My seats were on the east side of the stadium, on the 10-yard line, behind the Michigan band, so when the sun made its first appearance of the day it blinded me. At the moment though, the action was at the other end of the field, so I didn’t have to look directly at the sun, at least not when Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist (who had vision problems of his own earlier in the day*) dropped back in his own endzone with just under four minutes left in the game.
When Crist heaved it downfield, however, I had to shade my eyes. The ball disappeared for a split second—perhaps the Michigan safety who was burned on the play experienced the same effect—before descending into Kyle Rudolph’s hands.
Everything about this play, from the drop back to the flight of the ball to the 55-yard run after the catch, seemed to be happening in slow motion. I heard other witnesses (fans of both teams) say this, too. I have since timed it and learned that from the snap to the pass was 4.65 seconds; the ball was in flight for just over two seconds; Rudolph’s run took 6.55 seconds and included him looking over his shoulder five times. In total, the second-longest pass play in Notre Dame history (95 yards) lasted a little more than 13 seconds.
The Irish crowd was so loud at this point that I couldn’t quite make out what the PA announcer was saying, but it was something along the lines of “That’s a 95-yard touchdown pass from Crist to Rudolph and there is a rainbow over the field!”
I was in complete shock, but given the time on the clock and Michigan’s three timeouts, I knew there was enough time for even a run-heavy drive to get Michigan in field goal range. Of course, everyone in the stadium knew a field goal attempt would likely not end well for Michigan and that a touchdown was probably needed. Denard Robinson, a trio of receivers, and a steady offensive line made sure that’s exactly what Michigan got, and the Wolverines left South Bend with a 28-24 victory and a 2-0 record. For the third straight year, and sixth time over the last seven, the underdog was victorious.
*Asked during Tuesday’s press conference about when the Notre Dame coaching staff knew Crist was hurt, Brian Kelly had this to say: “We had just got clearance from the TV tout to take the field. We were under a minute. That’s when he said, ‘Coach, I just don’t remember this play.’ You could look at him and you could tell that he wasn’t fully in charge. So that’s when we made the decision to make the change.”
Maybe Rich Rodriguez has sent a player to the playing field under similar circumstances—I have no idea—but I know for sure that Kelly did, as Crist returned for the second half. This is exactly the behavior that neuroscientists and the like are trying to combat. The NFL seems to be catching on and hopefully the NCAA will wise up as well.
It was a historical game. In addition to Notre Dame’s pass play going into the record books, Robinson broke off the longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history with an 87-yard touchdown to give Michigan a 21-7 lead in the first half. Robinson broke the school record he set last week by tallying 502 total yards (244 passing; 258 rushing). His 885 yards of total offense through two games this season is more than 87 of the 120 FBS teams, including nine ranked squads.
I wouldn’t say Robinson racked up his yards quietly against the Irish (sort of impossible when you have an 87-yard run), but the lack of a video board made it all the more impressive to discover his final stats. Apparently they were displayed at halftime, but I was too busy watching Michigan’s Lady Gaga routine. It’s a lot different when you’re watching on television and constantly being reminded of how many yards he has accumulated.
|The action as I saw it right in front of me. (Credit: Andrew Kahn)|
A lot of the talk after Robinson once again carried the ball nearly 30 times was that he will wear down as the season progresses or, worse yet, get injured.* Only time will tell, but Michigan’s schedule is certainly favorable in this regard. Yes, the Wolverines still have battles with Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, but those games are in the second half of the season.
But Michigan’s upcoming games are against Massachusetts and Bowling Green (followed by Indiana and Michigan State). If the next two contests don’t provide Rich Rodriguez with the opportunity to not only limit Robinson’s carries but use other quarterbacks, it will mean Michigan has other, far more serious problems than Robinson’s workload.
*Kelly hinted at this in his postgame press conference and it sort of bothered me, especially given his decision to let Crist play after apparently suffering a concussion. “You run a quarterback 25 times, you have to have toughness,” Kelly said. “I’ll let Coach figure out if that’s the case for 10 games. Coach Rodriguez knows his team better than I do. We hit him pretty hard today, but he’s a good, tough kid.”
To me, it seems like Kelly is implying that Rodriguez is mortgaging his team’s (and Robinson’s) future in order to get some early season wins. To that I say what Rodriguez said in his Monday presser when asked about Robinson’s workload: “You coach your team; I’ll coach mine.” Rodriguez said this with a smile on his face, clearly a response to Kelly’s comments.
Of course, if Robinson were to slow down, Rodriguez can always turn to freshman running back Stephen Hopkins, who did the baseball equivalent of hitting a home run in his first at bat. His first collegiate run was a one-yard touchdown to give Michigan a 14-7 lead. He’s unstoppable.