2011 Michigan State Spartans Football
Michigan State @ Notre Dame Football Recap
Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 13
It’s amazing what can happen when even the smallest improvements are made. Another weekend brought still more turnovers for the offense of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. However, when the turnover count is reduced from five to three, good things can happen. They did happen this past weekend, and since Notre Dame’s opponent was in a particularly giving mood, the Irish were actually able to walk off the field a winner.
It still wasn’t perfect in the turnover department for Notre Dame—it committed three—and despite a repressed offense from previous weeks, the Irish picked up a convincing 31-13 win over 15 th-ranked Michigan State in South Bend on Saturday afternoon.
After opening strong—a touchdown drive featuring 59 rushing yards from Cierre Wood—déjà vu struck Notre Dame, as quarterback Tommy Rees fumbled and threw an interception in the first quarter. Luckily for the Irish, the Spartans only turned those turnovers into three points, and after Michigan State’s field goal, George Atkinson returned the kickoff 89-yards for a touchdown to give Notre Dame a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. Kirk Cousins quarterbacked Michigan State to a score to open the second quarter, going 4-of-5 for 42 yards on the drive. However, the Irish – who were not terrifically consistent but certainly made timely plays throughout this contest – answered later in the quarter with a five-minute, 92-yard drive to make the halftime score 21-10 in their favor.
Then came the moment when this tussle turned irrevocably to the Irish’s side of the divide. Michigan State drove inside the Notre Dame 10 in the final minute of the first half. MSU got stopped at the 3 on third down and sent out the field goal unit. One year ago, Michigan State burned Notre Dame on a perfectly executed fake field goal. The Irish and head coach Brian Kelly had to know that Sparty might have something up its sleeve, so the Spartans would have been well advised to take three points and enter the locker room down by only one possession after a poor first-half performance. Instead, MSU coach Mark Dantonio got greedy. He ordered a fake that was smothered by Notre Dame’s alert defense, which was playing the fake all the way. From that moment on, Sparty never made another particularly convincing or threatening move, and even when MSU did mount a big drive, the Spartans stumbled the way Notre Dame had in previous weeks.
After a third-quarter score extended Notre Dame’s lead, Michigan State was primed to make it a game. After a Dan Conroy field goal made it 28-13, the Spartans took a 14-play drive the entire length of the field, starting at its own one-yard line and marching all the way to Notre Dame’s three-yard line. But Cousins borrowed a play from the Irish playbook, throwing a red-zone interception to Notre Dame’s Robert Blanton, who turned on the jets and returned the pick 82 yards into field goal range to seal the Irish victory.
Michigan State outgained Notre Dame 358 to 275 in the game. Rees was 18-of-26 for 161 yards and a touchdown in the win, while Cousins finished 34-of-53 for 329 yards.
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