It's a stand-up victory for Irish
Despite Weis's fall, ND is feeling good
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - A busted-up knee could hardly put a damper on this day for Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis.
After a season of disappointment and an uninspiring opening-game victory against a heavy underdog, the Fighting Irish have something to truly celebrate - Notre Dame 35, Michigan 17.
"We definitely showed up against a good opponent and it's sweet," said Weis, on crutches most of the game after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee yesterday when he was hit in the second quarter along the sideline. "This was a big win for our program and our kids."
Ripping a page out of the playbook that Michigan used for consecutive blowout wins over the Irish the past two seasons, Notre Dame took advantage of mistakes by the Wolverines to jump to a three-touchdown lead. Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said his team's six turnovers were too much to overcome.
"I don't think we're that far off. We've just got to play better," Rodriguez said. "I've said it many times, we're not good enough to play poorly and win. We're not right now."
Jimmy Clausen, who was sacked eight times by the Wolverines last year, was 10 of 21 for 147 yards with two touchdown passes, two interceptions, and no sacks. Robert Hughes ran for two touchdowns for the Irish.
Weis was hurt when Irish defensive end John Ryan, who is 6 feet 5 inches, 264 pounds, was blocked, and crashed into Weis's leg. The coach was looking in the other direction because the ball carrier had run past him.
"Tommy Brady's got nothing on me," Weis joked afterward about the injured Patriots quarterback.
Weis will have surgery on his knee in the next few days.
"I feel like an athlete. First time in my life," he said.
The 18-point victory was the third largest in the 37-game series for the Irish (2-0), but well short of the 38-0 loss to Michigan (1-2) two years ago and 47-21 setback last season.
Considering how sloppily Michigan played in the second straight meeting between the rivals with neither one ranked, it's hard to qualify this as a breakthrough victory for the Irish. But Weis said it answered some questions that lingered after a 21-13 win over San Diego State.
"Because the question was for everyone. It wasn't just for media. It was for coaches, it was for players, for everyone. Where are we going to go from here?" he said.
Linebacker Brian Smith, who returned a fumble recovery 35 yards for the only touchdown of the second half early in the fourth quarter, said the Irish showed they are an improved team.
"Last year at Michigan, we were embarrassed as a team. We remembered that as we were training and getting ready for the season," Smith said.