SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Questionable, but costly penalties on the Michigan State defensive backs hurt the Spartans’ chances in their 17-13 loss to No. 22 Notre Dame on Saturday, but it didn’t hurt their confidence.
Between senior defensive back Darqueze Dennard and sophomore defensive back Trae Waynes, MSU was flagged for four pass interference calls and a holding call that led to all 17 of the Fighting Irish’s (3-1) points.
Depending on who you ask, each call could have gone without a flag, but the corners for the Spartans (3-1) didn’t question the whistle of the referees, and continued their style of play.
“It’s not my job to do,” Dennard said. “I’m going to continue to play, me and Trae both, continue to play how we’ve been coached, which is tough and physical.”
The first penalty came on Notre Dame’s third drive of the game when senior quarterback Tommy Rees was looking for junior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels down the field on third-and-9, but a holding call on Dennard gave the Irish a first down and helped them put the first points of the game on the board, which was a 41-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza.
Notre Dame’s ensuing drive ended in a missed 37-yard field goal by Brindza, but it was set up by a questionable third-and-10 pass intereference call on Waynes. The 6-foot-1 defensive back was called for his second interference call on Notre Dame’s last drive of the first half and it led to a 2-yard touchdown reception by Notre Dame’s TJ Jones to put ND up 10-7.
The Fighting Irish’s game-winning drive consisted of a pass interference call on Dennard on second-and-10 — which he intercepted in the end zone but it was called back — and another questionable interference call on Waynes on third-and-10 that led to a 7-yard touchdown run that gave Notre Dame a 17-10 lead.
“I’m the older guy in the situation,” said Dennard. “I’ve actually been in some rough, bad calls. It’s nothing new with me. I just tell Trae to keep playing his game, keep playing physical. That’s the way we play…do what we do.”
After the game, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said that he has never experienced so many pass interference calls in one game during his coaching career.
“I’ve been coaching 30 plus years, no,” he said. ” Never. I guess that’s why we should stop talking about it right there.”
In the college football, unlike the NFL, face guarding is legal. Defensive backs have the same rights to the ball as wide receivers whether or not their head is turned around. However, in Saturday’s game which was full of jostling from the corners and receivers, the refs were not rewarding the MSU corners for tight coverage.
“There’s bumping and pushing on both side a lot of times,” Dantonio said. “But you’re going up for a football. A lot of times to me, unless you want to get into a clinic here, which we don’t need to, they’re very close calls. I’m in agreement with that, they’re close calls.
“They have a right to the ball. They can play the ball out of phase without looking through it. Swat the ball down. I don’t know. There are no video displays out on that field. I can’t see what’s going on.”
Dennard said that he and Waynes were encouraged by the coaching staff while on the sidelines to keep playing “physical” and to “keep doing our jobs” despite the tough calls that helped Notre Dame extend its all-time series vs. Michigan State to 48-28-1.