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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Notre Dame found a familiar way to make its problems go away – beat Michigan.
“Anytime you knock off a top-10 team it is a big win. Our guys did something significant, but it was still one win,” coach Tyrone Willingham said. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves. Tomorrow we have to start all over.”
Using the ingredients that vaulted the Fighting Irish to wins in Willingham’s first eight games two years ago, Notre Dame used a stingy defense, an opportunistic offense and a key special teams play to beat Michigan 28-20 on Saturday.
Willingham and the Irish have been the target for much criticism while losing 10 of 15 since that 8-0 start in 2002. Now, there’s renewed hope in South Bend for a turnaround after a third straight win over Michigan in South Bend.
Notre Dame (1-1) earned its first win over a top-10 team since beating fifth-ranked Michigan 25-23 two years ago. Since that game, the Irish were 0-4 against top-10 teams, losing by a combined 164-27 – including the 38-0 loss to Michigan last season.
The Wolverines (1-1) lost their opening road game for a fifth straight year – again doing serious early damage to their national championship aspirations.
The difference this time was an unexpected offensive star for the Irish.
Freshman Darius Walker, who didn’t even play a week ago in a deflating loss to Brigham Young, ran for 115 yards on 31 carries and two fourth-quarter touchdowns. He is the first Notre Dame freshman to rush for more than 100 yards since Julius Jones had 146 yards against Navy in 1999.