- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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For openers, Schembechler had refused to go public and lambaste Smith ("He's our quarterback and we're going to play with him") or any other player following the debacle at Wisconsin; he just called them all rotten. Asked if any of his players had talked with him about the loss to Wisconsin, Bo stormed, "They don't talk to me when I'm in this mood. I talk to them."
The Wolverines had a grueling week of practice. "All coaching is," said Defensive Coordinator Bill McCartney, "is taking a player where he can't take himself." In this case, the coaches took the players to the pits. Before Wisconsin, the concern among the Wolverines was that nobody get hurt in practice; before Notre Dame, concern about injury went south and all the Wolverines recklessly had at each other.
Whatever spirit Haji-Sheikh's missed field-goal attempt kindled in the Irish, it didn't last long. Just three plays, in fact. Three plays that netted all of three yards. But on the next Irish offensive series, senior Quarterback Tim Koegel—one of nine members of the squad who had played under Faust at Moeller High in Cincinnati—found Tight End Dean Masztak with two passes to spark a drive that went from the Irish 16 to a fourth-and-goal at the Michigan eight. A chip-shot field goal for Harry Oliver, and Notre Dame would be on the board first. But Faust ordered up a fake kick. Wing-back Tony Hunter broke free, but holder Dave Condeni's pass was high, forcing Hunter to make a leaping catch; he landed off-balance and slipped down at the four. Asked later about the advisability of going for the touchdown, Faust said, "It was open, wasn't it?" It was.
Michigan finally scored at 2:52 of the second quarter. The play was an off-tackle fake run disguising a three-deep pass pattern. Smith, who had hit Carter only once, for 11 yards, at Wisconsin, lobbed the ball 40 yards to his flanker, who then ran 31 more yards for the touchdown.
"It was a nice pass," said the laconic Carter, making what for him was a speech. Running downfield, Carter had been knocked out of bounds, and Notre Dame Free Safety Rod Bone no doubt thought he was out of the play for good. "Then," Bone said sadly, "I saw him too deep too late." Of course. If you can see Carter, it probably is too late. Carter, who is listed at 161 pounds but appears at least 10 pounds lighter, can break a defender's heart scores of ways with his skinny legs. With 6:22 to go in the third quarter and the ball at the Irish 15, Smith hit Carter on the right sideline at the five, where Notre Dame's John Krimm was set to put on the hit. Trouble was, Carter left the scene and was next spotted in the end zone. "It was another nice pass," explained Carter, ever the wordsmith.
Leading 13-0, Michigan relentlessly pressed on. Deep in Notre Dame territory once again, Smith passed to Stacey Toran on the goal line. One problem: To-ran is a Notre Dame cornerback. However, the officials ruled that Carter, for whom the pass was intended, had been interfered with, and Michigan had the ball on the Notre Dame one. Lawrence Ricks ran it in and Michigan ran it up to 19-0. Early in the last quarter Smith ran six yards on a keeper for a 25-0 lead, and while Notre Dame eventually scored a meaningless touchdown, no Irish miracle was ever in sight.
Basking in victory, Bo kept talking up his quarterback. "It's just a matter of time until he gets real good," said Schembechler. On Saturday Smith connected on only four of 15 passes, but two were those touchdown tosses to Carter. For his part. Carter says of Smith, "He's a nice quarterback."
This was a difficult loss for Notre Dame to take, not only because of its breadth and depth, but also because it burst the euphoria that had enveloped South Bend since Faust arrived on campus in November. There were concerns because Faust had never coached in college (he was the head coach at Moeller High for 18 years), and because Notre Dame is a pressure cooker for any coach. The 27-9 win over LSU had fanned talk that Faust was already a legend, and had he won in Ann Arbor, there were those among the Irish who would have felt they should go ahead and have Faust bronzed and get it over with.
Faust, 46, not only brought his high school gung-ho attitude to Notre Dame, but he also installed a wide-open high school type offense, with lots of motion and shifts and funny pass plays. Whether it is too high school—and not enough big-time college—isn't known yet, but it didn't baffle Michigan any. Faust, who last tasted defeat 34 games ago when Moeller lost to Princeton High 13-12 in 1978, has a fondness for inspirational quotes. For now he can take solace in a maxim coined by one of his predecessors at Notre Dame, Knute Rockne, who said, "One loss is good for the soul. Too many losses are not good for the coach."
As for Bo and his boys, their backs may still be against the wall, but they regained much of the respect they had lost at Wisconsin.