Notre Dame Owns Second Half, Victory in Opener
Irish score 17 in the third quarter, defeat Michigan 36-20.
September 5, 1998
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Notre Dame's summer of discontent is over - the Irish are back in the business of winning big games again.
Jarious Jackson threw two touchdown passes in his first start and Autry Denson ran for another during a lucky 13-minute span of the second half as the 22nd-ranked Irish upset No. 5 Michigan 36-20 on Saturday.
In beating the defending co-national champions, the Irish posted their most important victory in years and ended Michigan's 12-game winning streak in record fashion.
Notre Dame's point total was the most against the Wolverines in the 28-game history of the series, usually marked by close games.
After the game, players tried to carry coach Bob Davie off the field but the game hadn't ended yet. But when it did, students rushed the field, surrounded players and patted their helmets as they headed to the locker room in a single-file line.
Jackson took a half to warm up, but finished with 62 yards rushing and 96 passing with an early interception. Denson carried 24 times for career-best 162 yards, including a career-long 58-yarder on Notre Dame's first play, and two TDs. Tom Brady, in his first start for Michigan, was 23-of-36 for 267 yards and had a 1-yard TD run.
The win eased much of pain endured by the Irish during a long, hot summer, one in which a former assistant won an age discrimination suit and an NCAA investigation began into current and former players taking gifts from a booster.
For now, the Golden Dome is tarnished no longer, as a determined bunch of Irish defenders made big plays in the second half and the new option attack took care of the scoring.
Trailing 13-6 at the half, and looking like they were about to cave in to the faster and stronger Wolverines, the Irish scored on five straight possessions to put away Michigan before a cheering crowd of 80,225, the 137th consecutive sellout, at Notre Dame Stadium.
After cutting the lead to 13-9 on the third of Jim Sanson's field goals, this one a 32-yarder, Michigan's Clarence Williams fumbled the kickoff and Tony Driver recovered at the Wolverines 34. Seven plays later, Jackson, who sat behind Ron Powlus for three years before getting his chance, hit a wide-open Dan O'Leary to put the Irish ahead 16-13 with 7:42 left in the third period.
Then, fullback Ray Jackson fumbled and Irish linebacker Grant Irons recovered on the Michigan 35. On the next play, Jackson nearly stumbled and fell as he dropped back, but regained his balance and connected with Raki Nelson on a 35-yard TD pass with 5:02 left in the period.
Brady tried to bring Michigan back, hitting Marcus Knight on a 51-yard pass to the Irish 15. But the Wolverines, who had trouble putting the ball in the end zone - and through the uprights for that matter - were unable to score as linebacker Jimmy Friday blocked Jay Feely's 40-yard field goal attempt.
Feely and Kraig Baker, the starting placekicker, each missed two of three field goal attempts for Michigan.
After the block, Denson scored from three yards out with 13:32 left in the game and Notre Dame was in control, 30-13. Denson added a one-yard TD run with 4:04 left, and Michigan freshman Drew Henson came on and threw an 8-yard TD pass to Jerame Tuman with 2:09 left.
Despite dominating the first half, the Wolverines led only 13-6 thanks to Brady's 1-yard TD dive with 23 seconds left. The TD capped a 72-yard drive in 12 plays that included a goal-line pass interference call on Irish free safety A'Jani Sanders on a third-and-goal from the Notre Dame 8.
Michigan ran 54 plays to Notre Dame's 22 and controlled the ball for 20:15 of the first 30 minutes. The final 30 minutes - and the victory - belonged to the Irish.