Forcier lifts Michigan over No. 18 Notre Dame
Tate Forcier lifted Michigan to its biggest win under coach Rich Rodriguez.
Charlie Weis provided an assist.
Forcier’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Greg Mathews with 11 seconds left capped a game-winning drive and lifted the Wolverines to a 38-34 win over No. 18 Notre Dame on Saturday.
“It will go down in history as one of the greatest games in the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry,” Mathews said. “I’m glad I got a chance to play in it.”
Weis called for two passes, both of which fell incomplete, late in the game with a three-point lead and Michigan got the ball back at its 43 after a punt with 2:13 and two timeouts left.
“I think it was mistake that they were throwing the ball because they let us save our timeouts,” Forcier said. “Those timeouts definitely came in handy.”
Weis defended his choice to put the ball in the air after Armando Allen, who ran for 139 yards, opened the pivotal drive with a 13-yard run and twisted an ankle. Robert Hughes then got the ball for the first time all day and was stuffed at the line.
“They loaded up the box and made it clear that they weren’t going to let us do that, so we had to throw the ball,” Weis said. “On third down, we could have run and made them use a timeout, but we were trying to win the game.”
The Fighting Irish (1-1) were in a position to do just that after Allen ran for a TD and got the 2-point conversion on a nifty Statue of Liberty play with 5:13 left.
But Weis’ questionable decision to throw and his defense’s inability to deny Forcier set up yet another loss for a once-proud program.
Weis will likely face a lot of second-guessing as he tries to address what went wrong at the Big House and why he hasn’t been able to win many big games in his five seasons. Two years ago, Notre Dame lost a school-record nine under Weis and dropped six more last season.
The former Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots fell to 30-22 with the Irish.
“This is a very disappointing, disheartening loss,” Weis said.
Rodriguez, though, didn’t have much sympathy.
“You think they would’ve felt bad for us?” Rodriguez asked. “Charlie is a good football coach and he’s got a good football team. They’re going to win a lot of games. The quarterback is an NFL guy. They’ve got two of the best wide receivers I’ve seen in years and their running back is a big-time player.
“And did you see the size of the linemen? They could eat peanuts off our guys’ helmets.”
A season after losing a school-record nine games, Rodriguez has college football’s winningest program at 2-0 for the first time since 2006 with a rout of Western Michigan and an emotional win over the rival Irish, whose winning percentage ranks second in the nation.
Rodriguez made a couple of savvy moves Saturday – such as calling a timeout early in the game that led to a TD getting overturned by review and relegating the Irish to a field goal.
Michigan, which didn’t get any votes in The Associated Press preseason poll, just may have done enough to earn a ranking Sunday.
“If they stay humble and hungry and keep getting better,” Rodriguez said, “then some of that national respect that all of us want – our fans and players – they’ll get it.”
Forcier has earned some himself, after the way he played.
He was 23 of 33 for 240 yards, two TDs and an interception. He ran for 70 yards and a score – squirting up the middle on fourth-and-3 to put Michigan up 31-20. In the opener, Forcier threw three TDs before halftime against Western Michigan.
“For a freshman, I thought he managed the game very well,” Weis said.
Forcier’s 31-yard TD run on a fourth down gave the Wolverines an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter. He threw an interception on his next drive to aid Notre Dame’s comeback, but he bounced back by converting a third down with a pass before his clutch connection with Mathews in the front corner of the end zone.
“I don’t get nervous,” Forcier insisted.
Jimmy Clausen completed 25 of 42 passes for 336 yards and three TDs, but missed some throws throughout the game that proved to be costly. Tate and Michael Floyd combined for 16 catches, 246 yards and three TDs, and Michigan cornerbacks Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko struggled to contain the duo all day.
After Weis spoke to his team, Clausen did.
“I told them the same thing that Coach said,” Clausen said. “We have to decide how we’re going to go from here.”