Notre Dame holds off late Michigan rally, spoils Shea Patterson's UM debut

QB Brandon Wimbush of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish carries the ball against Chase Winovich of the Michigan Wolverines. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
QB Brandon Wimbush of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish carries the ball against Chase Winovich of the Michigan Wolverines. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Shea Patterson’s Michigan debut was spoiled in South Bend.

Behind a stellar effort from its defense and the noticeably improved accuracy of quarterback Brandon Wimbush, No. 12 Notre Dame took care of the 14th-ranked Wolverines, 24-17.

And the Irish did so comfortably.

It took just 85 seconds of gametime for the Notre Dame offense to strike. On the seventh play of its opening drive, the Irish took a 7-0 lead on a 13-yard touchdown run from Jafar Armstrong.

The Irish’s second drive was more of the same. This time, the Irish started at their own four-yard line, but quickly advanced toward midfield. From there, Wimbush looked downfield for Chris Finke, and the former walk-on made a tremendous 43-yard touchdown catch. Finke leapt above Michigan defensive back Brad Hawkins, in the lineup after Josh Metellus was ejected for targeting, and gave the Irish a 14-0 lead.

While the vaunted Michigan defense struggled with the Irish early on, the UM offense, led by Patterson, the heralded transfer from Ole Miss, couldn’t get much going.

The Notre Dame defensive front gave Michigan’s line fits from the opening whistle. Patterson was accurate early on, but mostly with quick passes. The Wolverines could muster only three points over the course of their first three possessions. On the other side, Notre Dame extended its lead to 21-3 on Armstrong’s second touchdown at the 3:55 mark of the second quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Michigan showed a rare sign of life. Ambry Thomas broke a few tackles and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 21-10 going into halftime.

The Wolverines regained possession starting the third and put a bit of a drive together. UM advanced all the way to Notre Dame’s 16, but stalled and brought out the field goal unit. That’s when Michigan’s night went from bad to worse. Holder Will Hart dropped the snap and was forced to scramble, losing 11 yards and giving it back to Notre Dame.

But Notre Dame gave it right back on a Wimbush interception. Once again, the Wolverines couldn’t capitalize. The result was another turnover on downs, this time without a first down.

Notre Dame tacked on a field goal to make it 24-10, but the rest of the second half was mostly a showcase of two stalwart defenses. Until Michigan made things interesting.

Patterson, after being briefly sidelined with cramps, led his team on an 80-yard scoring drive capped off with a Karan Higdon TD run. That made it 24-17 with 2:18 to play.

From there, the Michigan defense forced a three-and-out and Patterson had the chance to be a hero.

Except his offensive line, like it did most of the night, could not hold up its end of the bargain. Irish defensive lineman Jerry Tillery was a menace the whole game, and he broke through the line and forced Patterson to fumble the ball. The Irish recovered and the victory was sealed.

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