Published September 08, 2013
| Sports Network
Ann Arbor, MI – The final showdown at Michigan Stadium between two of college football's tradition-rich heavyweights, at least for the foreseeable future, warranted another game under the lights at the Big House.
Devin Gardner and Jeremy Gallon lit up the sky anyway.
Gardner tossed three of his four touchdown passes to Gallon in No. 17 Michigan's 41-30 triumph over No. 14 Notre Dame in the second-ever night game held at Michigan Stadium in front of an NCAA-record crowd of 115,109.
Gardner was 21-of-33 for 294 yards with an interception and totaled 82 yards and a score on the ground, while Gallon caught eight passes for 184 yards for the Wolverines, who now lead the all-time series between the schools, 24-16-1.
"I can't even imagine having a game like this," Gallon said. "My teammates made this happen, not me."
Michigan (2-0) won a 35-31 thriller against Notre Dame (1-1) two years ago in the first night game in Ann Arbor.
Saturday's meeting between the two giants marked a temporary end to the series at Michigan Stadium, after the schools were unable to agree upon a schedule beyond 2014. Notre Dame, which will host Michigan next September, canceled its scheduled dates against the Wolverines from 2015-17 as a result of its five- games-per-year agreement with the ACC beginning next season.
These two teams have won a collective 20 national titles and rank first and second in terms of all-time winning percentage. Michigan leads the country at .7347 (905-315-36), while Notre Dame is a close second at .7331 (866-302-42).
Fitzgerald Toussaint carried the ball 22 times for 71 yards in the victory.
Tommy Rees was 29-of-51 for 314 yards with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions for Notre Dame, which has lost four straight tilts in Ann Arbor.
"We came up just short on some key plays," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said.
T.J. Jones hauled in nine balls for 94 yards and a score, Troy Niklas caught six passes for 76 yards and a touchdown, and Amir Carlisle tallied 64 rushing yards on 12 totes in defeat.
Michigan had the ball at its own 17-yard line with an apparently comfortable 34-20 cushion early in the fourth before disaster struck for Gardner on the third play of the drive. On a 3rd-and-11 at the 16, Austin Collinsworth and Prince Shembo got through the line of scrimmage and chased Gardner into the end zone. They had Gardner in their grasp, but Gardner attempted to throw the ball away anyway. His wobbler was intercepted in the end zone by Stephon Tuitt, which pulled the Irish within 34-27.
"I made a horrible decision," Gardner said. "But the defense gave me a place to stand. They told me they believed in me and I finished it."
Following a Michigan three-and-out, Kyle Brindza's 40-yard field goal cut the Notre Dame deficit to 34-30, but a pair of critical pass interference penalties by the Irish on the Wolverines' ensuing series led to their downfall.
Toussaint ran for 22 yards and hauled in a 31-yard reception before the Wolverines faced a 3rd-and-12 at the Notre Dame 23. Bennett Jackson, though, was whistled for a pass interference before Matthias Farley was called for another one on 3rd-and-5 from the 9-yard line three plays later.
Gardner then hit Drew Dileo for the game-sealing 4-yard score to make it 41-30 with 4:18 left.
Rees fired his second interception with 1:29 remaining.
Earlier, Michigan raced out to a 10-0 start before Notre Dame answered with 10 unanswered to tie it.
After Brendan Gibbons capped off the Wolverines' opening drive with a 44-yard field goal -- his school-record 15th consecutive field goal make -- the Irish followed with a three-and-out.
Gardner then found Gallon for a 61-yard score on the third play of Michigan's next trek. Gardner took a deep drop off play-action and hit Gallon over the middle at the Notre Dame 45. A quartet of Irish defenders appeared to converge on the would-be tackle at the 30, but Gallon spun away from Irish cornerbacks KeiVarae Russell and Jackson before he raced in for the score to give Michigan a 10-0 lead a little past the midway point of the first.
The Wolverines had outgained the Irish, 118-15, to that point until Rees flipped a 4-yard TD pass to Jones to complete a 9-play, 75-yard sequence. Rees attempted to hit George Atkinson out of the backfield, but the ball bounced off his fingertips and landed in the arms of Jones in the back of the end zone. After a Michigan punt, Rees' 16-yard completion to C.J. Prosise led to a Brindza 44-yard field goal to tie the score early in the second.
Russell was whistled for pass interference on a critical 3rd-and-goal at the 14-yard line on Michigan's ensuing series, which led to a 2-yard TD sprint by Gardner.
After Brindza and Gibbons booted through field goals of 24 and 38 yards, respectively, which made it 20-13 in favor of Michigan, the Irish regained possession with one timeout at their disposal and 1:56 on the clock.
Blake Countess, though, intercepted Rees' pass on the second play of the trek and ran it back 30 yards to the Notre Dame 23, which set up a Gallon 12-yard TD reception for a 27-13 Michigan spread at the break.
Rees hit Niklas on a play-action bootleg for a 20-yard touchdown before Gardner found Gallon for a 13-yard scoring strike on Michigan's next possession to give the Wolverines a 34-20 edge late in the third.
Gardner wore No. 98 in honor of Tom Harmon ... The attendance mark beat the record set two years ago between these two teams ... Michigan outgained Notre Dame, 460-410.