Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Irish exposed under bright lights

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. --- The lights came on, revealing Notre Dame at its most efficient, at least in the early going. But as the game went on, the historic glow from the first night game in the history of Michigan Stadium exposed a mistake-prone Irish team that wasn't ready for prime time for the second straight week.

Michigan's pulsating, come-from-behind, 35-31 victory before a record crowd of 114, 804 on Saturday night will go down as perhaps the most thrilling in the long and storied rivalry between these two schools. It will also be remembered as by far the most devastating in a long line of gut-wrenching losses for the Irish in recent years after they took the lead with 30 seconds left only to blow it.

Denard Robinson threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree with two seconds left to give Michigan (2-0) an improbable victory and Notre Dame (0-2) a crushing defeat. Brian Kelly can expect to hear his job security openly debated after a promising season began with two straight losses and 17th-ranked Michigan State coming to Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday. 
The Notre Dame coach called last week's 23-20 loss to South Florida the most frustrating of his career. If that's the case, what was this?

"I don't know if I have a definition for this one except our kids, I feel for them after this one in particular," Kelly said.

It appeared Notre Dame would pull out the victory when Tommy Rees threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Theo Riddick with 30 seconds left to give the Irish a short-lived 31-28 lead, setting up the frantic finish. The winning score came after Robinson connected with Jeremy Gallon for a 64-yard gain with eight seconds left. 

"We just didn't get enough pressure on the cornerback," outside linebacker Darius Fleming said of the second-to-last play. "We left the defensive backs out there. It's hard to cover those guys for that long."

Notre Dame self destructed for the second straight week and their hopes of ending the season with a BCS bowl bid may have been dashed. After committing five turnovers and eight penalties last week, Notre Dame had five more turnovers --- including two more near the goal line  --- and nine penalties against Michigan. 

"We're not good enough," Kelly said. "There's not one individual in that locker room, including all the coaches, that's good enough right now. Consequently, we lost the ballgame."

Robinson set a Michigan record with 502 total yards against Notre Dame last season and had 446 this time, including 338 on 11 of 24 passing. 

Rees, who replayed Dayne Crist as the starter earlier in the week, completed his first eight passes while staking the Irish to a 14-0 lead but ended up throwing two interceptions, one near the Michigan goal line. He also fumbled deep in Wolverine territory. Rees completed 27 of 39 passes with three touchdowns and, despite the turnovers, looked to be the hero after giving Notre Dame the lead with half a minute left. 

"It's devastating," said receiver Michael Floyd, who caught 13 passes for 159 yards. "It's hard to take this one in but we have so many games left, we have to keep working."

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on September 11, 2011 12:02 AM.

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