SOUTH BEND — Leading 14-12 and lining up on the
Michigan five-yard line following a blocked punt, Notre Dame wanted
to put the game out of reach.
And, just as they did throughout the second half, the Fighting
Irish turned to running back Darius Walker.
The freshman took a handoff from quarterback Brady Quinn and
bounced out towards the left sideline. There, he eluded tackles
from Michigan cornerback Markus Curry and linebacker Lawrence Reid,
and headed for the goal line with one arm in the air, pointing at
the exuberant Notre Dame student section.
Hello, end zone.
All told, Walker finished with two touchdowns, while
accumulating 115 yards on 31 carries, helping Notre Dame (1-1) hand
No. 8 Michigan (1-1) a 28-20 loss — marking the fifth
straight year the Wolverines have suffered a crushing nonconference
defeat away from the Big House.
“We have no excuses,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr.
“We just didn’t do the things that were necessary to
Thanks to a stellar defensive effort, the Wolverines took a 9-0
lead into halftime as sophomore Garrett Rivas drilled three field
goals — the last coming on the final play of the first
But things quickly unraveled for Michigan after halftime.
The Wolverines went three-and-out to open the third quarter, and
three plays later, Quinn went up top for a 46-yard touchdown pass
to wide receiver Matt Shelton, who leaped over top of Curry for the
That connection invigorated the Irish, who went on to score 28
of the game’s next 31 points.
“That’s what big plays do,” Carr said.
“They change the momentum of the game.
“It got the crowd back in the game, and I think it gave
Notre Dame a lot of confidence.”
The Irish rode that emotional surge to take control of the
Reid briefly halted the Notre Dame rally, intercepting a pass to
set up Rivas’s fourth field goal of the game to put Michigan
But just before the end of the third quarter, a pass from
Michigan quarterback Chad Henne — who finished his first
career road game 25-of-40 for 240 yards and one touchdown
— deflected off wide receiver Braylon Edwards’
hands and was picked by Notre Dame defensive back Dwight
And, from there, it was all Irish.
Walker punched in his first touchdown with 13:48 left, giving
the Irish a lead that they would never relinquish.
“The right person at the right time can give you that
spark that everyone feeds off of,” said Notre Dame coach
Tyrone Willingham of Walker’s performance.
“We wanted to get him in the first quarter, but we
didn’t know how many carries he would get.”
After that, the Wolverines were struck by one of their old
downfalls — a special teams blunder.
Michigan’s offense was quickly forced to kick the ball
away, but senior Adam Finley was swarmed by the Irish, and his punt
attempt was blocked. Notre Dame recovered the loose ball on the
five, setting up Walker’s tackle-breaking touchdown
“I didn’t even know who that was,” Michigan
cornerback Marlin Jackson said of Walker’s unexpected
performance. “He was busting a lot of runs outside — we
were losing our containment on defense. We didn’t do a good
job of adjusting.”
In the first half, the Wolverines, once again, put themselves in
position to grab a road win — thanks, mainly, to a
spectacular defensive effort.
A Curry interception set up Rivas’ first field goal, and
Michigan stretched the lead to 6-0 just prior to the end of the
But without question, the defensive highlight of the game for
the Wolverines came when they held on a goal-line stand midway
through the second quarter, stuffing Notre Dame running back Ryan
Grant on a fourth-down run from the one-yard line.
The next possession saw Curry — who had earlier set up a
Michigan field goal with an interception — tip a Quinn pass
into the hands of safety Ryan Mundy. Michigan then marched down the
field in the waning minutes of the first half.
The drive was highlighted by a 45-yard play-action pass from
Henne to Edwards — part of the receiver’s game-high 12
catches for 129 yards.
But Michigan again failed to end a drive with a touchdown, as a
third-down run by freshman Mike Hart fell far short of the goal
“We had a miscommunication there,” Carr said.
“It was a wristband call by our quarterback and we did not
get the play call that we wanted.”
That “miscommunication” meant Michigan would head
into the break ahead 9-0 — no doubt a lead that could have
been bigger — a fact that came back to haunt the Wolverines
during Notre Dame’s second-half comeback.
“In 1998, we came in here, the first half, and played very
good football,” Carr said. “We should have had a lot
more points, but we settled for field goals.
“And anytime you settle for field goals, that motivates
your opponent. If you get touchdowns, you can take control of the
game. But with nine points, you certainly don’t have