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  • Irish Dominate Spartans

    by John Vannie

    Notre Dame jumped to an early lead by scoring two touchdowns in the first 20 minutes and its swarming defense took complete control from there as the Irish beat tenth-ranked Michigan State by 20-3 in East Lansing. Everett Golson passed for one score and ran for another while Kyle Brindza added two fourth quarter field goals to pace the visitors. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s defensive front seven, lead by Prince Shembo and Manti Te’o, shut down the Spartans and harassed quarterback Andrew Maxwell all night.

    The 3-0 Irish drew first blood less than five minutes into the contest when John Goodman hauled in a 36 yard rainbow from Golson with one hand in the end zone while being held by a defender. Michigan State tried to answer, but Dan Conroy missed a 44-yard field goal on the ensuing possession.

    The game settled into a defensive battle as the teams entered the second period. A perfectly executed misdirection by Notre Dame resulted in a 32-yard burst by George Atkinson to put the Irish in scoring territory. A 14 yard pass play to T.J. Jones moved the ball inside the five, and Golson beat the Spartan defense to the pylon on a keeper  for a 14-0 lead with 10:50 left in the half.

    Maxwell and running back Le’Veon Bell tried to rally Michigan State’s shaky offense, but Sheldon Day, Tony Springmann and Shembo had their way with the MSU front line. The Irish secondary, featuring a number of young and unproven players such as Matthias Farley, Josh Atkinson, KeiVarae Russell and Elijah Shumate, were able to blanket the Spartan receivers with tight coverage and sure tackling throughout the evening.

    Conroy managed a 50-yarder late  in the quarter to cut Notre Dame’s halftime advantage to 14-3, but Michigan State was unable to generate a serious threat when play resumed. The teams each punted three times in a scoreless third quarter, although the Irish gained a field position advantage as  Ben Turk kicked the ball magnificently despite being roughed up on one occasion.

    Notre Dame’s offense could not repeat its first half success, but it seemed that the defense would be good enough on this night if the Irish could avoid a turnover or special teams gaffe. That nearly happened early in the fourth quarter as DaVonte Neal misplayed a punt and Notre Dame was pinned back at its own four yard line. With the outcome very much in doubt, Cierre Wood came to the rescue by ripping off two stellar runs of nine and 26 yards to move his team out of trouble. Wood then added another 8-yarder on a fourth and one play, and Theo Riddick followed up with a 15-yard burst. Brindza capped what might be the most compelling drive of the young season by hitting a short field goal with 6:21 remaining.

    Now trailing by 17-3, Maxwell took to the air. He and the Spartans could manage only one first down before failing on the next series by fumbling the ball over to the Irish on fourth down. Brindza closed the scoring with a 47-yard blast that split the uprights. His long kickoffs for touchbacks and clutch place kicking have been a pleasant development for Notre Dame’s previously moribund special teams, especially in light of the fact that first team kicker Nick Tausch went down with an injury.

    The victory was truly a total team effort, as the Irish dominated the line of scrimmage, pressured the quarterback with four sacks and numerous hurries, stopped the Spartans’ vaunted running game, and generated a balanced attack of their own. Several unheralded players made significant contributions in all three phases. Still, there is room for improvement as the offense managed only one third down conversion in 14 tries.

    Let’s review the answers to the pregame questions for a closer look at the key matchups.

    Which team will need reinforcements to stop the run and leave itself vulnerable to the pass?Notre Dame had a 122-50 yard advantage on the ground and was able to keep the Spartan defense off balance. Golson was only 14 for 32 but generated several more big plays.

    Can the Irish offensive line rebound from a poor performance against Purdue? Definitely. Golson was not sacked and the line obviously came to prove a point in this game.

    Which young quarterback will best avoid mistakes and execute in the passing game? Neither quarterback threw an interception and each had trouble with accuracy at times, but Maxwell was unable to get his team inside the red zone.

    Will MSU’s changing defensive alignments force Notre Dame to burn its timeouts? The first series of the game had Irish fans reaching for the Guinness, but things settled down as Golson wore a wrist band as a security blanket.

    Can Cierre Wood reenergize the Irish ground game? Yes. Wood’s clutch runs in the fourth quarter and extra gear of speed reminded Notre Dame fans as to why he is the starting tailback.

    Which kicker will perform best under pressure? Conroy was one of two with a 50-yarder, but Brindza stole the show with numerous booming touchbacks and perfect scoring kicks.

