It was a beautiful night for a football game. Ok, it was a little cloudy, and pretty humid with barely a whisper of a breeze, but in the end, I won’t remember that at all. I’ll remember that I was in The Big House for the largest crowd on record (115,109) at the last home game between Michigan and Notre Dame, and that Michigan was victorious 40-31. It was a game worthy of the end of a rivalry.
This game was an event from start to finish. I took over 700 pictures at the game, and I think I’ve managed to pare it down to 51 that I will post with a few holdovers for next week. I mean, we had the Tom Harmon Jersey, a series of flyovers from the Black Diamond group, the whole UTL2 setup and show and that doesn’t even include the game. I didn’t actually get pictures at half time. I was having trouble getting the normal clear pictures I shoot and was struggling with the light conditions. I apologize in advance for some less than clear shots including a few that I just felt I needed to post anyways. I certainly recognize I’m going to have to work on my photography skills for the next time.
For the most part I’m going to hold off on the non-football pictures until the end, but don’t forget to scroll down and see them. There are some really nice ones there! We do have the last time that Devin Gardner wore his #12 jersey, and the first time he wore his #98. That changeover reminded me of a line in the movie Air Force One. “Liberty Two Four is changing call signs – Liberty Two Four is now Air Force One!”, to cheers from the crowd. Well, @dg1two changed to @qu9rter8ack and the Big House cheered! Mark Harmon was there to accept the honor for his dad. It was all pretty awesome.
Let’s break down the game the way I saw it. First of all, let’s talk about the offense. I thought the offensive game plan was really pretty conservative. A good mix of pass and run, but there really wasn’t much that we didn’t run against Central. ND should have been able to game plan for everything that was there. Holes in the line were hard to come by and they closed quickly. There was virtually nothing up the middle at all, so most of our yards gained were from the tackles out. We didn’t rack up an enormous amount of yardage, but I think the running game was effective enough to allow for the play action passing game to work. Still, Devin didn’t have a lot of time. Throws had to get out quick or bad things happened. There were a couple of scary decisions by Devin, and of course, the one in the second half that was a big momentum swing was the sack turned safety turned interception for a TD. The good news is we survived it and went on to win the game. I believe that play could have been a negative turning point for this team, but they overcame. I would really like to see something in the play calling to help the offensive line. A screen pass or a draw play. Heck we used to run the silly bubble screen to death and we didn’t even see it once. It would be great to do something that would give the defensive line something to think about rather than a mad push to the quarterback.
On the defensive side of the ball, we gave up pass completions but never got beat with the homerun ball. I count this as a success. There was some grumbling from those around me in the stands that we were letting up too many yards via the pass, but honestly, it was a pleasant change to see 3 guys hitting just about every receiver and not having receivers just flat out run free on us. The secondary has done a great job of keeping things in front of them and I for one am thankful for that. Our run defense held Notre Dame in check and I think our linebackers and defensive backs did a great job of filling holes, containing and bringing guys down. Holding ND to just 96 yards rushing is awesome. Of course there is room for improvement here too. Our front 4 really didn’t manage to get a lot of pressure on Rees. With only 1 sack on the day, ND gave Rees plenty of time to throw the ball, and given time he was going to hit open, or less than open receivers. For the remainder of our games we really need to find ways to get more pressure on the quarterback and I think that will be a focus this week.
On special teams, things were rolling along just fine…until they weren’t. In the second half, Matt Wile just had a couple of bad kicks in a row and they were at times when we were trying to keep the game out of reach. One punt off the side of his foot, and a kickoff that went out of bounds. Both were painful and caused more pressure on the defense than we needed to see. Matt has been extremely reliable, and I was wondering if he didn’t have an injury we didn’t know about to have two bad kicks in a row. Hopefully they were just flukes. Everything else looked exceptionally solid again.
Unlike in week 1, penalties were a problem in this game. Back to back holding calls took us out of a drive, and numerous other penalties just seemed to keep putting us in the hole, or let ND out of them. Something tells me that there will be additional focus on the penalty yardage in practice this week also.
Overall, you have to give these team a lot of credit for how they played this game. They were solid and steady and just kept on perservering through the adversity (some of it admittedly self inflicted) and found a way to put a big W on the board. This next week hopefully we can get some people healthy and put another W on the board against Akron. I’m not going to be there this week, but hope you all will make Section 9 proud. See you next week.
An assortment of pictures…. enjoy! Don’t be afraid to comment and let me know what you like!