Sept. 10, 2011
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) – Denard Robinson stunned Notre Dame in the final minute again, capping a heart-pounding, pom-pom pumping night under the lights at the Big House.
Michigan’s star quarterback threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds left to lift the Wolverines to a thrilling 35-31 win over Notre Dame on Saturday night.
“It’s never over until you see zeros on the clock,” Robinson said.
In the first prime-time game at Michigan Stadium, matching up storied programs trying to restore their luster, new Michigan coach Brady Hoke could have chosen to kick a field goal to force overtime.
But Hoke gave Robinson a shot, and it proved to be good idea.
“Coach took a stab,” Roundtree said.
On a night when Michigan Stadium was vibrant, with an NCAA-record crowd of 114,804 fired up an hour before kickoff, the Wolverines took their first lead on Robinson’s 21-yard pass to Vincent Smith with 1:12 left.
Then they lost it.
Tommy Rees threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick with 30 seconds left, but the Fighting Irish left Jeremy Gallon wide open on a pass that let Michigan go from its 20 to the Notre Dame 16.
“That was an exciting football game,” Hoke said. “Both teams fought for 60 minutes. It wasn’t pretty at times on both ends, but as I told my players, it’s great to win.”
The Wolverines (2-0) have won three straight against the rival Irish (0-2) on late-game plays by their quarterbacks. Last year at Notre Dame, Robinson ran for a touchdown with 27 seconds left, and Tate Forcier threw a TD pass against the Irish two years ago with 11 seconds left.
“It’s devastating,” Irish receiver Michael Floyd said. “It’s hard to take this one in. It’s distressing.”
It’s the first time Michigan has beaten Notre Dame three straight times since 1908.
Robinson didn’t match his game last year against Notre Dame, when he had a school-record 502 total yards, but Notre Dame couldn’t stop him when it mattered.
He was 11 of 24 for 338 yards with four TDs and three interceptions and ran 11 times for 108 yards and a score.
That one came on a fortunate bounce, when he scooped up Stephen Hopkins’ fumble inside the Notre Dame 1 and trotted in.
“It was kind of crazy,” Robinson said. “I’ve never scored like that before.”
With a new patch on his jersey bearing Desmond Howard’s name, Junior Hemingway, caught three passes for 165 yards and a TD. Michigan honored the former Heisman Trophy winner – who made a diving catch on fourth down against the Irish in 1991 – by announcing that the No. 21 jersey would always have his name on it.
Notre Dame was doomed by turnovers for the second straight week.
Rees threw two interceptions, one near the end zone, and fumbled deep in Michigan territory. Cierre Wood, who gave Notre Dame a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, also fumbled.
“You can’t have turnovers. Period,” Rees said. “You have to eliminate them.”
In his first loss in five starts, Rees was 27 of 39 for 315 yards with three TDs and two interceptions.
Wood ran for 134 yards and a score on 25 carries.
Floyd caught 13 passes for 159 yards, becoming Notre Dame’s career leader in yards receiving, and matched a school record with his 15th 100-yard receiving game.
The Fighting Irish did whatever they wanted on the ground, through the air and on defense early on.
In the end, though, they couldn’t make enough plays on both sides of the ball to get a needed win for second-year coach Brian Kelly.
“We’re not good enough,” Kelly said. “There’s not one individual in that locker room, including all the coaches, that are good enough right now.”