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And in that corner… The Michigan Wolverines

Sep 7, 2011, 7:54 PM EDT


After a heart-breaking loss to South Florida, Notre Dame heads into the belly of the beast to take on Michigan, hoping to vanquish the demons of two consecutive last minute losses at the hands of Michigan quarterbacks.
Two years ago, it was freshman phenom Tate Forcier who led the Wolverines past the Irish, completing a touchdown pass to Greg Matthews with 11 seconds left in the game. Last year, it was Denard Robinson’s turn, single-handedly propelling Michigan to a 28-24 victory. Of course, as most Notre Dame and Michigan games go, there’s always another story.
Forcier’s comeback was fueled by some questionable decisions by Irish head coach Charlie Weis, who called two pass plays late in a game he was leading (not to mention some very questionable penalties). Robison’s heroics overshadowed the bizarre injury suffered by quarterback Dayne Crist, leaving Notre Dame without a quarterback for much of the first half and putting the Irish in a big halftime hole it had crawled out of until Robinson stole the show in the game’s final minute.
There for it all has been the Detroit News’ Angelique Chengelis, Michigan beat writer for the Detroit News. Chengelis has seen a lot of the big blue, entering her 20th season on the beat. She was kind enough to spend some time answering my questions, getting us prepped for the primetime, throwback showdown this Saturday night.
I asked, Angelique answered. Here goes:
Inside the Irish: What do you make out of Michigan’s debut under Brady Hoke. Impressive? About what you expected? Anything surprise you?
Angelique Chengelis: Well, it was a short debut! First off, and I know Notre Dame fans endured this, as well, but the weather was really unpredictable and affected so much with the game ending with 1:27 left in the third quarter. But for a Hoke-coached first game, it was about what I expected. I wouldn’t say the performance was impressive or disappointing. There were elements of both. I think Denard Robinson, while certainly not producing any of the flashy plays to which we became accustomed last season, was steady and made good decisions. The offense ran only 39 plays, but even if Michigan had played a full game, I still think the offensive staff would have kept it close to the vest. Vanilla. Defensively, it certainly wasn’t a great start allowing Western Michigan to drive the field and score. There were communication issues. But I do think adjustments were made, and the defense looked more aggressive. Still, I expected more from the defensive line. Special teams? Not so good. A blocked punt and breakdowns on kickoff coverage allowed WMU some nice starting field position.
ITI: Do you think this defense has improved under Greg Mattison? Obviously they made two big defensive plays, but they gave up some significant yardage to the Broncos. Were they hiding some things from the Irish?
AC: I don’t think the defense was hiding anything from the Irish — this defense can’t afford to hide anything, because it still has so much to learn and prove. Jordan Kovacs had a nice game, so did Brandon Herron, obviously, with the two turnovers for touchdowns. Again, with a weather-shortened game, it’s tough to tell, but it did seem like the D was picking up steam. The coaches certainly weren’t happy with the D, particularly the line.
ITI: After hearing a lot about a new pro-style offense, Michigan ran a lot of shotgun and kept the ball in Denard Robinson’s hands, even while probably playing vanilla in the opener. What do you expect on Saturday from an Al Borges-led offense?
AC: I expect to see more of Denard out of the shotgun, and I definitely agree the offense was intentionally vanilla. The running backs accounted for three touchdowns, but I don’t think either back, Fitz Toussaint or Michael Shaw, had brilliant days. Stephen Hopkins, a bigger back who played as a freshman last season, will be back from a one-game suspension, and I think he could be a guy who plays this weekend and could give the ND defense some trouble. I also think receiver Junior Hemingway has to play more of a role.
ITI: Michael Floyd was kept in check in last year’s game. He was also kept in check in the first half against USF, until Tommy Rees was inserted in the offense. Can Michigan’s secondary keep the Irish passing game in check? Did the Irish QB decision matter to the Michigan staff?
AC: The Irish QB change didn’t seem to change any opinions among the Michigan staff and team. The coaches said what you’d think — both Crist and Rees are very good — but Greg Mattison talked a lot about Rees’ performance the last four games of 2010 and how this guy clearly likes the pressure. Keeping the Notre Dame passing game in check is about all Michigan can ask, because the Wolverines can’t stop them, in my mind. Floyd is a huge presence physically and with his reputation as a guy who’s the second-leading receiver in ND history. Darryl Stonum (6-2, 195), the receiver taking a redshirt this season after being suspended for a second DUI offense in the spring, and Jerald Robinson haved donned Floyd’s No. 3 in practice and apparently are giving the defense a good look. But it can’t be that easy to mimic Floyd, right?
ITI: You’ve been around the Michigan football program for a long time. How far is this football team away from contending for a Big Ten title? What are you trying to say?
AC: I’m old? Don’t answer that. Well, look, Rich Rodriguez had three seasons at Michigan and was recruting his type of players to run the spread offense and a 335 defense. While he brought in some talent, including Denard Robinson, Hoke wants to run a pro-style offense and 4-3 defense. Hoke and his staff have had a solid recruiting effort for 2012, but that has to be the case for 2013, 2014. The 2012 Michigan schedule is tough, starting with Alabama in Dallas, and the Wolverines travel to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. I say by Hoke’s third year, you get a real feel for what his Michigan teams will look like, and I would say by that point, U-M will be in a place to contend.
ITI: Michigan is an underdog playing in front of a primetime audience in Michigan Stadium. What’s the recipe for a Wolverines victory?
AC: I really do think emotion plays a huge role in college football, so on a very minor level, Michigan needs to feed off a home crowd that will be in a frenzy for the first night game. But will that setting determine the outcome? Nope. I don’t think quick-strike is the answer. I think Michigan needs to ball-control on offense and, obviously, can’t turn the ball over. I think we’ll see Denard do a bit more than he did in the opener and will be utilized more as a weapon. Notre Dame had five turnovers last weekend, and the Michigan defense will have to try to force a few on Saturday, because it’s going to be tough to stop the Irish offense. Finally, the special teams play, in my mind, was mediocre at best last weekend. Michigan can’t afford to give Notre Dame the field position Western Michigan had on returns.
ITI: How do you see Saturday’s game playing out?
AC: In our Detroit News picks this week, I’m taking Michigan and the points, because I do think it will be close. Straight-up, I think this is a coin-flip game. How’s that for teetering on a fence?