    Will Eifert and his fellow receivers get open against the MSU secondary for big plays? The beauty of this game for the Irish is that other receivers such as Robby Toma, Goodman and Jones made positive plays while the Spartans shut down Eifert.

    Now at 3-0 for the first time since 2002, Notre Dame has one more debt to repay to the University of Michigan before the team can take advantage of a well deserved break in the schedule. The Wolverines have come out ahead on the scoreboard in each of the past three years, but the Irish could have and probably should have won all of them. Despite the number of walking wounded on the roster right now, this team has discovered the benefits of playing error-free football and allowing many of its talented athletes to play without fear.

    53 Responses to “Irish Dominate Spartans”

    1. this ND team could be something special.

    2. Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

      Glad to see the Irish finally get a big win, but Brian Kelly tried his best to lose this one. His play calling, particularly in the second half was pathetic. By going conservative and calling runs up the gut Kelly tried his best to give this one away. The D play was clearly outstanding, particularly Prince Shembo and Elijah Shumate. Cierre Wood played well but got far too few carries. Kelly was a tremendous play caller at Cincinnati. At N.D., he seems to have all but abandoned the no-huddle and five-wide sets that were his trademark in his undefeated season in the Queen. The reverse to Atkinson was a great call, but other than that, the imagination was sorely lacking in Kelly’s calls and his delays in getting the calls in continues to be a huge problem. It’s as if he had no idea the Spartan faithful were actually going to be allowed to cheer. Not sure what the logic was of putting Rees in in garbage time and it clearly flaked Golston as it should have.

      • Ummm, Kelly’s play calling was excellent and exactly what ND needed. Quick strikes followed by conservative ball control against an excellent defense. Cierre Wood, in his first game back after a two game suspension, ran well and his explosiveness was timely. Golson spread the ball around and Kelly did a good job of getting him outside of the pocket.

        ND dominated 10th ranked MSU 20-3 on the road.

        What the heck do you want?

        • SubwayAlum_2012 says:

          Agreed. How many times have we seen ND winning, only to give momentum back via a trick play gone bad? Turk kicked well, and the defense was stiffling, why chance that on a huge turnover. GREAT WIN IRISH! I was in a bar in East Lansing the whole night, and the silence was joyous.

        • Bob you should be the head coach it sounds like. I am sure you are classes ahead of BK. The second coming of Knute is Bob Howsam Jr, don’t forget this name ND nation! Of course I am having a little fun here. As a long time Irish fan, and long time ND Nation reader, people like Bob the great up here make me not even want to get on this site. The Irish dominate all facets of this game and this joke of a fan is on here once again questioning the coach that has lead us to 3-0. If you don’t like BK that’s fine, but keep your ignorant comments to yourself. 3-0 nation, forget the critics and these clowns that get on here act like they have any idea what it takes to put the headset on at ND. BK wins ball games, and the team finds ways to win, and in this case it was hardly a question of who the better team was. Bring on U of M. I can’t wait to see what Bob has to say after we win that game too. GO IRISH BEAT MICHIGAN!!!!!

          • Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

            I agree my criticism was probably too harsh. The Irish played a solid game and kicked the snot out of Sparty and the victory was a signature victory that has elevated ND to 11th in the polls. Having said that, ND was 1-14 in 3rd down efficiency. That’s not going to cut it against Michigan, Stanford or the dreaded Trojans and Kelly’s play-calling had a lot to do with that.

      • brad Chicago says:

        I think this is a bit of an over reaction. Play calling was good and very surprising. Twice pundits and (I’m guessing opponents) were expecting us to run to protect the young quarterback both times he has put it in his hands to win the game by passing and running. Not every play has to be a trick play to be creative designing a game plan the other team doesn’t expect counts too. Execution sometimes lacked but hey Golston is young give him a break. Calling runs at the end of the game eats up time and while running up the middle was rarely successful. I think we’d all be cussing if he ran outside every time and lost yards 50 percent of the time. Sometimes a 1 yard gain is a win if you can make them play that first before you run out side for 29 yards. Go Cierre. This defense is good make no mistake ours was just better today.

      • Too few carries for Cierre, but there should have been more five-wide sets? These are difficult demands to coordinate.

