Michigan Wolverines 35, Notre Dame Fighting 31: INSTANT CLASSIC and Rapid Reaction

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Tonight’s attendance in the Big House: 114,804, a new record for college football. Population of Ann Arbor, Michigan: 113,934. The first night game in the 133 year history of UM football, and it drew the biggest crowd ever.

And what a show they saw. Wolverines 35, Notre Dame Fighting Irish 31.

In a finish that was so fantastic, you would doubt its believability if you saw it in a movie.

Three marches down the field for lead changing touchdowns in the final 1:12. A lot happened all at once, so I’ll break it down for you again, key play by key play.

Like this year’s program marketing slogan states: “This is Michigan.”

Notre Dame owned the first three quarters, compiling a massive yardage advantage and a 24-7 lead heading into the final 12 minutes. Tailback Cierre Wood ran for over a C-note in less than three quarters and finished with 134 yards and a TD on 25 carries.

Michael Floyd caught 13 balls for 159 yards, breaking the school record for career receiving yardage and tying Golden Tate’s school record for career 100-yard receiving games. He became the Notre Dame all-time receptions leader in the season opening loss to USF last week.

But the fourth quarter belonged to Denard Robinson and Michigan. He started this game an ugly 3-12 passing, as he made a few bad throws, and was also plagued by drops from his receivers. Last year against Notre Dame, he had a school-record 502 yards of total offense, and tonight 446 and the ND defense couldn’t stop him when it mattered most.

Denard finished 11 of 24 passing for 338 yards, four TDs and three interceptions. He also ran 11 times for a buck-o-eight and a score.

The Wolverines took their first lead of the entire game when Robinson threw a 21-yard scoring strike to Vincent Smith with 1:12 left, but they quickly lost the lead. Tommy Rees (27-39, 315, 3 TDs 2 INTs) led the Irish right back down the field, hitting Theo Riddick for a 29 yard TD that left just 30 seconds on the clock.

But the Fighting Irish secondary collapsed, leaving Jeremy Gallon wide open on a pass that drove Michigan 64 yards on one play.

“We’re not good enough,” ND Head Coach Brian Kelly said. “There’s not one individual in that locker room, including all the coaches, that are good enough right now.”

Denard then found Roy Roundtree in the end zone with two seconds left (on a pass that he was also interfered on by the ND defender), completing the 80 yard drive in just three plays.

“It’s devastating,” Floyd said. “It’s hard to take this one in. It’s distressing.”

The Irish lost three straight to Michigan for the first time since 1908. Losing all three on big plays in the final 30 seconds.

The only time I’ve ever seen a Big Ten football game end like this, with such quick lead changes, was the Northwestern Wildcats vs Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field in 2001. It was the first game for both teams after 9/11, and coincidentally, this wild finish comes one day ahead of the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.

ESPN Gameday, which stars Desmond Howard, came up to the Big House for this. Howard, arguably the most iconic player in school history, was honored with a moving pre-game tribute. It was a night for zeal, ebullience, hoopla, school spirit and excitement. And the game lived up to every ounce of the hype.

“That was an exciting football game,” Michigan Coach Brady Hoke said in an extreme understatement. “Both teams fought for 60 minutes. It wasn’t pretty at times on both ends, but as I told my players, it’s great to win.”

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports 

He does regular weekly radio spots in Chicago and Cleveland and has appeared on live shows all across the world from Houston to New Zealand. You can follow him on Twitter

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