It has been a long day filled with plenty of fun college football action but the main event has taken center stage on NBC and the early returns have lived up to the hype coming in as two of the sport’s blue bloods squared off and renewed their rivalry on the gridiron with quite a fun one. No. 12 Notre Dame controlled most of the game against No. 14 Michigan, taking a 21-10 lead heading into the locker room at halftime and looking for more in an impressive season opening outing.
The Irish didn’t take long at all to find the scoreboard, marching 75 yards right down the field in just seven plays on their opening drive. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush nearly threw an interception on his first pass of the evening but rebounded to lead the team into the red zone before exiting temporarily after getting hit on a keeper. Backup Ian Book came in and promptly handed the ball off to Jafar Armstrong, who took the handoff, cut it up and scored his first touchdown to set off a wild celebration at Notre Dame Stadium. The young tailback later added another score and had two of his eight touches wind up with him in the end zone by the break.
Wimbush eventually returned on the next drive and also nearly threw another interception down the field… until Chris Finke was able to wrestle the ball out of the air for an incredible touchdown catch that was the early highlight of the season. That capped off a seven-play, 96 yard drive and Wimbush eventually closed the half with 148 yards passing and that scoring strike.
It took Michigan’s offense a bit longer to get going than the home team’s. Shea Patterson looked like a veteran operating Jim Harbaugh’s offense (62 yards, 9-of-12 passing) but didn’t quite develop a rhythm until the second quarter got going and failed to find much down the field. Karan Higdon did break out for 45 yards on the ground but seemed to be met in the hole on just about every carry as the Irish front seven was active and fast throughout the first half.
The Wolverines defense, aside from that opening drive, also looked fast and physical for the most part. Almost too physical in some cases as starting safety Josh Metellus was tossed barely six minutes into the game for targeting. To make matters worse, linebacker Devin Bush was injured and limped off to the training table as well.
While Don Brown’s unit eventually settled into things as the game progressed, the group still had trouble creating pressure and containing several QB scrambles that helped extend drives. Special teams were a big factor in keeping the visitors in the game, as Ambry Thomas looked like a Big Blue blur on a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that was just as impressive as it sounds.
There’s still plenty of football left to play in South Bend and after a half of play, this old rivalry is certainly shaping up to be a good one between Notre Dame and Michigan.