      • Kevin Welsh says:

        Are you kidding me? The Tony Dungy like, field positon first offensive gameplan, which is totally against Kelly’s spread the field, up tempo style instinct not only protects the young quarterback but takes advantage of the team’s strongest unit, which is a relentless defense. The misdirection call to Atkinson was pure genius and was the difference in the game, because it allowed us to go up two scores, a position MSU was obviously never going to be able to recover from. The shots down the field and not forcing the ball to an obviously well covered Eifert are also testaments to BK’s patience, understanding and overall game planning. We have not seen that much anticipation and discernment from our last three head coaches, and I for one am totally convinced we have a real ball coach on the sideline. If you can find fault in ND’s head coach after this performance, you really don’t know that much about the game and just another whiny, petulant “fan”

        • AMEN!! Great win for the Irish, happy for Goodman, Toma and Jones….I knew there would be life after Michael Floyd!! Keep spreading the ball around, credit to all the “good-hands” guys, and keep putting points on the board. Can’t wait until Saturday night. Hated to see Eifert covered all night, but the next-guy-in will fill his shoes.

          GO IRISH!!

      • That steak was pretty good, but I wonder about this chef–it could have been chateaubriand for two.

      • Huh? With your team up 14 pts and your defense completely shutting down the opposition, your idea is to run 5-wide sets? Forgive me if I don’t take your criticism seriously.

        Kelly had the perfect game-plan for the second half — be very conservative, run the ball, eat up clock, and control field position. Trust your defense to hold them (which they did — MSU only ran 1 play in ND territory in the second half).

    3. The Irish looked like a serious football program tonight. Unlike last week when we won by the skin of our teeth, we seemed dominant and in control for all four quarters. No game is a foregone conclusion, of course, but this week, I feel like we have a win we can hang our hat on against a solid ranked team.

      I would like to hear what the Kelly doubters are saying about tonight.

    4. I think it’s safe to say that CBK won’t be fired this year.

    5. GO IRISH!

    6. impressive. Go irish. Robinson better tie shoes.

    7. Wow! I haven’t seen Notre Dame look that dominant since I was about 8 years old. I will hold full judgement till after the Michigan game next week but if we dominate Michigan like we did MSU then we are truly on our way back. They played with a attitude I haveent seen in many years. When Cierre stiff armed that defender it sent chills down my spine. I’m sold on Golson as well. He will be special. Go Irish!

    8. I predicted here ND by 11/ but, I thought we’d see more scoring on both sides.
      Great ND Defense tonight!!!
      Hat’s off to Kelly and the team

    9. Nice job, Men. A great effort by all three sides of the ball. Now time for payback vs. the skunkbears. GO IRISH!

    10. Congraulations to coach Kelly who coached a very disciplined game.

    11. First truly convincing road win for this team in a prime time night game versus a much higher ranked and rivalved opponent. These are the kinds of wins that must be part of our comeback to a point where we can talk about getting to competitive for a run at the elite and a championship. When was the last time you saw us this fast as a team…both sides of the ball. Speed kills. BK let them play don’t stifle them. The wrist playbook on Golsen was a very welcomed sight and made for a much better tempo than the look to the sidelines for every play versus purdue. We have the talent, we have the speed and in Golsen we have the leader to get it done. It is up to you BK to lead the talent you have. GO IRISH!

    12. ATTENTION SEAN HILER: How about them Irish baby !!!!!

    13. I predicted ND to win by 14 points and they won by more! Great job ND! I think Brian Kelly coached a great game to be honest. Considering it was on the road against State; we needed to be somewhat conservative in the 2nd half because we had the lead and MSU’s offense was getting owned by our whole defense and couldnt do anything with the ball. We did not need to force an unwanted turnover and give any momentum to MSU. I am highly impressed with our young cornerbacks and coverage. We are beginning to look like a total team, teams that come from the SEC. Our cornerbacks are getting their hands up and swatting the ball down with the correct hand and using great instincts. something that they haven’t done in as long as I can remember. It makes you wonder if Kelly is teaching them the correct ways all along and “his” players are finally stepping up. So it makes me ask the question do you think that Weis’ players just didnt have the talent on defense that Kelly recruited? So far I would much rather have our freshman cornerbacks we have now vs. Gary Gray. Gray was a great tackler but would always be lost in pass coverage. And we all know how theMichigan game played out last year with Gray. I do not see that happening this year. I believe strongly that theIrish will dominate Michigan similar to what Alabama did against them. Kelly needs to watch the game filmof tht game ad copy exactly how alabama played them. If he does that then we should dominate them as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that ND would beat Alabama just yet, but ND clearly has the talent to dominate them just like they did last ear. If we stop D Rob we win the game. He is their whole offense. Anyways Cierre Wood made some big plays today, was very happy to see him back. Great win for ND!

