Fighting Irish hold on to nip Spartans 33-30Published 10:58pm Saturday, September 19, 2009
By SCOTT NOVAK
Dowagiac Daily News
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Just when it looked like a repeat of the Michigan game, Notre Dame senior captain Kyle McCarthy stepped in front of a Kirk Cousins pass in the final minute to preserve a hard-fought 33-30 victory on Saturday.
The Spartans (1-2) missed a golden opportunity on the previous play when Cousins over threw a wide open Larry Capers in the left corner of the end zone.
Following their final time out, Michigan State’s Cousins tried to split the seam down the middle, but McCarthy picked off the pass and the Fighting Irish were able to run out the clock.
Notre Dame took the lead on a 33-yard Jimmy Clausen touchdown pass to Golden Tate with 5:18 remaining.
Michigan State marched the ball methodically down the field and appeared to have the go-ahead score when Capers, who had the best day of his brief collegiate career, broke free behind the Notre Dame defender.
But instead, the ball was long and a leaping Capers could not come up with it.
“I tell you what, after last week, how badly everyone felt last week, in a very similar situation, ending of the game, you know, to make a play to change the outcome in favor of us,” Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said following the game. ” I’m really, really happy for those kids in there. It’s really nice to see how genuinely excited they are and I feel great for them.”
Notre Dame (2-1) looked as though they were going to run away with the game early on, but despite a 14-3 lead, the Fighting Irish were unable to maintain the momentum and the Spartans came roaring back.
Scoring 13 unanswered points, Michigan State grabbed a 17-16 lead with 1:01 remaining in the first half on a 1-yard run.
After trailing Notre Dame 152-89 in total offense after one quarter of play, the Spartans outgained the Fighting Irish 146-66 in the second period.
Near the end of the opening half, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd may have been lost for the season as he landed awkwardly on his shoulder trying to catch a touchdown pass.
At the post game press conference, Fighting Irish coach Charlie Weis said it might be a broken clavicle.
Notre Dame reclaimed the statistical advantage in the third quarter and the lead in the game.
On a 5-yard touchdown pass from Armando Allen to Robby Paris out of the Wildcat formation, the Fighting Irish took the lead 23-17.
Notre Dame extended the lead to 26-17 when freshman Nick Tausch connected on a career-long 46-yard field goal.
But the Spartans weren’t through yet.
Caper, who finished the game with 51 yards on 12 carries, scored from 7-yards out with 4:10 to play in the third quarter to cut the lead to 26-23.
In what Spartan coach Mark Dantonio called the biggest play of the game; Notre Dame’s Ethan Johnson deflected Brett Swenson’s extra point kick.
Without that play, the Spartans are probably running the ball at the end of the game to line up Swenson, who is now second all-time in scoring at MSU, for a game-winning field goal.
“Great play by Notre Dame blocking the extra point,” he said. “Probably the play of the game when you really look at it. If everything else unfolds as is, we’re kicking a field goal to win it.”
Michigan State again marched down the field on the Notre Dame defense, this time scoring on a 17-yard Cousins to Blair White touchdown pass with 9:33 to play in the game.
There was no panic on the part of the Fighting Irish, who drove the ball 73 yards in eight plays to take the lead for good.
Allen opened the scoring for the Irish as he capped a four play, 84 yards drive with a 13-yard touchdown run.
Michigan State made it 7-3 on a 43-yard Swenson field goal, but the Fighting Irish game right back and drove 55 yards in five plays to score on a Floyd 22-yard touchdown pass from Clausen.
In the second quarter, the Spartans cut the lead to 13-10 on a 30-yard Keshawn Martin to White end around pass.
Tausch, who missed the extra point following the Floyd touchdown, extended the Irish’s lead to 16-10 with a 22-yard field goal.
Notre Dame finished with 437 yards in total offense, including 304 yards passing.
Clausen, who set a new record with his fourth consecutive 300 yard passing game, was 22-of-31 with a pair of touchdowns.
Tate caught seven of those passes for 127 yards, while Kyle Rudolph had six catches for 95 yard.
Allen ran for 120 yards on 23 carries.
Michigan State finished with 459 yards in total offense, of which, 354 came through the air.
Cousins was 23-of-35 for 302 yards with an interception and a touchdown, while Keith Nichol was 2-of-4 for 22 yards.
Michigan State 3 14 6 7 – 30
Notre Dame 13 3 10 7 – 33
MSU – Swenson, Brett 43 field goal
MSU – White, Blair 30 pass from Martin, Keshawn (Swenson kick)
ND – Tausch 22 field goal
MSU – Caper, Larry 1 run (Swenson kick)
ND – Parris, Robby 5 pass from Allen (Tausch kick)
ND – Tausch 46 field goal
MSU – Caper 7 run (kick blocked)
MSU – White, Blair 17 pass from Cousins, Kirk (Swenson kick)
ND – Tate, Golden 33 pass from Clausen (Tausch kick)