Michigan had been playing football since 1879, so they had a big experience edge on the not-yet-nicknamed Irish. In fact, part of the deal for this game was that the Wolverines would teach the Notre Dame gridders some of the finer points of the game. Notre Dame was pleased that the “Champions of the West” were willing to travel down to Indiana for this contest. Early in the “contest”, the two teams were mingled together so the new team could learn some of the finer points.
The Scholastic reported: At first, to render our players more familiar with the game, the teams were chosen irrespective of college. After some minutes' play, the game was called, and each took his position.
I checked the football records of the University of Michigan to see how experienced their team actually was. Six of their players were not listed among their letter winners. One player earned his only letter in 1887. A second player lettered in both 1887 and 1888. Their most experienced player, a halfback, was a four letter winner (1885-88). Their second and third most experienced men were End George DeHaven and Guard William Harless, both from Chicago. DeHaven lettered 1887-89 and Harless lettered 1886, 1887, & 1890. OK, so what’s my point? DeHaven and Harless were well known to the home team, having been students in the Prep program at Notre Dame before continuing their academic career at Michigan!
ND vs. Michigan - 1st Varsity Football Game, 12/21/12
The Scholastic had this to say after the game: The game was interesting, and, notwithstanding the slippery condition of the ground, the Ann Arbor boys gave a fine exhibition of skillful playing. This occasion has started an enthusiastic football boom, and it is hoped that coming years will witness a series of these contests. After a hearty dinner, Rev. President Walsh thanked the Ann Arbor team for their visit, and assured them of the cordial reception that would always await them at Notre Dame. At 1 o'clock carriages were taken for Niles, and amidst rousing cheers the University of Michigan football team departed, leaving behind them a most favorable impression.