Playing in the Big House in front of the biggest crowd in college football, the last thing Michigan expected was a gift.
Notre Dame gave them not one, but two on the final drive Saturday, and Anthony Thomas' 1-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left lifted No. 7 Michigan to a 26-22 victory over the No. 16 Fighting Irish.
"They hurt themselves with penalties in the end, and we took advantage of it," Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr said. "It was as hard a hitting football game as I've ever been in."
Playing before an NCAA-record crowd of 111,523 at Michigan Stadium, the Fighting Irish (1-1) went ahead 22-19 with 4:08 remaining on Jarious Jackson's fourth-down, 20-yard pass to tight end Jabari Holloway.
Then it got a little nuts.
After Jackson's 2-point conversion pass to Bobby Brown, the Irish were penalized 15 yards for excessive celebration. Brown, standing in the right corner of the end zone, taunted the crowd by putting his hands to his head and waving his fingers.
"It was just something personal," Brown, a senior, said. "I thought because I did it quick, he (the official) wouldn't see it. It was pure excitement."
Thomas, who carried 32 times for 138 yards and two TDs, took the ensuing kickoff -- from the Notre Dame 20 after the penalty was assessed -- and returned it 20 yards to the Michigan 42.
Following an incompletion, Tom Brady threw a screen to Shawn Thompson for 15 yards and then the Irish were penalized 15 yards for safety Ron Israel's hit out of bounds. After Thomas gained three yards, Brady hooked up with David Terrell for 20 yards to the Irish 5.
Three plays later, from the 1, Thomas got the best of a goal line collision with linebacker Anthony Denman, barely getting into the end zone for the winning TD.
"This was all about coaching, and all I can say is that sort of thing won't happen again," Irish coach Bob Davie said. "I'm not blaming Bobby, I'm blaming myself. We can't have silly mistakes like that."
Notre Dame gave it a final shot. Jackson, who was 19 of 28 for a career-best 302 yards, had completions of 36 and 15 yards to Raki Nelson which moved the ball to the Michigan 21 with under a minute to play.
Three plays later, after Jackson was sacked for a crucial 10-yard loss by Dhani Jones, the quarterback completed a 19-yarder to Nelson -- one yard short of a first down, which would have stopped the clock. With no timeouts left, the Irish were helpless as time ran out with the ball on the 12 and the crowd singing "The Victors."
|Joey Getherall scores a TD for te Irish on this reverse in the second quarter. (AP)|
"You beat Notre Dame in the Big House and it doesn't get much better than that," Brady said after going 17 of 24 for 197 yards. "You prepare for situations like this in the summer and with conditioning, and you think you'll pounce on them. But every time you play Notre Dame, they have the type of players and the tradition to make it a dogfight."
Jeff Del Verne kicked four field goals for Michigan -- 21, 35 and 37 in the first half. For Notre Dame, Jackson threw for one TD and ran 12 yards for one and flanker Joey Getherall scored on a 4-yard reverse.
For weeks, there has been a quarterback controversy at Michigan involving Brady and sophomore Drew Henson. Brady started the season opener, Henson played the second quarter and Brady played the rest of the way. Carr said he'll go with the same formula in the the Wolverines' next two games.
Brady doesn't really care.
"I think we're way beyond that," Brady said. "We just know we have to go out and execute."
Even in defeat, Jackson was the most exciting player on the field. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior hit key passes and came up with mad scrambles all day. But he also was sacked four times, threw a fourth-quarter interception and made five errant pitchouts.
"I feel all right how I performed, but we didn't come through as a team," Jackson said after the Irish lost for just the third time in their last 18 regular-season games. "It was heartbreaking to me that we didn't finish them off."
Notre Dame led 14-9 at the half. Getherall scored on a 4-yard reverse and Jackson ran 12 yards for a TD with 51 seconds left in the half.
Michigan went ahead 16-14 on Thomas's first TD, a 2-yard run early in the third quarter, and Del Verne's fourth field goal made it 19-14 with 2:48 left in the third quarter.
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