Given that John Kryk, author of the definitive history of the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry Natural Enemies, is a mere email away, I had to get his thoughts and observations on the game.
This marked the 19th time Kryk has watched the game in person and that’s exactly half of the 38 games played all time between two schools. A few thoughts from Mr. Kryk:
- The only Michigan players I’ve seen that are so potentially and routinely electrifying [as Denard] are Anthony Carter and Desmond Howard (in that order).
- This is no fluke. The drive to open the second half vs UConn was mostly Denard completing 3rd-down after 3rd-down pass, not Denard running for first downs. And the winning drive Saturday was almost all on Denard’s arm, not his legs. He’s a quarterback, not a deluxe running back who keeps defenses honest with his throw. In fact, he tears ‘em up with his throws.
- This game reminds me what Lloyd Carr once told me about the greatness of this series — that neither team will ever play its greatest game of the year, because it’s too early in the year, but because both teams play so hard in this game, and it’s early, you get more killer mistakes. Thus more momentum swings, thus more exciting games.
- It was the seventh time in 27 games since the series resumed in 1978 that a team scored the winning points in the final two minutes. The first three times, it was Notre Dame ruining Michigan hearts — Harry Oliver in 1980, Reggie Ho in 1988 and Mirer-to-Jarrell in 1990. The last four times, however, it was Michigan ruining Notre Dame hearts — Remy Hamilton in 1994, Anthony Thomas in 1999, Tate-to-Mathews last year, and Denard yesterday.
- By the way, the series record now since the ’78 resumption? 13-13-1.
- Here’s a stat just for you: RichRod now joins Lloyd Carr and Fielding H. Yost as the only Michigan coaches to win two of their first three games against Notre Dame. Bo went 1-2, Mo 1-1-1.
So where does this game stack up in the history of the series? Kryk’s take:
- The Top 2 are 1980 and 1994, because both are the only two series games that had TWO lead changes in the final 55 seconds — and so many other exciting, momentum-changing plays and outside drama.
- After those two, it’s probably 1986, 1990, 1999, 2009 and 2010 fighting for the other three spots in the Top 5 most exciting. This year’s has to be in the Top 5, I’d say. Rounding out the Top 10 would be the 1979, 1986 and 1988 games.
If you what the rest of the story, go get Natural Enemies.
Here’s another little statistical ditty for you. The WSJ ran this last year prior to the 2009 Notre Dame game, in which the Irish were a 4-point or so favorite. With Tate’s in 2009 and Denard’s heroics Saturday, the favorite has covered a mere THREE times in the last 22 match-ups between these teams.