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Notre Dame Revisits Past to Shock No. 8 Michigan

Irish look like the team that won eight in a row under Willingham two years ago as they come back to knock off the Wolverines, 28-20.

September 12, 2004|From Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame found a familiar way to make its problems go away -- beat Michigan.

"Any time you knock off a top-10 team it is a big win. Our guys did something significant, but it was still one win," Coach Tyrone Willingham said. "We can't get ahead of ourselves. Tomorrow we have to start all over."

Using the ingredients that vaulted the Fighting Irish to wins in Willingham's first eight games two years ago, Notre Dame used a stingy defense, an opportunistic offense and a key special teams play to beat No. 8 Michigan, 28-20, on Saturday.

Willingham and the Irish have been the target for much criticism while losing 10 of 15 since that 8-0 start in 2002. Now, there's renewed hope in South Bend for a turnaround after a third consecutive victory over Michigan in South Bend.

The difference this time was an unexpected offensive star for the Irish.

Freshman Darius Walker, who didn't play a week ago in a deflating loss to Brigham Young, ran for 115 yards in 31 carries and two fourth-quarter touchdowns. He is the first Notre Dame freshman to rush for more than 100 yards since Julius Jones (146) against Navy in 1999.

"I didn't even know who that was running the ball," Michigan cornerback Marlin Jackson said. "He's a good player and he had a good game."

Notre Dame (1-1) earned its first win over a top-10 team since beating fifth-ranked Michigan, 25-23, two years ago. Since that game, the Irish were 0-4 against top-10 teams, losing by a combined 164-27 -- including the 38-0 loss to Michigan last season.

The Wolverines (1-1) lost their opening road game for a fifth consecutive year -- again doing serious early damage to their national championship hopes.

The biggest surprise was Walker and the Notre Dame running game, which produced only 11 yards in the opener.

Walker ran for 61 yards in 14 carries in the fourth quarter as Notre Dame took control.

"Basically, I was just worried about doing my job to the best of my ability and the best that I could," Walker said. "I just tried to block everything else out. It was an experience."

The Irish were trailing, 12-7, late in the third quarter when Wolverine freshman Chad Henne threw high to Braylon Edwards. The ball bounced high off Edwards' hands and cornerback Dwight Ellick intercepted it at the Michigan 29-yard line. Brady Quinn completed a pair of passes to Maurice Stovall for 19 yards, the second pass to the six-yard line. Walker ran around right end for the touchdown to give the Irish a 14-12 lead.

On Michigan's next possession, the Wolverines went three-and-out. On the punt, Jerome Collins broke up the middle and Chase Anastasio came in around the right end and they combined to block the punt. Corey Mays recovered the ball on the Michigan five. Walker scored on the next play, this time going untouched around left end.

The Irish pulled away in the fourth quarter when Rashon Powers-Neal caught a pass from Quinn for an eight-yard touchdown to make it 28-12.

The Wolverines closed to 28-20 with 2:27 left on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Henne to Steve Breaston and a two-point conversion. But Notre Dame clinched the win when Stovall recovered the onside kick.

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