SOUTH BEND — Even without the rain, the game couldn’t have been sloppier.

In a game that featured seven Michigan fumbles (four lost), 79 penalty yards and two interceptions in the last ten minutes, the Wolverines were trounced 35-17 by Notre Dame on a dreary, overcast afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Wolverines’ messy play started with the first touch of the game and became progressively worse during the first drive. Boubacar Cissoko lost track of the ball after it hit him on the opening kickoff, forcing the Wolverines to start the drive from their own nine yard line.

Five plays later, after a personal foul penalty gave the Wolverines a 2nd-and-27, running back Brandon Minor botched a lateral pass from quarterback Steven Threet to give the Fighting Irish the ball at the 15 yard line. After another Wolverines penalty gave Notre Dame a first and goal, it scored on a two-yard rush to take the early lead.

And seconds later, the Fighting Irish had the ball back in scoring position. Michigan fumbled its second straight kickoff, this time after the ball bounced off freshman Michael Shaw, and Notre Dame recovered possession at the Michigan 14 yard line. It only took the Fighting Irish two plays to tally its second touchdown in the game’s first nine minutes, this time on a lofting 9-yard pass that was reeled in by wide receiver Duval Kamara in the corner of the end zone.

With the ball back and down by 14, Michigan drove the ball down the field to the Notre Dame 39 yard line before failing to convert on a fourth-down pass. And when Notre Dame regained possession, quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw a 48-yard pass into the arms of wide receiver Golden Tate in the end zone. The play gave Notre Dame a 21-0 lead after 11 minutes and nine seconds of play—and the Fighting Irish scored all three touchdowns in just 1:57 of possession.

The Wolverines’ offense showed some life on the next drive, which was capped by freshman Sam McGuffie’s 40-yard touchdown reception that put Michigan on the board for the first time. The only player to touch McGuffie en route to the goal line was teammate Perry Dorrestein, who collided with the freshman near the 20-yard line. McGuffie, spinning around to keep his balance after the hit, was still far enough ahead of the Notre Dame defense to score untouched.
By the end of the first quarter, the teams had combined for four fumbles and no punts — the first punt by either team came with 3:52 left in the half.

Both teams continued the offensive free-for-all in the second quarter. Michigan chipped away at its three-touchdown hole with a 23-yard field goal early in the quarter, but Notre Dame answered on the next drive with another Clausen bomb — this one a career-long 60 yards — that set up another Fighting Irish touchdown. Notre Dame scored on a one-yard run to break the game back open.

But on the following drive, the Wolverines notched another touchdown to again pull within 11 points of the Fighting Irish. Redshirt junior running back Kevin Grady scored his first touchdown since returning from his DUI suspension to make the score 28-17 going into halftime.
The third quarter had relatively fewer Wolverine errors until another crucial fumble, this time five yards from the goal line. After driving 75 yards down the field, Michigan was poised to pull within four points when Grady fumbled the ball, ending the Wolverines’ last real shot at a comeback.

Threet left the game with nine minutes remaining with career-high statistics — 16-of-23 for 175 yards and one touchdown. But redshirt sophomore quarterback Nick Sheridan came in and promptly threw interceptions on two consecutive drives to end the game for the Wolverines.

Threet and McGuffie were the Wolverines’ strongest players. McGuffie finished with 178 all-purpose yards, including 25 rushes for 131 yards.

For full coverage of this afternoon’s game, check SportsMonday.

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