Michigan's Chase Winovich leaves loss to Notre Dame feeling unfulfilled

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — A perplexed Chase Winovich scanned the visitors' media room, located a reporter displaying a similar blondish flow and changed his tone.

“I like your hair, by the way,” he said.

Up until that point, and perhaps after, Michigan’s fifth-year senior defensive end was puzzled with the events that unfolded Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.

Winovich registered 3.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries and felt at times he was “pitching a tent in the backfield.”

No. 14 Michigan (0-1) held 12th-ranked Notre Dame (1-0) to 69 yards and three points in the second half, yet fell 24-17. But how?

“I'm not really sure where they beat us,” Winovich said. “Still kind of confused. I came in the locker room and I looked around and kind of confused how we lost that game, because I didn't feel like they dominated us on any facet of the ball.

“But, like I said, ultimately they made plays when they needed to, and that's a credit to them.”

The Irish jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and led by as much as 21-3 in the first half. The Wolverines often found themselves in position to cut the deficit or swing momentum. With the exception of their final drive of the first half — which lasted one play — the Wolverines entered Irish territory on their first six possessions.

Yet, Michigan generated just one field goal across those trips.

“Yeah, we didn't make enough explosive plays,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Probably didn't run the ball as well as we would like. Credit to Notre Dame's defense.”

Transfer quarterback Shea Patterson operated under an offense much different than the system of his former team, Ole Miss. Michigan displayed a hybrid spread attack with pro-style tendencies, at times thrusting Patterson under center.

“I'm very comfortable with this offense,” Patterson said. “Diverse and going under center and shotgun and different formations, get the ball in open space. Run the ball and pass the ball downfield. I'm really comfortable with it.”

Patterson finished the night 20-of-30 for 227 yards and an interception. Until the final five minutes, the junior completed just three passes beyond 10 yards. He went 5-of-7 for 78 passing yards across the final two possessions. Leg cramping sidelined him for 11 plays in the fourth quarter.

The night for Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush played out in reverse. He completed four passes beyond 15 yards en route to a first-half line of 10-for-15 for 148 yards and a touchdown. A conservative second half for the Irish resulted in Wimbush throwing for 22 yards and an interception on 2-of-7 passing.

“Wimbush made some big plays throughout the game, running the ball, getting out of the pocket,” Harbaugh said. “Credit to him. He played a heck of a ballgame. Thought we limited that in the second half.”

The Wolverines first saw life when Ambry Thomas returned a kickoff 99 yards, cutting their deficit to 21-10 with 3:41 remaining in the second quarter. A three-yard Karan Higdon touchdown and Notre Dame three-and-out gave Michigan the ball trailing by a possession with two minutes left.

But another step forward was followed by more backtracking.

Before Thomas’ touchdown, Winovich handed the Irish four extra points on a roughing the passer penalty. Winovich’s pressure forced Wimbush to throw it away on third-and-goal at the Michigan 8-yard line. But Michigan’s defensive lineman made contact a beat late.

Winovich’s response? Confusion.

“So I asked the ref about it,” Winovich said. “And I didn't necessarily agree with his call, because I was rushing from the left side — he's a right-handed quarterback. He told me I hit him in the back. That's why he called it. I'm not sure how that makes any sense.”

An ill-advised throw by Wimbush to begin the second half offered Michigan an opportunity. The senior overthrew receiver Chase Claypool on a fade. Michigan’s Brandon Watson recorded the interception in stride before bolting to midfield on a 19-yard return.

Patterson and Co. failed to capitalize, handing it back after a four-and-out drive.

“There's a good play to be pointed out throughout the team and a lot of good things to build on,” Harbaugh said. “But didn't come out the way we wanted it. But it's not the end for us; it's the beginning for us. That's the way we're approaching it.”

A bobbled snap also cost Michigan on an aborted 33-yard field goal attempt. Holder Will Hart rushing for an 11-yard loss on the play, and prevented Michigan from closing to within 21-13 in the third quarter.

Linebacker Devin Bush sacked Wimbush, forcing a third-and-18 midway through the third. Wimbush converted on the next play, bursting up the middle for 22 yards on a quarterback draw. Michigan’s miscue paved the way for a 48-yard Justin Yoon field goal, widening the gap to 24-10.

Michigan outgained Notre Dame, won the second half and pieced together a promising final quarter. Costly mistakes and inability to capitalize bit the Wolverines, though.

Winovich just hasn’t felt it yet.

“The second half, I think we more kind of, found our groove a little bit more,” Winovich said. "But — this might be a hot take — they're a great football team and stuff; I just didn't feel like they dominated us.”

Notre Dame’s Jafar Armstrong (8) tries to get past Michigan’s Chase Winovich (15) during the Michigan at Notre Dame NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.