The vaunted Michigan defense in the first half of the game did what they were supposed to do, get Notre Dame into third and medium, or more. The issue is that Notre Dame found ways to attack Michigan's aggressive third-down defense and converted.
On Notre Dame's 1st drive, Wimbush faced third down and ten on the third play of the game. Michigans defense did its job forcing a third and long and appeared poised to set the tone for the start of the game.
3rd & 10 at ND 25
(14:26 - 1st) Brandon Wimbush pass complete to Chase Claypool for 16 yds to the NDame 41 for a 1ST down
Notre Dame lined up in a 12 personal with twins to the right of the formation. Chase Claypool who was lined up wide to the right of the formation would motion into the formation presnap preparing to run a drive route to the middle of the Michigan defense. This is where you can see offseason Notre Dame preparation pay off as Michigan brought four on the rush and blitzed Devin Bush Jr. who by blitzing left the middle of the field open for the underneath drive route. Brandon Wimbush had 2.2 seconds to get the ball off accurately hitting Claypool perfectly in stride about three yards beyond the line of scrimmage leaving Claypool responsible for the additional seven yds needed to get the first down. Because the pass was executed with the receiver in stride, it allowed Claypool to get upfield without slowing down. The most impressive part of the play is Wimbush's poise when making the throw knowing Winovich would make him pay the price.
3rd & 9 at ND 31
(9:06 - 1st) Brandon Wimbush pass complete to Alize Mack for 26 yds to the NDame 31 for a 1ST down MICHIGAN Penalty, Personal Foul (Josh Metellus) to the NDame 46 for a 1ST down. Metellus ejected for Targeting.
The next third down conversion was even more impressive and would leave a lasting impression for the rest of the game.
On this play, Notre Dame is backed up near its goal line. Notre Dame decided to go four wide with 11 personnel (1 back and one TE). The TE on the play is Alize Mack who is flexed into the right slot position.
Presnap Notre Dame recognizes the man coverage, and LB Noah Furbush lined up on Alize Mack in the slot. This was a fade route all the way, and the ball placement could not have been more perfect as the LB Noah Furbush was trailing and safety Josh Mettelus was on his way to separate Mack from the football. Mack would take a shot and still hang on to the football. The long-term effects of this play are Notre Dame extending the drive and scoring a few plays later on a deep shot from midfield, and the ejection of Michigan Starting safety Josh Mettelus for rest of the game.
3rd & 6 at 50
(7:32 - 1st) Brandon Wimbush run for 7 yds to the Mich 43 for a 1ST down
This is the play that would set the tone for the rest of the game in regards to Wimbush using his legs to move the chains. This was one of two third downs on the same drive (that includes the one we discussed above).
Notre Dame lines up in 11 personnel with HB/TE Cole Kmet motion to the right creating a 2x2 formation. The motion by the TE allowed Brandon Wimbush to identify the Man coverage presnap. Post snap Wimbush recognized Devin Bush looking left keeping an eye on the RB who was running a route to the right of the offensive formation. That slight step in the wrong direction and the man coverage with the DBs backs turned opened a huge run lane for Wimbush to get an easy 1st down. The next play Notre Dame takes the kill shot and converts it going up 14-0 in the first QTR.
The narrative for the entirety of the first half was Michigan's inability to get off of the field on third down. Even when the defense did well on first and second down, Notre Dame used creative ways, (not complicated) to exploit Michigans aggressive attack. Michigan's defense would recover in the second half after allowing Notre Dame to convert 5 of 9 third downs in the first half; they held them to 2 for 6 in the second half.
Michigan has major flaws on both sides of the football. The defense is far less flawed than the offense and can recover by not making mental mistakes and changing up their coverage philosophy against dual-threat QBs (more zone). The Michigan Offense needs the defense to lead the way while it works on improving its pass blocking.
This year's Michigan team reminds me of the 2015 team when they travelled to Utah and lost at night on the road by the same score (24-17) with a transfer QB (Jake Rudock) who led Michigan to a 9-3 record in Harbaugh's first season at Michigan. The difference is this is year four for Jim Harbaugh, and these are all his recruits. The ceiling as of right now appears to be similar to the 2015 team (9-3) with a floor that could be worse than a year ago.
The schedule does not get easier for Michigan as they face Both MSU and OSU on the road. They also have Wisconsin and Penn State. The floor is 6-6, and that would put Harbaugh on the hot seat. 9-3 with a win at MSU and a close loss to OSU in the finale will give Harbaugh one more year to get this right. The motive for the remainder of Michigans season should be to learn from the Notre Dame loss and use that as the measuring stick for how you prepare for the rest of the schedule. MSU on the road will be difficult, but Spartan stadium is nothing compared to Notre Dame. ThiThe MSU game is the one game they must win. Ohio State on the other hand who knows, but at this point, OSU is far and away better than Michigan aside from the 31 points and numerous big plays allowed against Oregon State.
For Notre Dame, Brian Kelly acquitted himself well. Notre Dame played disciplined football and played better prepared than Michigan. Notre Dame's defensive line looked good and if they can continue to play at a high level the ceiling for the Irish is 10-2, and the floor is 8-4. They should be 4-0 when Stanford comes to South Bend on Sept 29th. If they win at Home against Stanford, they face Va Tech on the road the following week. If the Irish can come out of those two games 6-0, Irish faithful can begin to believe that the playoff might be a realistic goal for the Irish to attain n 2018. Notre Dame is not yet a championship level team, but their schedule may give them the opportunity to compete for one in 2018.