Manti Te'o had two interceptions as No. 11 Notre Dame picked off five Michigan passes and backup quarterback Tommy Rees sparked the Fighting Irish offense in a 13-6 win over the 18th-ranked Wolverines Saturday night.
Denard Robinson, who amassed 948 yards of total offense in victories over the Irish past two years, wasn't as effective this time as the Irish repeatedly forced him into mistakes. He threw four interceptions in the first half, then lost a fumble at the Notre Dame 8-yard line on the first drive of the second half.
"You know Denard, he would start running one way and then totally cut back the opposite way--everyone has to get to the ball," Te'o explained. "You have to really emphasize 11 guys to the ball. He's got me the past two years and it total Michigan's gotten me the last three years. I'm just glad on my last one--my last hurrah, I was able to finally have something to celebrate about."
The victory by Notre Dame (4-0) ended a streak of three straight games in which Michigan (2-2) beat the Irish in the final 27 seconds.
"Beating Michigan---especially after what happened last year---probably the most bitter feeling I've had after a game," Rees said. "We were prepared. We took it one game at a time throughout the week and just came here knowing it was going to be a battle."
"It feels good to go out there and help the team win and have all your teammates count on you and be able to deliver. It's still early in the yea,r," Rees said. "We have to keep moving forward and take it one day at a time."
Notre Dame didn't give the Wolverines a chance to pull it out this time, running out the clock after a Brendan Gibbons field goal with 3:27 left in the game made it 13-6.
Rees scored the game's only touchdown on a quarterback draw late in the first half and engineered a late drive that ended in Kyle Brindza's 39-yard field goal to give Notre Dame a 13-3 cushion.
"It feels great," Rees continued. "I can't remember the last time I was 4-0 on any football team, let alone here at Notre Dame. It feels really good, but we're not satisfied yet. We understand it's early. We got a bye week coming up. Regroup and move forward."
"There's a great deal of confidence but they know they have to play really well every single week," Irish coach Brian Kelly explained. "I don't think there will a false sense of confidence after four games. They know they have a lot of work to do. It's a group that understands they have an opportunity to do something big."
As for the who the quarterback will be when Notre Dame faces Miami in two weeks at Soldier Field in Chicago, Kelly said, "Everett Golson is our starter."
The question really is, will Tommy Rees continue to be the closer when it counts.
Manti Te'o controlled the game from the linebacker position. He got great drops on the two interceptions. You could say he was Denard Robinson's worst nightmare.
He was playing with a lot of emotion--two weeks removed from the passing of his grandma and his girlfriend, Manti says he just feels really blessed.
"Four years ago when I decided to come here, I didn't know why. It's starting to unveil itself as to why. I felt that I was told to come," Te'o said. "I can't think my team enough. I can't thank the students, just the fan base around the world--Notre Dame and non-Notre Dame. They have been really great. It's very humbling for me."
Headed into a bye week, Manti will now get a chance go home and be with his family in Hawaii. After that the Irish head to Chicago to take on Miami.