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ND PLayers Celebrate

Who knows what is was - Lou Holtz & the 1988 National Championship team on the field yelling support to the current players after being honored in the first quarter, the thirst for revenge following a 38-0 shellacking in The Big House last year, or this young Notre Dame team coming of age; whatever the cause, Irish eyes were smiling as they watched Notre Dame force two early turnovers, score on four of their first five drives, and outclass Michigan in all three aspects of the game en route to a 35-17 tour de force Saturday in a swampy Notre Dame Stadium.

Sophomore WR Golden Tate proved to be more than a one-week wonder, as he caught four passes for 127 yds and a touchdown, as well as being on the receiving end of a 60 yd beauty by Jimmy Clausen that split double coverage up the seam. Tate's jump from being a deep threat-only last year to being one of the most dangerous receivers in college football (yes, I said in all of college football) is remarkable. Now that the secret's out, we'll see how he responds to double coverage and how Duval Kamara (1-10-1) and Michael Floyd (2-10-0-2 key pass interference penalties drawn) do with having some open real estate to work with.

Jimmy Clausen (10-21-147-2-2) was impressive, even though the stat sheet says otherwise. He threw two picks he shouldn't have, but he made some key throws, including the long pass & touch pass TD to Tate, as well as a nicely-placed jump ball TD to Kamara. Even though he's a sophomore, you can tell that he possesses the intangibles needed to be a top quarterback - poise, control of the team, leadership ability, and a cool as the other side of the pillow demeanor. If he stays through his senior year, there's a good shot he'll be Heisman Trophy winner #8 (#9 in you count Rocket Ismail being robbed).

The Irish running game turned in a fine, but unspectacular performance Saturday. Robert Hughes is establishing himself as the Irish's primary back, rushing 19 times for 79 yds (4.2 ypc) and two scores. James Aldridge made his 2008 debut, moving the offense well in the red zone while rushing 9 times for 28 yds (3.1 ypc). Armando Allen played poorly, gaining 4 yds on 2 carries. While the running back by committee plan has worked thus far, I'd like to see someone step forward to be the featured back before Cierre Wood comes to South Bend and takes over in 2009 or 2010.

If I'm being impartial, Notre Dame's defense scares me a little. Yes, they caused five turnovers (plus another on special teams), and the defensive backs are playing amazing football, lead by David Bruton's 15 tackles and interception, but the defensive line was weak, allowing true freshman RB Sam McGuffie (131 rushing & 47 receiving yds) look like Philadelphia Eagles RB Brian Westbrook. Also, they didn't register a sack against a very young Michigan front five. Either Jon Tenuta's blitzes are being figured out, or the Irish need to shake up their personnel, like they did by benching Justin Brown in favor of freshman Ethan Johnson. The LBs played fairly well, but part of the run defense blame falls on their shoulders, too. One thing I'm certain of is that they need to tighten up before next Saturday, when they travel to East Lansing to take on a Michigan State team that thoroughly enjoys pounding the football.

Overall, it was a great win for Notre Dame. They proved that the can handily beat a major conference team (I don't care if Michigan is "down" this year - they're still an arch rival and the winningest program in college football history) and jump on a team early and often. Charlie Weis ended up leaving the game on crutches after tearing his ACL & MCL when John Ryan took him out after being pushed out of bounds by a Michigan player. It's unknown when Coach Weis will get surgery, as he may put it off until the offseason. What can I say, the man's Jersey-tough. Michigan State will be their toughest opponent to date, so we'll see how good this team really is next Saturday.

SCORING
Notre Dame: ROBERT HUGHES 2 YD RUN (BRANDON WALKER KICK)
Notre Dame: DUVAL KAMARA 10 YD PASS FROM JIMMY CLAUSEN (BRANDON WALKER KICK)
Notre Dame: GOLDEN TATE 48 YD PASS FROM JIMMY CLAUSEN (BRANDON WALKER KICK)
Michigan: SAM MCGUFFIE 40 YD PASS FROM STEVEN THREET (K.C. LOPATA KICK)
Michigan: K.C. LOPATA 23 YD FG
Notre Dame: ROBERT HUGHES 1 YD RUN (BRANDON WALKER KICK)
Michigan: KEVIN GRADY 7 YD RUN (K.C. LOPATA KICK)
Notre Dame: BRIAN SMITH 35 YD FUMBLE RETURN (BRANDON WALKER KICK)

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