SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- With 21 seconds to go, cornerback Shane
Walton slid to the grass on the Michigan 38-yard line after his
interception, the football tucked safely away in his arms.
At that moment, Notre Dame's sellout crowd of 80,795 stood and
cheered. The final mistake in this comedy of errors of a game had
been made by Michigan (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 7 AP), and Notre Dame (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) won 25-23
Saturday to remain unbeaten in three games under new coach Tyrone
"As soon as you saw it hit his hands, you're thinking 'Get
down, get down, get down,' '' Willingham said. "Because the game
Walton, who swatted away a 2-point conversion pass that would
have tied the score with 2:53 left, said he received a message from
Willingham before Michigan's last-chance drive.
"He pointed to me and said somebody needed to make a play,''
Walton said. "That's what I was trying to do.''
In the 30th game of the series, there were enough blunders,
blocks and botched scoring chances to last a season. But in the
end, the Irish are off to their best start since 1996, beat their
first Top 10 team in four years and also scored their first
offensive touchdowns of the season.
"A win like this is huge,'' Walton said.
The defeat also was huge for Michigan (2-1).
"Just too many mistakes for a game like that,'' coach Lloyd
Carr said. "If you make that many mistakes, it's hard to win. And
we made more mistakes than Notre Dame.''
Each team lost three fumbles and had an interception. There were
18 penalties, two of which went against Michigan and resulted in a
safety and touchdown late in the first half that put the Irish
The officials did not have a good day, either. On Carlyle
Holiday's 3-yard TD run with 23 seconds left in the half, it
appeared the quarterback fumbled on the 1. A play earlier,
cornerback Marlin Jackson was called for pass interference in the
"That was a bad call by the referee,'' Jackson said, claiming
that Notre Dame receiver Omar Jenkins tripped. "The guy who was in
position to make the call didn't make the call.''
Notre Dame scored its first offensive TDs of the season, with
Grant running for the first of his two scores on the game's opening
drive. Grant carried 28 times for 132 yards.
With the Irish ahead, 25-17, John Navarre's 8-yard TD pass to
Bennie Joppru cut the deficit to two points. Navarre rolled right
and threw toward Braylon Edwards. But Walton leaped high in the air
and batted the ball away with his right hand.
Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday completed 8 of 17 passes for
154 yards and an interception, which was returned 19 yards for
Jackson in the first quarter. Holiday, who was sacked six times,
carried 15 times for 14 yards.
"It's a big win for us and our program,'' Holiday said. "Now
we're just set to build on this.''
Willingham, who arrived from Stanford to replace the fired Bob
Davie, said he has no long-term plan to bring Notre Dame back to
its glory days.
"Win today, that's the goal,'' Willingham said.
Navarre completed 19 of 42 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown.
The game boiled down to the Wolverines being in the wrong place
at the wrong time. The Irish led 16-7 at halftime, thanks to
Grant's first TD, a safety via penalty and Holiday's TD after the
pass interference call against Jackson.
The Wolverines fought back to go ahead 17-16 after Philip Brabbs
kicked a 19-yard field goal and Chris Perry ran 2 yards for a TD
late in the third quarter. The TD was set up when Brabbs ended up
recovering his own kickoff after Arnaz Battle fumbled it away at
the Irish 32.
Trailing for the first time this season, the Irish came right
back on the arm of Holiday, who completed passes of 28 and 47 yards
to Jenkins. The 47-yarder took the ball to the Michigan 2, and two
plays later Grant scored to put Notre Dame ahead 22-17. Holiday was
sacked on a 2-point conversion try.
Michigan, called for holding in the end zone that resulted in a
safety for Notre Dame, then made its final blunder: Perry fumbled
the ensuing kickoff and Glenn Earl recovered at the Michigan 43.
Four plays later, Nicholas Setta kicked a 46-yard field goal with
10:41, and that proved to be the winning margin.
The safety was one of the more unusual plays of the game.
With the score at 7-all, Michigan faced third-and-9 at its 7.
Navarre dropped back into his end zone to pass, but left tackle
Courtney Morgan was called for holding defensive end Justin Tuck
while Tuck was tipping Navarre's pass. The ball fell to the ground,
and since the penalty occurred in the end zone, Notre Dame was
awarded a safety.
The next time the Wolverines got the ball they gave it right
back, as wide receiver Tyrece Butler fumbled after a 4-yard catch.
Vontez Duff recovered for the Irish on the 27 to set up Holiday's
Asked about the biggest play of the game, Carr said, "There was
a hundred of them.''
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