SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — This time, Notre Dame made sure Denard Robinson and Michigan had no shot at a last-minute victory.
Manti Te’o had two interceptions as the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish picked off five Michigan passes and backup quarterback Tommy Rees sparked the Notre Dame offense in a 13-6 win over the 18th-ranked Wolverines on Saturday night.
Robinson, who amassed 948 yards of total offense in victories over the Irish past two years, wasn’t as effective this time around 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.
The Irish (4-0) are off to their best start since 2002 and took another step in trying to re-establish themselves as a college football power. It was a setback for Michigan (2-2), which lost its eighth straight road game against ranked teams since beating second-ranked Notre Dame 47-21 in 2006.
The victory also ended a streak of three straight games in which Michigan beat the Irish in the final 27 seconds.
Notre Dame ran out the clock after a 31-yard Brendan Gibbons field goal with 3:27 left in the game made it 13-6. Rees, who came in for an ineffective Everett Golson midway through the second quarter, connected with Tyler Eifert on a 38-yard pass down the sideline on a critical third down. Then an eight-yard run by Theo Riddick on third-and-eight with a minute left salted the game away.
But the victory belonged to the Irish defenders, who held an opponent without a touchdown for a second straight week. Many fans at just the second night game in 22 years at Notre Dame Stadium wore leis to show support for Te’o, a Hawaiian whose girlfriend and grandmother recently died. He finished with eight tackles. Bennett Jackson had nine tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Twice, Notre Dame held Michigan without points from the 10-yard line.
After picking off Golson on Notre Dame’s first play, Michigan lost 15 yards on the next three plays as Robinson was sacked twice. Gibbons then missed a 43-yard field goal attempt wide right. On first-and-goal late in the first quarter, Michigan running back Vincent Smith was intercepted by Nicky Baratti in the end zone.
Notre Dame scored on a 2-yard quarterback draw by Rees that fooled Michigan, and on 33- and 39-yard field goals by Kyle Brindza.
Rees, who also rallied the Irish to a game-winning field goal against Purdue, was 8-of-11 passing. Despite that, coach Brian Kelly said Golson remains the starter.
Robinson finished the game 13-of-24 passing for 138 yards and also rushed for 90 yards on 26 carries.
Gibbons got Michigan on the board early in the fourth quarter with a 33-yard field goal.
The first half was so full of errors that at one point the two teams combined for eight completions on 20 attempts with six interceptions. Even referee Bill LeMonnier got into the act after a pass by Golson was intercepted by Michigan safety Thomas Gordon in the end zone and the Irish were called for two penalties on the play. The crowd cheered when he mistakenly announced that the play resulted in a touchdown, instead of saying it was a touchback. In the fourth quarter, a play was ruled dead because officials said someone in the stands blew a whistle.
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