It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. In a rivalry traditionally built on hard-fought, down-to-the-wire battles, victories just don’t come this easily.

But there is only one word that can capture the latest chapter to the Michigan/Notre Dame rivalry book – domination.

“We whooped their ass this time,” former Michigan wideout Desmond Howard said after the game. “We may never see that happen again in our lifetime.”

No. 3 Michigan’s 38-0 win was historic. It was the first time the Wolverines have shutout the Irish since 1902, and their 38-point margin of victory is the largest ever (the previous record was 23 points, set in 1898 and 1902).

By the end of the first half, it was clear that the Wolverines, plain and simple, were just the better team on the field. Both on offense and defense, Michigan seemed to know everything Notre Dame was going to do before it happened -and the Wolverines were ready. They had a greater sense of motivation and simply wore down the Irish.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been this prepared for a game,” offensive lineman Tony Pape said. “We spent so much time in the film room and at practice. We were ready for them.”

Chris Perry seemed to be on a mission. The senior rushed for 133 yards on 31 carries and three touchdowns. He also had a touchdown reception on a short pass from John Navarre.

“Our offensive line made great holes for me,” Perry said. “They have been doing a great job all year. When they make holes like that, I have no choice but to run through them.”

The offensive line dominated what was supposed to be a strong Notre Dame defensive front – a front that takes pride in stopping the running game.

If the offensive line keeps up its play and Perry continues finding those holes, it’s shaping up to be quite a season for Perry. He has already picked up 549 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground and caught one touchdown.

“Perry is playing great right now, and if he keeps it up, he’s going to have all the success he can imagine,” Pape said.

Navarre also seemed to have sharpened his game after last week’s rough performance against Houston. Although he suffered a big hit and fumbled on Michigan’s first drive, the play didn’t phase him.

The senior threw for 199 yards and a touchdown. He spread the ball among his receivers effectively, and made good decisions with the ball. Navarre, who has been criticized for his performances in Michigan’s rivalry games, was poised and under control throughout the game.

Navarre was quick to credit the defense, though, for giving the offense so many opportunities with the ball.

“As many three-and-outs as they had, with the field position and the turnovers, we thrived on them,” Navarre said. “They played a heck of a game and did a tremendous job. They had great momentum and it was a great motivator for us.”

No team is perfect, but the Michigan defense came very close. It set the tone very early. Following Navarre’s fumble, Notre Dame started on Michigan’s 38-yard line. Three plays later, it had moved just one yard and was forced to punt.

“The defense was the difference today,” coach Lloyd Carr said. “They gave us great field position all game. The defensive stop after our first possession turnover was major. I have to take my hat off to our team.”

The defensive front, led by a hungry Larry Stevens, simply overpowered the Notre Dame offensive line. It also contained Notre Dame quarterback Carlyle Holiday, who usually picks apart defenses with his ability to scramble, was not a factor.

The Michigan secondary might have been better than the defensive front, as the unit mixed up its defensive sets very well. Marlin Jackson, who led the team with six tackles, lined up at safety most of the time, but sometimes, in nickel situations, moved in to go man-to-man. By the end of the first half, Notre Dame had just one passing yard. It only completed eight passes all game, and finished with 91 yards in the air.

“I feel like we put a pounding on them,” said Markus Curry, who had an interception in the second quarter. “We kept giving it to them and we never let up. Coach Carr said to never let up. No matter what the score is, no matter who is in the game, never let up.”

With their first road game coming up this Saturday in Oregon, it’s nice to have this kind of momentum to build on. Everything is clicking for the Wolverines right now, and they know it. But this is still just the beginning.

“I did not think in my wildest dreams that this could happen,” said Carr of the blowout. “It was our day and things went well for us. But we have a long season and you have to come ready to play.”

 

 

 

 

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