to hit Roy Roundtree (picture at the top of the article) for the game-winning score.

But this was a team loss and everyone on that roster is accountable for it. Coach Kelly did not tread lightly on this after what surely was a migraine inducing performance.
We're not good enough. There's not an individual in the locker room, including all the coaches, that are good enough right now. Pretty much told our football team that when we're a better football team we'll start winning.
Better needs to be right around the corner or it could wind up being a long season for the Irish and their fans.

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