This week's compilation of unconnected thoughts:
Plaudits. Following a win at Michigan, there's plenty of praise to go around. Any attempt to recognize specific performances is going to result in omitting similarly deserving performances. Too bad, I'm doing it anyway. I'm very pleased with Ambrose Wooden's development. Wooden - and, in particular, his tackling - was the subject of a fair amount of criticism on ND message boards. However, Wooden appears to be steadily improving, and frequently wrapped up and brought down larger Michigan players in the open field yesterday. Credit also to the special teams. The uber-hyped Steve Breaston was limited to 31 yards of punt returns on 6 attempts. Controlling the "hidden yardage" of special teams was critical in this game. Without Zbikowski's punt return, we may not have scored in the second half. Finally, the defense's goalline stand must be mentioned. Michigan's offensive line had a huge size advantage against our defensive line. Adam Kraus outweighs Derek Landri by around 50 pounds. Yet the Irish defense was able to overcome Michigan's size advantage through some combination of advantages in quickness, toughness, and/or nastiness and disrupt the Michigan line's push, allowing Ndukwe to recover the fumble. The defense conceded nothing, in stark contrast to the last visit to Ann Arbor.
Got (playing) time if you want it. After Corey Mays tapped his helmet, indicating he needed to come out for a few plays, freshman linebacker Scott Smith entered the game. This brings the total number of freshman who have seen game action to eight - over half of last year's recruiting class. Could anyone have predicted this many freshmen would have worked their way onto the field by the third week of the semester? This definitely trumps my freshman achievement of working my way into Finnegan's by the third week of the semester. Hopefully, this year's recruits have noticed all the playing time given to youth. For the second week in a row, Darrin Walls was in attendance at the Notre Dame victory. I doubt he enjoyed getting pelted with trash thrown by Michigan fans.
Faulty comparisons, redux. As the game wound down, assorted media personalities stumbled over themselves to be the first to mention "8-0." Yet again, the comparisons to Willingham's first season are inapposite. Willingham's first-year victory over Michigan occurred in Notre Dame stadium, where Michigan victories are as rare as good decisions by the apparel department of the Notre Dame bookstore. If comparisons are to be made, Weis's victory at Michigan should be compared with Willingham's performance in Ann Arbor - the most lopsided contest in the history of the series.
Wolves, lower. Last Thursday, I predicted that Henne might have a few key passes deflected at the line of scrimmage, courtesy of the Loeffler Low Release Point™. However, even I did not expect Henne to have five (5!) passes deflected at the line. Some credit must be given to the awareness our defensive linemen displayed in getting a hand in the passing lanes, including sophomore Ronald Talley.
All falls down. Late in the first quarter, Michigan punter Ross Ryan boomed a punt from the Michigan 46. The ball hit the ground at around the Notre Dame 10, right by a Michigan gunner. Simply by falling on the ball, the Michigan gunner could have pinned Notre Dame well inside the 20. Instead, the gunner allowed the ball to continue to bounce, and it bounced into the endzone before he could down it. Perhaps the gunner thought he could catch up with the ball before it reached the endzone, but I am surprised a kinesiology major would make such an error. My Greek may be a little rusty, but I believe kinesiology roughly translates into the study of objects in motion.
More than a feeling. Wrapping things up with the obligatory Patriots reference. Michigan DE/LB LaMarr Woodley offers this explanation:
We were off-balance at the start, but what do you expect from a guy who's coached with the Patriots?"Not bad, but I look forward to the day when we hear, "what do you expect from a guy who's coached with Notre Dame?" as we did when Alvarez moved on to Wisconsin.