The Michigan Wolverines had one last chance to derail the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Michigan on Sept. 7. With the Wolverines and Irish not scheduled to play again after 2014 at Notre Dame, coach Brian Kelly having dismissed the rivalry as a “big regional game” and with Notre Dame’s 13-6 win over Michigan last year, the Wolverines had all the motivation in the world to put on a show.
Quarterback Devin Gardner and receiver Jeremy Gallon put on such a show at the Big House, as Gardner’s four touchdowns and Gallon’ three touchdown receptions lifted the Wolverines to a 41-30 win. With Gardner adding 82 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground, Notre Dame and quarterback Tommy Rees played catchup the entire night.
The Irish never led, although they erased a 10-0 deficit early on and forged a 10-10 tie. But the Wolverines quickly struck back in the second quarter, scoring 17 points in the last nine minutes of the first half. A Rees interception late in the half proved very costly, as it led to the touchdown that gave Michigan a 27-13 halftime lead.
Gardner threw a terrible interception of his own early in the fourth, with the Wolverines up by 34-20. His attempt to get rid of the ball in the end zone and avoid a safety landed right in Irish defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt’s hands for a touchdown. Notre Dame then cut the gap to 34-30, but Michigan drove back down the field for the clinching score to finally put it away.
The Irish had two chances to stop the Wolverines on third down and hold them to a field goal, yet were derailed by pass interference calls. Although Notre Dame could debate the first call at the very least, better defense on Gardner and Gallon would have done more to save the night.
The Irish will not repeat their undefeated run to the BCS title game from last year, thanks to their “regional” rival. With a favorable schedule for the next two months and Gardner heading into the Heisman race, the Wolverines can start thinking of a run of their own. At the least, they can set up a mega showdown with their real arch-rivals in Ohio State to end the regular season.