Buried Alive: How a phantom flag led to Michigan’s blowout of Notre Dame


ANN ARBOR — Oftentimes a bad call leading to points for the opposition can flip the script on a game’s trajectory and eventual outcome.

At the midway point of the second half, No. 19 Michigan looked to be a victim of that narrative at home against No. 8 Notre Dame following an abysmal defensive pass interference call on Wolverines’ linebacker Khaleke Hudson. On that same play, U-M safety Brad Hawkins intercepted Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book.

Five plays later, Book would toss a touchdown to tight end Cole Kmet. The Michigan student section, though half-gone due to the two-plus inches of rain on the turf, flooded the field with towels in response to the controversial penalty. 

It was the Irish’s first score of the night. The Wolverines had dominated to that point, holding the Irish to 1.9 yards per play before the touchdown and leading 17-0.

All the same, it was 17-7 and the scene felt all too familiar for a Michigan team that’s been ridiculed to fail on the national stage, especially in moments of adversity.

However, senior quarterback Shea Patterson and freshman running back Hassan Haskins (149 yards) would waste no time letting this narrative affect the outcome. And U-M’s relentless response could be the turning point of a season so many have already called over.

Michigan scored six plays later on a gutsy throw from Patterson to the corner of the end zone while getting drilled by an Irish defender.

And after that, the Wolverines would pile on 28 unanswered points to take a 45-7 lead and showed no signs of hitting its brakes.

Like a Buried Alive Match from The Attitude Era of WWF in the 1990s, Jim Harbaugh’s team grabbed a shovel and effectively buried Brian Kelly’s top-ten-ranked Irish in front of its home crowd.

A Big Ten Championship is likely impossible unless Ohio State comes back down to Earth and joins the rest of us. A College Football Playoff was kissed goodbye in Happy Valley last week, too.

But at 6-2 now, Michigan showed it has something to fight for. And perhaps that it’s not going to fall into the endless pit of narratives we hear on each college football broadcast and production. 

Blowing out a top-ten team at home as an underdog is exactly what it sounds like. An impressive feat that Harbaugh’s Michigan has yet to accomplish until Saturday night. And it’s exactly what the program needed. A sign of resiliency and the ability to take it to a team the vast majority of college football thought was the better side.

Might this be Michigan’s turning point, not on its season, but its trajectory under Harbaugh?

For now, you can add that to the list of narratives. But one thing that’s a fact is we haven’t seen a Michigan team have a night like that in over a decade.

Because when a phantom flag nearly resurrected the Irish, Harbaugh handed his team the shovel and it buried Notre Dame alive until the rivalry renews again in 2033.

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