It would be easy to say that the moment was too big for Michigan, that a true road game in a hostile environment at Notre Dame was simply too much to handle to start the season.

Let’s not make it easy.

The hard truth is this: Michigan had to start fast to get a win on the road at Notre Dame and they didn’t do it. Every time they needed to lay the wood and make a statement to get things going, they stumbled.

And that’s why they lost 24-17 in a game that was theirs for the taking.

Every start was a bad start, and it had to have Michigan fans frustrated as all get out. And rightly now. Here’s a snippet of all those bad starts:

  • Offense not finishing early drives: On Michigan’ first two drives, we wanted too see “new and improved” and instead shook our heads in bewilderment, wondering why this was going on. Michigan got a first down and then gained 8 yards on first-and-10, but then ran twice and got nowhere and punted. The second drive featured three first downs, but then Patterson was sacked on third down, forcing another punt.
  • Vaunted defense getting gashed by Notre Dame: At the same time, Michigan’s highly regarded defense, a top-5 group two years in a row, gave up touchdowns on Notre Dame’s first two possessions and looked bad doing it. Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Winbush picked them apart, throwing for 115 yards on the first two drives and Michigan gave up far too many big plays.
  • Starting the second half with a delay of game penalty: Even starting the second half was a head-scratcher, when Michigan was called for delay of game on the very first play! That was simply not the way to get things going.

Michigan’s offense in the first half was brutal,  gaining just 90 yards and a lot of that — again — could be blamed on the offensive line. It was a same old story as last year, when run blocking was non-existant and   new quarterback Shea Patterson was under constant duress.

It’s just not what we wanted to see. We expected so much more. It was 21-3 at one point and only a 99-yard kickoff return by Ambry Thomas kept them in the game.

And even when they battled back and threatened to score in the final minute, more extreme pressure on Patterson forced a fumble that secured the win for Notre Dame.

Brutal, brutal, brutal.

What’s really scary was that we kept hearing through much of fall camp that the offensive line was winning a lot of the battles with Michigan’s vaunted defensive front. What that meant Saturday was that we still had questions about the O-line, and now we can also be a little concerned about the defensive front.

Offensively, it all added up to a bad night. Michigan simply could not run the ball, gaining only 58 yards on 33 carries. They didn’t have a single run over 10 yards. Patterson finished 20 of 30 for 227 yards, but 52 on that came on one play, a pass to Nico Collins after that open delay-of-game call.

There were not nearly enough shots downfield, but a lot of that had to do with Patterson not having enough time to make that happen. An interception and a fumble by Patterson didn’t help, even though he showed a lot of fight, battling back after cramping up on a hot, sticky night. It was certainly not the debut he wanted at Michigan.

Notre Dame clearly won that battle on that side of the ball.

“I’m so proud of our defense,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said after winning the big rivalry game. “They were resilient and we came out and were the better team tonight.”

Michigan has now lost 17 straight games on the road against a ranked opponent, a streak that goes back a dozen years now. The question mark with the offensive line is still there, that they just aren’t competitive enough against quality foes to get the job done.

They have to get better if they’re going to compete in the tough Big Ten East.

And there’s the rub. What matters most to Michigan is what lies ahead. Making a statement in the Big Ten is what really matters, even more so that a huge rivalry game like this to start the season.

Give them a pass because it’s opening night? Nope. No way. They needed to be better.

But at the same time, it really is just one game. Patterson will be better, and the running game will be better. But for that to happen, it’s all on that offensive line. They said they were tired of hearing criticism. Well, he we are, criticizing them again.

It’s on them to make us stop.