Michigan offense makes Irish defense look ordinary
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner did what Denard Robinson and just about every opponent outside of Alabama failed to do last season: make the Notre Dame defense look ordinary.
Gardner was 21-of-33 passing for 294 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another 82 yards and a rushing touchdown in a 41-30 victory Saturday in the final scheduled game in Ann Arbor. The 11th-ranked Wolverines (2-0) scored the second-most points they’ve had in the 41-game rivalry that will end, at least for the foreseeable future, next season in South Bend.
No. 21 Notre Dame (1-1) gave up 460 yards to Michigan, which is more than the Irish defense gave up in any game on its way to a 12-0 regular season last year. Only the Crimson Tide with 529 yards in a 42-14 win in the national championship game had more.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Gardner, who was the team’s leading receiver in a 13-6 loss to Notre Dame last season ago when Robinson threw four interceptions and lost a fumble, allows the Wolverines to run the pro-style offense they want.
“We’re going to be multiple enough personnel-wise and also multiple enough from a formation standpoint, with two backs, three backs, whatever it takes, another offensive tackle in, a lot of different things that we like to do,” Hoke said. “This was more like what we want to do.”
Gardner said it was great to display what the Michigan offense can do in front of a record crowd of 115,109, saying he believes the offense can be as good as he allows it to be.
“I feel like if I limit my mistakes we can go as far as we want,” he said.
For the Irish, who repeatedly failed to tackle Gardner in the backfield when it had opportunities, the defense is left looking for answers. After allowing an average of just 305.4 yards and 12.8 points a game last season, the Irish have allowed an average of 411 yards and 23.5 points against Temple (0-2) and Michigan.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly seemed more disappointed in the failure of the offense to take advantage of opportunities against than the defensive problems, which included a pair of key pass interference calls and some blown coverages.
“Last year we had to rely on our defense to win football games. I don’t want to have to do that week in and week out,” Kelly said during his weekly teleconference Sunday. “I think there are going to be some times when our offense has to win some ballgames.”
Kelly said he is not saying he doesn’t believe the Irish can’t play dominant defense, but said some players have to grow into their roles, such as Dan Fox who replaced Manti Te’o at inside linebacker and freshman Jaylon Smith, the starter at outside linebacker.
Kelly isn’t happy with the way the Irish played Saturday, but said he’s confident Notre Dame has the talent needed to win.
“I’m confident that we can fix the things that need to be fixed and develop the players that need to be developed,” he said. “I think that is the most important thing from my perspective.”
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich., contributed to this report.