The Notre Dame football team locked itself into a battle of strong defense and came out ahead on the #10 Michigan State Spartans. Neither team was able to move the ball very well, and the game was won by the team that had the most luck go its way on Saturday night. It just so happened that luck was with the Irish.
You wouldn’t have thought that was the case when the game started however. On the first two plays of the game, back-up tight end John Goodman ran late onto the field and caused a false start penalty. Then redshirt-freshman quarterback Everett Golson burned a time-out on the very next play when there was too much confusion regarding the play called for the Irish offense, which was subsequently followed by a dropped pass. The Irish defense however, kept things under control, and forced a Spartan three-and-out. The defense was the star of this game.
The victory vaulted the Irish to a #11 ranking in the AP polls this week, and a #15 ranking in the Coach’s Poll. Michigan State drops down to #21 in the AP and #20 in the Coach’s Poll.
Here are my thoughts and reactions for the game:
Without question the defense played lights out. As I predicted in my game preview, the Irish limited Heisman Candidate LeVeon Bell to under 100 yards, allowing him only 77 yards on 19 carries and no touchdowns. As a team, the Spartans only registered 50 total rushing yards thanks to 4 Notre Dame sacks for -28 yards. The defensive players of the game have to be nose tackle Louis Nix, and linebackers Prince Shembo and Manti Te’o. Nix seemed to have nothing but air between him and Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell, and Shembo and Te’o were all over the field. Te’o especially played with a fervor following the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend earlier last week.
The secondary played better than in the past two games, but a season-ending injury to safety Jamoris Slaughter will make an already depleted backfield even more pliable to the passing game.
Neither quarterback in this game played particularly well. Michigan State’s Maxwell completed just over 50% of his passes for 187 yards with no touchdowns. Notre Dame’s Golson only completed 14 of 32 passes, and at one point was 8 for 21. Golson made some great throws early on, the most important of which was the 36 yard touchdown to Goodman to go up 7-0 in the first quarter, and scored another touchdown running it in from 6 yards out in the second quarter. The best thing I can say about Golson is his ability to move the pocket was extremely evident in this game.
But Golson over threw a lot of deep throws, and made some questionable decisions that would have been interceptions if not for some good old Irish luck. Sparty was able to shut out All-American tight end Tyler Eifert, but that lack of production led to receiver Robby Toma to shine.
We’ll give Golson some slack though since he is still a redshirt freshman and Michigan State will be one of the toughest defenses he’ll face all season. But he has to learn from these mistakes if he wants to stay in the games.
As I predicted, the special teams made it through the entire game without incident. Kicker Kyle Brindza hit both of his field goal attempts, and punter Ben Turk bottled 8 punts for an average of 42.4 yards.
The same can’t be said for the Irish as a whole though. In the first quarter alone, Notre Dame had two false start penalties and 1 personal foul on a late hit. For the game they were hit with 10 total penalties for 72 yards.
It just seems that if it isn’t one thing with Notre Dame, it’s another. If they can kill the injury bug and shore up all the little things, there is no reason to think that the Irish can make some real noise in the national picture this year. But that’s a big if.
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