Michigan and Notre Dame had played 41 times before tonight. Notre Dame had never shutout Michigan, and it had never beaten the hated Wolverines by 31 points.
Check, and check. No. 16 Notre Dame pummeled Michigan 31-0 Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium, sending the Fighting Irish off in style in the 42nd and final scheduled meeting between these on-again, off-again storied rivals.
Michigan opened the game with two sustained drives, marching a combined 92 yards in 18 plays. Both trips ended in missed field goals, and the Wolverines never mounted a serious scoring threat for the rest of the night. Devin Gardner completed 19-of-32 passes for 189 yards with three interceptions, and the Michigan ground game did not manage to average three yards per carry on 35 attempts. It appears Doug Nussmeier is not the magic elixir capable of fixing whatever is broken inside the Michigan offense in one off-season.
But enough about Michigan, tonight was about Notre Dame.
Brian VanGorder has found the right mix with a rebuilt Fighting Irish defense, and Everett Golson is better than he’s ever been. As we wrote at halftime, he clearly spent his year away from South Bend doing something other than eating Cheetos and catching up on “Dexter.” Goslon showed the proper touch and arm strength inside and outside the pocket, connecting on 23-of-34 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns. The Notre Dame offense did not accomplish much on the ground, just 70 yards on 27 carries when not accounting for Golson’s lost yardage, but it was enough tonight.
With Golson and the defense playing like this, the sky is the limit for this Notre Dame team. The schedule doesn’t ramp up until October, with neutral site games against Purdue and Syracuse sandwiched around an off week for the rest of the month. Things ramp up considerably from there with No. 13 Stanford, No. 21 North Carolina and No. 1 Florida State on the docket in October, but Notre Dame should be up for the challenge.