CFN: You can credit Michigan — and blame Irish

Give credit to Tate Forcier, Rich Rodriguez and the whole Michigan squad or pin the blame on Charlie Weis’ strategy, but the Wolverines’ 38-34 victory over Notre Dame was a page-turner of a college football game. The CFN writers give their thoughts on a big win in the Big House for Michigan.

Irish look green

Fine, I’ll be the one who says it: Notre Dame played a stupid game.

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This was supposed to be the team of mature veterans who kept the mistakes to a minimum while being unfazed at every turn. On the flip side, Michigan, which was supposed to be too young, too inexperienced and not jelled enough made almost all the right plays at the right time (it must have been all the extra practice).

It wasn’t just the nine penalties. It was the nine penalties on top of the special teams breakdown to allow a 94-yard kickoff return for a score. It was the coaching decision to not throw to Michael Floyd, who was dominating the Michigan corners, finishing with seven catches for 131 yards. (It’s rule No. 1 in the NFL: If you have a weakling out there to exploit, you hammer him over and over and over again. Charlie Weis should know that.) It was unnecessarily going for two with 9:46 to play when your offense is humming and appearing certain to score later, necessitating a two-point conversion attempt (which was successful) four minutes later. It was throwing the ball late, when Armando Allen was averaging almost 7 yards per carry and wasn’t being stopped all game long. It was Golden Tate not being able to get down on the second-to-last play of the game while letting the time run out. And it was letting a true freshman complete 23 of 33 passes along with a game-winning touchdown drive. Tate Forcier might be special, but a veteran coaching staff should figure out how to disguise the coverages just enough and be able to come up with enough pressure and adjustments to screw him up.

Meanwhile, Forcier played like a grizzled, stone-cold veteran. Greg Mathews, after putting Michigan ahead for good with his 5-yard touchdown grab, took a quick break and handed the ball to the official instead of risking any sort of a celebration call. The Michigan sideline, after the biggest touchdown play in the young lives of most of the players, didn’t set one foot on the field and celebrated on the sideline. It was a mature, smart, tough performance by the team that was supposed to screw up when pushed. And the other team is going to be kicking itself for the rest of the season.

— Pete Fiutak

Forcier: Pat White 2.0

Tate Forcier is going to be to Michigan what Pat White was to West Virginia. You can just feel it.

Just two games into his college career, Forcier has energized the Wolverines program, quite an accomplishment for a true freshman. The Mountaineers didn’t start to take off until White arrived from Daphne, Ala. Forcier has a chance to have a similar impact for head coach Rich Rodriguez.

Watching Forcier lead Michigan to the game-winning, last-minute drive over Notre Dame, a capper to a brilliant afternoon, you got the sense he was born for this assignment. More than just his accurate throws and athleticism outside the pocket, he played with the poise and the determination of a third-year NFL pro. You just don’t do what he did in Ann Arbor in the second game of your college career. Undoubtedly, the best is yet to come for No. 5, which means the same is likely true for the program. With that boyish, 1960s Kennedy look and unflappable demeanor, Forcier is going to be the big man on campus for the next four years.

— Richard Cirminiello

Rodriguez = Calipari

1. Charlie Weis made the right decision to throw the ball late, as much as a lot of armchair quarterbacks might disagree. Armando Allen, who destroyed Michigan all afternoon, got dinged up just before the final series of downs on Notre Dame’s ill-fated drive in the game’s 58th minute. Blame the inability of the Irish to execute a simple out pattern on third-and-10; if Notre Dame gets that pitch-and-catch, game over.

2. Rich Rodriguez is like John Calipari. He works in the gray areas of his profession, but damn, can he coach ’em up at game time. A pooch punt from his quarterback, smart use of timeouts and his work with Tate Forcier all speak to grade-A preparation and strategy from the Wolverines’ head coach. After Western Michigan, it was still too early to tell whether UM would amount to much; after all, Western Michigan lost to Indiana on Saturday. But after this win over Notre Dame, the Maize and Blue can now be accorded elevated status once again. (Not top 10, but “back in business” status for sure.)

— Matt Zemek

In Forcier we trust

It might be overstating the case to say Tate Forcier is a god, but the way he led the Wolverines back from the abyss Saturday against Notre Dame, it’s entirely possible some of the Michigan community could be worshipping him as one. The Irish looked as if they had this one dead and buried, but two silly pass plays by Charlie Weis let Michigan conserve its timeouts, and then Forcier went to work. As for the Irish, they looked good in absorbing the third-quarter body blow, but they couldn’t close the deal. Rich Rodriguez is now the toast of Ann Arbor, while Charlie Weis isn’t exactly going to be getting love letters from the Irish crowd. Michigan’s rebuilding project just received a giant boost, and Notre Dame’s hopes for a BCS berth have suffered a huge blow. At a time when Rodriguez was being questioned from almost every corner, Michigan appears to be back.

— Michael Bradley