Sep 16

The Long Road Back is Now A Bit Shorter

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Photo: Matt Cashore -

Michigan goes down to Notre Dame in a battle of two once and always proud programs clawing to get back to the top. At sold out Notre Dame Stadium, The Irish took the win, 35 to 17, and have hope to believe more wins are on the way.

ND fans have many good reasons to think this win could be a spring board to bigger and better things. For starters, sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen played well in a very big game. He was just of 10 of 21 passing for 147 yards, but he also threw two touchdown passed and was not sacked. He did throw a couple of interceptions, but overall, he led the team well. He is a super high-profile player, who lives under the microscope, as he is the younger brother of former Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen, who had a solid career in Knoxville.

Another bright spot for the Irish is fellow sophomore running back Robert Hughes, who is emerging as a leader after adding two touchdowns Saturday. Every good team must have a running attack, and it appears, at least right now, that Notre Dame will be able to move the ball on the ground. ND had 107 yards rushing Saturday while playing in a pouring rain-storm.

The main reason for concern in this big win is that Michigan gained well over 400 yards of offense in the game. The Wolverines went for 184 on the ground and 260 via the airways. Though the Irish were fortunate to have Michigan avoid the end zone, they must play better defense if they are to truly make a rise back up the polls.

So what now for ND and their fat, banged up coach (in case you live on Neptune, Charlie Weis received a major leg injury on the sideline during the game)? The schedule is not so kind, and that is to their credit, being an independent. It isn't the toughest schedule in America, but it is respectable.

The Irish travel to Michigan State this weekend before hosting Stanford and Purdue. Nine of the next ten games could go either way for Notre Dame, with the most-likely sure loss being at Southern Cal at year's end. But if we give ND the advantage in five of those nine toss-up games, the Irish will finish 7-5, and that would have to be considered a good start to the comeback.

Let's say ND does go 7-5, and wins a bowl to go 8-5. With Jimmy Clausen, Robert Hughes and many other talented players back for the 2009 campaign, ND fans may realize their dreams sooner rather than later. But let's not forget, too, that the season is early, and this Michigan team wasn't all that, and that they could lose most of those nine games and not even make a 2008 bowl...both scenarios are very possible.

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