Michigan 47 — Notre Dame 21
The history between Notre Dame and Michigan isn’t pretty. The Wolverines are credited with having brought football to South Bend in 1887, but Notre Dame had no success in the first few contests between the two — that is, until 1909. On November 6, 1909, first-year Head Coach Frank Longman led Notre Dame to an eight-point victory over Michigan, and from that day, Michigan Head Coach and Athletic Director Fielding Yost started a campaign to stop the Notre Dame program before it overtook Michigan’s title as “The Champions of the West.” Yost refused to schedule another match against Notre Dame and convinced other Big Ten conference members to do the same. On that day, a rivalry was born that still curdles the blood in the veins of students, alumni and fans alike.
Continuing the bitter rivalry, the Wolverines salivated at the chance to smother the Fighting Irish in 2006. With the memory of last season’s upset still fresh in Ann Arbor, Michigan wasted no time pouncing on Notre Dame, intercepting Brady Quinn on the second play of the game for a Wolverine touchdown. By the time the Irish headed into the locker room for halftime, they faced a nearly insurmountable 20-point deficit, and just like that, the chance of a Notre Dame national championship vanished. When the dust finally settled, no one needed to check the scoreboard to know the 47-21 outcome; it was written on the faces of the students struggling to sing the alma mater, much like the Michigan crowd’s reaction a year earlier.
The game started tumultuously for Notre Dame, with the aforementioned interception by Preston Burgess for a touchdown. However, Notre Dame showed some life early, as Chinedum Ndukwe picked off Wolverine quarterback Chad Henne, setting up a short touchdown run for Ashley McConnell, which tied the score at seven. Unfortunately, this would be the last glimmer of hope for the Irish.
After a trade-off of unsuccessful drives, Michigan found a mismatch in the Notre Dame secondary. Wolverine wide receiver Mario Manningham made his presence known, catching a 69-yard touchdown pass from Henne to put Michigan up by six. On the ensuing kick off, Notre Dame returner David Grimes fumbled the football, giving Michigan excellent field position at the Irish 27-yard line. Michigan halfback Mike Hart, injured in last season’s contest with Notre Dame, punched the ball into the endzone after three consecutive carries.
Michigan stifled the Notre Dame offense, forcing another punt by Geoff Price to start the second quarter. Henne handed off to Hart to gain some short yardage before hitting his long-range receiver, Manningham, for another touchdown, making it 27-7. Ten scoreless minutes later, Henne would find Manningham in the endzone again, capping a 10-play, 59-yard drive. While Quinn responded with seven consecutive completions, including a touchdown pass to receiver Jeff Samardzija, it was too little, too late; Notre Dame was down 34-14 at the half with no improvement forthcoming in the second half.
Quinn finished the day 24-of-48 with three interceptions, clearing the way for eventual Heisman winner Troy Smith of Ohio State in the race for college football’s coveted award. The 47-21 loss was the second worst home loss the Irish have suffered, having only given up more points to Purdue in 1960. While Quinn struggled in the game, he was not alone. The Irish rushing attack yielded only four yards, as opposed to Michigan’s 120.
Head Coach Charlie Weis was quick to give credit where credit was due, saying, “We can all sit there and talk about Notre Dame football [...] But I think it’s really only right to give just due to your opponent who just kicked your butt.”
A 47-21 loss to an archrival is appropriately a “butt kicking” — but that seems to be the nature of this storied rivalry.