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Notre Dame gets it done, with feeling

In a driving rain, the Irish avenge last year's embarrassing shutout loss to Michigan, 35-17.

September 14, 2008|Chris Hine | Special to The Times

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame remembered what it felt like last season, and made sure it wasn't embarrassed again.

Taking advantage of six Michigan turnovers, the Fighting Irish raced to early lead and didn't look back Saturday in a 35-17 victory over the Wolverines in a rain-soaked game.

Just over a year ago, Notre Dame traveled to Michigan and came out on the wrong end of a 38-0 score.

"I was talking to a bunch of the guys before the game and said, 'Remember what we felt like last year after this game? That's never going to happen again,' " Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen said.

Clausen, a sophomore who played at Westlake Village Oaks Christian High, completed 10 of 21 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. He passed for 136 yards in the first half, while it was still relatively dry.

"We knew the weather report. We knew it was supposed to get bad later in the game and we wanted to get on top of them, and it was going to be bombs away . . ." Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis said after the game.

Notre Dame didn't have to throw bombs on its first two scoring drives, thanks to a little gift-wrapping from Michigan.

On the Wolverines' first drive, tailback Brandon Minor dropped a swing pass from quarterback Steve Threet, but Threet's pass was ruled a lateral and was recovered by Irish linebacker Brian Smith on the Michigan 11-yard line. Notre Dame took four plays before scoring on a two-yard touchdown run by Robert Hughes.

Tailback Michael Shaw fumbled the ensuing kickoff for Michigan, and Notre Dame recovered the ball at the 15. Three plays later, Clausen found wideout Duval Kamara on a fade route for a 10-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Notre Dame lead only four minutes into the game.

"Turnovers will hurt you any time, but the ones that are really discouraging are the unforced errors," Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez said. "I mean, there wasn't anybody knocking the ball out or stripping the ball out, it's just dropping the ball."

Then the bombs began to fly.

Notre Dame went up 21-0 when Clausen gave a play fake that fooled the Michigan secondary, then hit wideout Golden Tate in stride on a 48-yard pass play for a touchdown.

Michigan bounced back with a 40-yard touchdown reception by tailback Sam McGuffie and a field goal to make the score 21-10 before the Irish struck again.

Tate caught a nine-yard slant from Clausen at the Notre Dame 25 and immediately broke two tackles, sprinting 60 yards downfield before he was brought down -- Notre Dame's longest play from scrimmage in nearly two years. Hughes capped off the drive five plays later with a one-yard touchdown run.

Michigan scored on a seven-yard run by Kevin Grady to trim its deficit to 28-17, but then the rain began to fall, which pestered the Wolverines as they tried to make a comeback in the second half.

Not all went perfect for the Irish, however. Weis sustained what was diagnosed as torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee when he was hit on the sidelines during the first half. He coached the rest of the game on crutches and in a leg brace.

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