Irish struggles continue

Published 4:22 pm Monday, September 22, 2003

By By DAN WEISS / Niles Daily Star
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- A kicking battle in the first half turned into a big-play showdown as the Michigan State football team won its fourth straight game in Notre Dame Stadium, a 22-16 decision over the Irish Saturday.
Each team kicked a pair of field goals in the first half, but it was Michigan State's big plays in the second half that put the game out of the reach of the Irish.
On the Spartans' first play from scrimmage at their own 39-yard line, Jaren Hayes broke free for a 71-yard rushing touchdown. Dave Rayner's extra point kick gave Michigan State a 13-6 advantage.
Notre Dame countered with another field goal, but it wasn't long before the Spartans kicked a field goal of their own to keep the margin at seven points.
The play that broke the game open was a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by Michigan State's Greg Taplin. A two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Spartans with a 22-9 lead.
Notre Dame's only touchdown of the game came with 2:29 left in regulation when Brady Quinn connected with Rhema McKnight on a 29-yard pass. Nicholas Setta's kick closed the lead to 22-16, but the Irish were unable to get any closer.
Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker, who was questionable to play after suffering an injury last weekend, completed 13-of-27 passes with two interceptions for 119 yards.
Carlyle Holiday started at quarterback for the Irish but was relieved in the first half by Quinn. Holiday then started again in the second half only to be relieved again by Quinn late in the game.
Holiday completed 10-of-25 passes with two interceptions for 99 yards. Quinn completed 7-of-17 attempts with no interceptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Michigan State amassed 181 rushing yards compared to 100 yards on the ground by the Irish.
Hayes led the Spartans with 19 carries for 109 yards. Tyrell Dortch added 64 yards on 13 carries.
Julius Jones was Notre Dame's leading rusher with 14 carries for 32 yards.