Michigan vs. Notre Dame score: No. 12 Irish handle No. 14 Wolverines in thorough win
Notre Dame led the entire game and held off a late attempted comeback by Michigan
It wasn't a pretty affair, and it felt like a tale of two halves for both teams. Notre Dame looked sharp early, scoring a touchdown on three of its first four drives of the night, but it wouldn't find the end zone again. The Irish had 21 points and 233 yards of offense in the first half, but managed only 3 points and 69 yards in the second. Michigan, meanwhile, went into the locker room at halftime with just 90 yards of offense and 10 points (seven of which came on a 99-yard kick return). In the second half, it posted 217 yards of offense, but was still limited to a single touchdown.
It was ugly for both teams, as the Michigan defense settled in after a slow start, and the Notre Dame defense was solid throughout the night and had a bit of "bend-but-don't-break" to it.
In the end, Notre Dame leaves with a win it can be proud of, and Michigan starts a season in which it had high hopes with a 0-1 record. But what does it mean for both teams? Let's try to figure it out.
1. Notre Dame's offense remains inconsistent. It seems to be a theme throughout the Brian Kelly Era in South Bend. At times, the unit looks unstoppable and exciting, and then suddenly it gets bogged down and can't get out of its own way. Brandon Wimbush came out slinging the ball all over the field, connecting with Chris Finke on a gorgeous 43-yard strike for a TD to give Notre Dame a 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
Wimbush completed 10 of his first 13 passes and looked terrific. But he then went 2-for-7 down the stretch to finish with 12 completions in 20 attempts.
Some of the blame has to go to the offensive line. It looked good enough for a unit that had to replace two top-15 NFL Draft picks, but it had a difficult time opening up holes against Michigan's front seven (as most teams do). While Wimbush was able to rush for 59 yards on designed runs and scramble, the rest of Notre Dame's offense managed 73 yards on 28 carries (2.61 per attempt). It nearly cost Notre Dame the game, too. Late in the fourth quarter, after Michigan had cut the lead to 24-17, the Irish just needed a first down to get out with the win. It ran three straight plays and went nowhere.
If Notre Dame is going to get to the College Football Playoff this season, it needs to find consistency on offense. It didn't have it Saturday night.
2. Shea Patterson isn't a savior. He's talented. He's probably the most talented quarterback Jim Harbaugh has had at Michigan, but the expectations placed on his shoulders were too much. I think that became evident to Michigan fans on Saturday night, as Patterson completed 20 of 30 for 227 yards passing, no touchdowns and an interception. While the completion percentage was healthy, the 7.6 yards per attempt wasn't. Take away one long 52-yard connection with Nico Collins and Patterson's numbers become far more pedestrian.
But it wasn't all his fault. While he has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long and forces a lot of passes he shouldn't (which is a problem that afflicts most college QBs), Patterson didn't get a ton of help from his offensive line. Notre Dame had 3 sacks on the night, but it felt like the Irish got pressure on Patterson nearly every time he dropped back to pass.
Michigan's inability to run the ball didn't help much either.
Now, none of this is to say that Patterson and Michigan can't have a successful season in 2018. They certainly can, but the first game of the season should temper expectations a bit.
3. Jim Harbaugh didn't change the narrative. Since coming to Michigan, Harbaugh has had success, but he hasn't won the big games against rivals. He's 3-6 against division rivals Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State, and now he's 0-1 against rival Notre Dame. It's not a good look.
It's also a narrative Harbaugh could flip on its head easily should Michigan start winning games and get on a roll, but he's going to have to deal with it for at least another month. There isn't a game on Michigan's schedule between now and Oct. 13 against Wisconsin it shouldn't win.
And if it loses any of them?
Well, then anything could happen.
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