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A win worth savoring for Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It was only a matter of time before the scourge of identity theft made its way into college football. A team pretending to be Notre Dame made its way into Michigan Stadium on Saturday. The players wore the gold helmets. They wore the gold pants. That's where the resemblance to the Fighting Irish ended. It's a case for the FBI, because these so-called Irish crossed state lines. They just couldn't cross the Michigan 35.

Prime suspects are the Chicago Bears or the Washington Generals, neither of which had games scheduled Saturday.

Over the last quarter-century, the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry elbowed its way among the elite showdowns of college football. Of their last 11 games, eight had been decided by five points or fewer. Then came Saturday, when an NCAA record crowd of 111,726 watched Michigan do to Notre Dame what it had done to Central Michigan and Houston.

The final score of 38-0, the worst Irish defeat since the 58-7 loss at Miami in 1985, doesn't provide the scope of this defeat anymore than a picture of Cameron Diaz conveys her beauty. You had to be there. Notre Dame hasn't taken this bad a beating since that guy in New Hampshire checked George O'Leary's résumé.

When Michigan sends out a quarterback with the number 20 on his back to take a snap against Notre Dame, something is seriously amiss. Number 20, Mike Kaselitz, is a fifth-year senior and a fourth-string quarterback. He had taken one snap in his Wolverine career, and that came three years ago. A scout teamer took the last snap against the Golden Domers.

"Nobody imagined it would be 38-0," senior defensive end Larry Stevens said. "Nobody."

Defense set the tone for this game. Not on the third snap of the game, when Irish All-American linebacker Courtney Watson sacked John Navarre and forced a fumble that linebacker Brandon Hoyte recovered at the Michigan 38. But on the next three snaps, when Notre Dame struggled to gain one yard. Coach Tyrone Willingham chose to punt, and the Irish never got that close to the Wolverine end zone again.

After three possessions, the Irish had gained seven total yards. After six, they had gained 44. The speed of the Michigan pass rush, combined with the inexperience of the Notre Dame offensive line, left senior quarterback Carlyle Holiday to fend for himself.

"A year ago, Holiday beat us on a couple of long throws," Carr said. "Because of the pressure today, he was not able to do that."

At halftime, Holiday had thrown seven passes, completed one for one yard, and thrown an interception. Plug those numbers into the NCAA formula for passing efficiency, in which anything over 150 is considered outstanding and anything below 130 is average, and you get .429. That's a helluva batting average, yes, but Holiday isn't playing baseball.

At least, not yet.

"All I know is, especially me, personally I didn't do what I needed to do to win today," said Holiday, who had completed 5-of-14 for 55 yards when Willingham yanked him for freshman Brady Quinn early in the fourth quarter. "We have to get everything straight on every part of the offense."

What prompted Willingham to wave the white flag was a 19-play, 80-yard drive on which Michigan consumed 10:25, a school record. Not that the drive took a long time, but when it began, Tom Brady was the Wolverine quarterback. "You know the offense is tired," said Navarre, who overcame the early fumble to complete 14-of-21 passes for 199 yards. "You want to keep them motivated."

You can imagine how the Irish defense felt. They had to tackle Chris Perry. The Michigan senior carried the ball 14 times in the first quarter alone. He finished with 133 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries. He also caught a five-yard touchdown pass, and interrupted his postgame platitudes just long enough to castigate himself for a fumble inside the Irish 10. You see, it could have been worse.

"In a way, I'm a little shocked," Perry said, "but in a way, we expected to play well."

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said at least twice at his press conference that dealing with success is no less difficult than dealing with losing. He is well aware that forgetting about this victory will be like forgetting about your first kiss.

"It's hard to do when you're 50," said Carr, who's 58. "It's real hard when you're 18, 19 years old because the memories are real vivid. You don't have many days in that stadium like that."

But Carr is a coach, and Michigan must travel to Oregon next Saturday. Coaches love to say that they relish a victory for 30 minutes, and then move on. Someone asked Carr about that wisdom, and he nodded.

"Can you enjoy this one for at least 32 minutes?" Carr was asked.

The corners of his mouth crept up, and his eyes twinkled.

"Yeah," Carr said. "I can."

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.