Read more of Angelique’s coverage on the big game at The Detroit News, or follow her on Twitter at @Chengelis.

  1. papadec - Sep 7, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    Nice, honest appraisal of UM & the game.

  2. jerseyshorendfan1 - Sep 7, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    I knew she’d work in the fact that Stonum had a second DUI and is redshirting as a subtle jab.

    • Keith Arnold - Sep 8, 2011 at 1:31 AM

      Didn’t take it that way. Angelique is a no-agenda, beat writer. I actually think the fact that Stonum is allowed to redshirt is a pretty nice solution. Two DUI arrests is serious business.

  3. irishinmichigan - Sep 7, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    Looking forward to the Irish coming to Michigan. Irish were off balance in nearly every area last week. Hoping they bring their “A” game and beat Michigan. My prediction: Irish 30 – Michigan 17

  4. ndfanwabashman - Sep 7, 2011 at 11:57 PM

    The winning team will be the one positive in the turnover margin, bottom line.

    • jimbasil - Sep 8, 2011 at 8:13 AM

      Rees will have to get the ball past the Dline. Rees shows once again he has difficulty seeing the Dline and continues to throw a low ball. Ala USC last year and USF this year, Rees has had far too many passes tipped,knocked down and intercepted at the line. UM Defense had their hands in the air for WM, so this will likely be a problem for Rees.

      I’m hoping ND’s OLine will push the UM line back on their heals hard all game long.

  5. pjm79nd - Sep 8, 2011 at 9:16 AM


    Your articles are the best on this site.

    They are always the first I read.

    • papadec - Sep 8, 2011 at 10:08 AM

      I agree with pjm – I read this site before I go to IrishSportsDaily.

  6. mattnef - Sep 8, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Robinson scares the crap out of me.

  7. nudeman - Sep 8, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    I don’t have a good feel for this game at all, primarily because the stench of the USF game still lingers.

    I am still absolutely shocked that they played with so little concentration and intensity: Dropped balls, dropped punts, penalties, turnovers. And it wasn’t all about who started at QB. Yes, Rees gave them a shot in the arm and probably deserves to start. But when a team plays THAT badly, it’s frequently an indication that there are problems that don’t get cleaned up in a QB change and one week of practice.

    Michigan 33
    ND 24

    Hope I’m 100% wrong and you guys beat the sh** out of me next week here.

    • NotreDan - Sep 8, 2011 at 11:23 AM

      Only if you put your clothes on, I can’t beat a naked man.

