Stephon Tuitt celebrates after intercepting a pass for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

#14 Irish Fall at #17 Michigan, 41-30

Sep 7, 2013

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP)Tommy Rees took it on himself. He couldn’t outplay Devin Gardner, and the Notre Dame defense couldn’t stop the Michigan quarterback.

Gardner, wearing No. 98 to honor Michigan great Tom Harmon, threw four touchdown passes and ran for a score to lead No. 17 Michigan to a 41-30 win over No. 14 Notre Dame in front of an NCAA-record crowd of 115,109.

Rees threw the first of two interceptions to Blake Countess late in the first half to help the Wolverines take a 27-13 at halftime. His second interception caromed off one defensive back and to Countess to end any comeback hopes with 1:29 left.

He was 29 of 51 for 314 yards with two TDs, but his mistakes were costly.

“I take accountability for some of those throws and missed opportunities,” Rees said.

Gardner sealed the victory with a 4-yard TD pass to Drew Dileo with 4:18 left and ran for 14 yards to convert the final third down in the final seconds to set off a celebration at the Big House.

The Wolverines (2-0) had a pair of 14-point leads, but the Fighting Irish (1-1) refused to be routed.

Notre Dame pulled within a TD early in the fourth quarter when defensive end Stephon Tuitt made a diving interception in the end zone – a few snaps after the Irish turned the ball over on downs – on a pass Gardner was trying to throw away to avoid a safety.

“I made a horrible decision,” Gardner said. “But the defense gave me a place to stand. They told me they believed in me and I finished it.”

Kyle Brindza made a 40-yard field goal with 9:15 left to pull Notre Dame within four points.

The Irish were called for pass interference twice – once on a questionable call when Bennett Jackson intercepted Gardner’s pass deep in Notre Dame territory – on the ensuing drive and Gardner later took advantage by accounting for a fifth TD.

“We came up just short on some key plays,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.

Michigan has won four straight at home against the Irish.

That winning streak will stand for a while because the two storied programs won’t play at the Big House again anytime soon. Notre Dame opted out of its contract with the Wolverines, making next year’s game in Notre Dame Stadium the last guaranteed matchup in a series that dates to 1887, and cancelling three previously scheduled games.

Soon after the Irish walked off the field, the “Chicken Dance” blared and fans danced in the stands. Four months ago, Michigan coach Brady Hoke told a group of Wolverines supporters that Notre Dame was “chickening out” of the series. Hoke hasn’t lost at home in two-plus seasons, winning 16 straight games for the school’s longest streak in Ann Arbor.

Gardner got the last laugh on the field. He was 21 of 33 for 294 yards with one interception that gave the Irish a chance to rally. Trying to avoid a sack in the end zone, Gardner flipped a pass to no one in particular that Tuitt came up with to give Notre Dame hope.

Gardner also ran 13 times for 82 yards and a score. He traded in his No. 12 for a unique number for a QB these days, sporting No. 98 with a Michigan Football Legend patch. Harmon became Michigan’s first Heisman Trophy winner in 1940.

Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon had career highs with three TDs and 184 yards receiving.

“I can’t even imagine having a game like this,” he said. “My teammates made this happen, not me.”

Fitzgerald Toussaint gave the Wolverines just enough of a running game, gaining 71 yards on 22 carries and he also turned a short pass into a 31-yard catch on the final scoring drive.

TJ Jones had nine receptions for 94 yards and a TD. Amir Carlisle ran for 64 yards on 12 attempts for the Irish.

“We came in here expecting to win and we fell a couple plays short,” Carlisle said.

The attendance record beat the one set two years ago when the Wolverines beat Notre Dame 35-31 – a game with three lead changes in the last 1:12 – that captivated 114,804 at Michigan Stadium.