Everett Golson and Notre Dame said so long to Michigan with a devastating parting shot. When it was over, the Fighting Irish celebrated their most lopsided victory in the history of the series – and the only thing playing in the stadium was the alma mater and the fight song by the band.
Golson threw three touchdown passes and No. 16 Notre Dame beat the Wolverines 31-0 Saturday night, snapping Michigan’s NCAA record streak of games without being shut out at 365 before the rivalry goes into hiatus.
Coach Brian Kelly tried to downplay the win a little.
“It counts as one,” he said, before adding: “I’d be lying if I told you that it didn’t feel great to shut out Michigan, 31-to-nothing,” stressing the 31.
Game No. 42 in a rivalry that has been off-and-on for more than 100 years is the last scheduled. Notre Dame broke off the series to accommodate its new scheduling arrangement with the Atlantic Coast Conference. Michigan didn’t take it well.
Coach Brady Hoke jokingly accused the Fighting Irish of chickening out before last year’s game at Ann Arbor. Then after Michigan beat the Irish, “The Chicken Dance” blared through the sound system at the Big House.
No hard feelings?
“It was great revenge,” Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith said of the Irish fans serenading the Wolverines with “Nah, nah, nah. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye.”
The previous most lopsided victory for Notre Dame against Michigan as 35-12 in 1943. The last time the Wolverines were shut out was 26-0 by Iowa on Oct. 20, 1984.
This one will probably sting longer, considering the circumstances.
“We will bounce back,” Hoke said. “This is a very resilient, hard-working group of young men, who know what it takes to win.”
Golson was 23 for 34 for 226 yards.
Devin Gardner was 19 for 32 for 189 yards and committed four second-half turnovers for Michigan.
Maybe it was just a coincidence that this week Notre Dame announced a future home-and-home with Ohio State, Michigan’s hated rival – and a team that has owned the Wolverines in recent years. Still, this is a rivalry that has been generally quite civil in recent years. Two of the bluest of bloods in college football history, they are the winningest programs ever by percentage. They have combined for 1,787 victories. In fact, Michigan had a chance to take back the top spot by beating the Fighting Irish.
Notre Dame and Michigan may not love each other, especially these days, but they’ve always seemed to like being associated with one another. Classic uniforms. Recognizable fight songs (they sound a little alike to an untrained ear). They both tout their high academic standards and doing things the right way.
The traditional early season meeting between the Irish and Wolverines has always been a measuring stick.
But things change. Notre Dame now has artificial turf and an interlocking ND logo at midfield. And Michigan has now been shut out for the first time in 30 years.
The golden domes and winged helmets will go their separate ways. Michigan leads the series 24-17-1, but Notre Dame will get to bask in this one for a while.
Kelly came to Notre Dame five years ago, promising to recruit better athletes and install an up-tempo spread offense. Notre Dame went to a national championship game in 2012 on the strength of its defense. Golson was a redshirt freshman starter who Kelly said just “rode the bus” to the BCS title game. He didn’t even finish the 13-6 victory against Michigan that year.
Then Golson watched last season, suspended from school for academic impropriety.
Now, he’s in the driver’s seat and looking like a Heisman contender.
“Yeah, let’s put him up for it,” Kelly said. “Sure. Throw him in there.”
Golson was pinpoint and poised in the first half, leading Notre Dame to a 21-0 lead. As for the Heisman, he said, “Avoid the noise. People are going to talk, that type of thing, whether it’s good or bad. You just have to keep your head.”
Meanwhile, Michigan’s offense, a mess last year, devolved into Gardner trying to make a play under pressure far too often. It didn’t work in 2013 and it had no chance against Smith, Sheldon Day and Notre Dame’s feisty defense.
Michigan lost its 11th straight road game to a ranked team, the last win came in South Bend in 2006, and Hoke fell to 7-12 away from Ann Arbor.
“Maybe we can run into one another in a playoff game,” Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon said of Notre Dame. “That would be great. Or who knows. Things can change over time. But I think for the foreseeable future, we’re going in two different directions.”
It certainly looked that way.
SOURCE: The Associated Press
Ralph D. Russo