A year ago, Notre Dame's defense held the Michigan Wolverines to just six points and forced five turnovers. But this year, Devin Gardner and company hung 41 against the Fighting Irish. They scored on 5 of 6 possessions in the first half to put up 27 points. Michigan kept it going despite one mistake in the endzone by Gardner in the second half.
When it was all over, Gardner threw for 294 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also added 82 yards rushing with a touchdown. His favorite receiver was Jeremy Gallon who caught 8 passes for 184 yards and 3 touchdowns.
That makes you wonder, how does a defense go from being so dominant to so dominated. I think the answer is a couple of factors. One, Michigan has a really good team this year. They will probably sore through the Big Ten Legends Division and play Ohio State for the title. I will give the Wolverines their due. They are really good.
Two, Notre Dame is really missing some key players. Manti Te'o, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Zeke Motta all graduated while Danny Spond had to retire early for health reasons. But Brian Kelly and Bob Diaco have a next man in philosophy. Based on that, the talent to replace those guys is there on paper. However, when you have a leader like Te'o, his presence raises the performance of everyone around him. So far nobody has assumed that responsibility. I am still waiting for Louis Nix to fill that role and so far he hasn't.
Giving credit where it is due, Notre Dame's offense has really played well. Yes Tommy Rees did have two interceptions, but through two games he has thrown for 660 yards and five touchdowns. TJ Jones appears to be on pace for a Michael Floyd type year. So far he has caught 15 passes for 232 yards. I also like what I see from USC transfer Amir Carlisle. He looks to be capable of being a Theo Riddick type back.
As disappointing as this loss was, Notre Dame needs to regroup quick because all is not lost and this can still be a great year. The offense is looking real good and the talent is there on defense, they just need a leader.