      • nudeman - Sep 8, 2011 at 11:29 AM

        Just a moniker NotreDan. I sit here fully clothed, morning cup of joe and PC.

    • 1historian - Sep 8, 2011 at 7:29 PM

      Coaching is not going to fix this – it’s not Kelly’s fault, no matter how much he yells (and no matter how much I argued about it over the last few days). It’s up to the PLAYERS and if someone doesn’t step up and kick some ass out on the field this is just going to drag on and on. Remember Chris Zorich? It is said that his teammates were scared of him.

      We need LEADERS out there – on both sides of the ball.

      And so far we ain’t got ’em.

      Please – prove me wrong

  8. alsatiannd - Sep 8, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    Notre Dame’s best defensive player(s) on Saturday has to be the O-line. Keep the ball out of Robinson’s hands by marshalling 8 minute drives. Robinson can’t score if he doesn’t have the ball, so deny him the ball by keeping him off the field. Really though, it’s always a sound approach to win time-of-possession, but it will be essential on Saturday.

    • nudeman - Sep 8, 2011 at 10:54 AM

      The Spread Offense is not designed for long, ball controlling drives.

      • oldestguard - Sep 8, 2011 at 2:35 PM

        What if they were “overamped ” ?

      • oldestguard - Sep 8, 2011 at 2:38 PM

        sorry….non-sequiter comment. I was referring to your earlier “shock” that the team had such little concentration and intensity.

    • 1historian - Sep 8, 2011 at 7:31 PM

      He also can’t score if he’s lying on his ass looking at the midwestern sky.

  9. barneysbullet - Sep 8, 2011 at 11:45 AM


    You might wanna end your jokes with a wink – he thought you were serious… 😉

    • NotreDan - Sep 8, 2011 at 2:07 PM

      hahaha… maybe I was! *wink*

  10. paulbrownsrevenge - Sep 8, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Im not a fan of either team. I’d say if Notre Dame can put up over 500 yards against a solid USF defense, they can put up over 650 easy on Meechigan. Their defense is the same old story. Mike Martin is awesome, and thats it.

    • oldestguard - Sep 8, 2011 at 2:32 PM

      That’s what I see as well, with C. Wood leading the way early on and Tommy going to the pass when needed to keep their D off-balance.

      Turnovers will plague the other guys this week, as the Irish roll out a much cleaner game.

      Big Win in da Big House.

  11. gtizzo - Sep 8, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    Nice Job Keith,

    Interesting thing also Denard Robinson only attempted 13 passes last week. ND can stop Michigan’s ground game I’m certain of it, I don’t think Michigan can stuff ND on the ground, and they have no 3 people who can cover Floyd. Zero Turnovers + Run stuffing defense = Irish win and overcome an early set back.

  12. ndandhuskers - Sep 8, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    GO IRISH!!! check out my blog

  13. ndandhuskers - Sep 8, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Do you think this game will live up to all the hype?

  14. ndandhuskers - Sep 8, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Do you think this game will live up to all the hype?

  15. 1historian - Sep 8, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    Notre Dame has no b…s. Notre Dame has no attitude. Notre Dame has a lot of talent on that squad but they let lesser teams push them around.

    Notre Dame gets no respect from other teams – they let a team like USF beat them on their home turf. You can’t expect other teams to fear you if they don’t even respect you.

    No matter how much Kelly yells it’s not going to do any good – the ONLY way they will get any better is if the improvement comes from THE PLAYERS.

    When is someone going to say – “This is ENOUGH!!”?

    • tradertrik - Sep 9, 2011 at 3:38 PM

      Honestly, I don’t seem to remember things were much more different under Lou. Remember Stanford? How about Boston College? Seems like everybody plays over their head when they play the Irish, and for us it’s just maddening (no pun intended.) I’m not remotely comfortable unless we’re up by 14 in the 4th, and even then I’d feel better if it were 21. Looking forward to a good game, always the nail biter, and a win to get to even for the season. Go Irish!

  16. papadec - Sep 9, 2011 at 12:07 AM

    1historian – you just did!

  17. terryb101 - Sep 9, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    the sad thing is the first two paragraphs says it all, last minute many games have we seen were we take the lead then give them the ball with 2 or 3 minutes left and the other team goes right down the field and scores? waaaay tooo many,if the defense evers get stout and can shut down the other teams we they need to we be will ok,untill then its a crap shoot..

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