    14. This was good to watch, even with Brent doing the talking. They were clearly superior to MSU but it’s still a young team – BK’s recruits are taking over. The secondary is composed mostly of talented young athletes who were recruited for different positions but were moved there out of necessity and they will only get better as time goes by.
      It was also nice to channel surf and watch Stanford beat USC.
      It was good to see Manti’s teammates being teammates on the sideline. As they left the field at the end of the game it was annoying to see some suit almost grab him and steer him towards another interview. They have no respect for people’s grief – they are vultures.

    15. I’ll say pretty much what I thought after Navy. There are a lot of contributors—not typical of recent ND teams. I watched this game calmly for the most part; never got upset; you know the rest. This team might be very good. And how anybody could say Kelly coached this game poorly…..are you sure you had the right game on the set? Great to have Cierre Wood for Michigan.

    16. Larry Delaney '60 says:

      Now we know for sure that we have a good team. A win against Michigan will head us into the great team category.

      Michigan State was a very good Big Ten team and highly ranked. Our defense looked very good last night, and the O line showed up bigtime.

      Great win!

      GO IRISH!

    17. martinjordan says:

      This is the first time in quite a while that a Notre Dame team has gone on the road and in front of a hostile crowd dominated a higher ranked opponent. If we beat Michigan it will the first time in ten years that we made it through September unbeaten. If we make it through September unbeaten then I’m thinking at leat 10 and 2 and a strong finish to the recruiting class.

      1. Welcome back Cierre Wood.
      2. Everytime Theo Riddick looks like he’s going to break a long one he seems to trip over his own feet or be easily tripped up by a defender. Is it his balance?
      3. What happenned to all that misdirection in the second half?
      4. Golson overthrew a couple of deep balls in the first quarter or this game would have been over early.
      5. Our tight ends were shut out but Sims was MSU’s only receiving threat.
      6. The kicking job is Kyle Brindza’s but the sqib kick stratagey is still ineffective.
      7. Both teams punted well but the punt returners for both teams did a poor job of fielding punts and the punt yardage was inflated by favorable bounces.
      8. MSU’s receivers were a non-factor as the ND secondary played well, is gaining confidence, and is growing up quickly.
      9. I could feel it when Stephon Tuitt buried his head between Maxwell’s shoulder blades in the fourth quarter.
      10. No turnovers but five pentalties – I can handle Shembo’s personal foul because that’s part of playing with an edge but those 5 yard illegal procedure penalties kill drives.
      11. This was the best prepared team of the Brian Kelly era.

      • Bob Howsam, Jr. says:

        2. Everytime Theo Riddick looks like he’s going to break a long one he seems to trip over his own feet or be easily tripped up by a defender. Is it his balance?

        Theo is impatient, and runs up the back of his blockers. As a consequence, he doesn’t let the play develop and runs into a scrum or fails to see the cutback lanes. He also seemed to lack the jets Wood brought. At the end of the day, Wood may have been the difference maker in the second half.

    18. Solid win. Defense was excellent and Gouksen played well and to me proved he has a boat load of potential. Didnt like play calling in the third period, thought Kelly was playing not to lose. He seemed to change back in the fourth.
      Irish should be undefeated going into Norman

    19. KellyGruene says:

      Recruits follow victories. Win next week and I’ll bet two or three more high profile recruits commit the week after, almost filling out what is already a tremendous recruiting class.

    20. NDBonecrusher says:

      Manti Teo is a stud.

      To go out there on national TV after the week he’s had AND play one of his best games ever AND represent ND so magnificently after the game…what a gem. Just give him a cape with a big “S” and be done with it.

      Great job defense, offense will continue to grow. Sparta has fallen. Now protect the house and BEAT BIG BLUE!

    21. A couple of thoughts.

      1. MSU is not a great team and will struggle to win 8 or 9 games. I actually think Purdue was better.
      2. O line stepped up late but struggles to block good teams.
      3. Front 7 is best we have had since 93.
      4. Young DBs are playing well, but MSU receivers are not strong.
      5. The drive to make it 17-3 was Holtzian. Very, very impressive.

      Before we go crazy, lets’s see how things go next week.

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Five excellent points. Bob Diaco has received more than a little flak by me and others here, but he deserves a lot of credit — this defense is playing very very well. The front seven is taking the pressure off the back four and letting them grow into their jobs.

      • Good points all, and let’s remember that most of the secondary is composed of young players who were recruited for other positions but were moved to the secondary out of necessity – they are presently getting by on pure talent. When the experience catches up with the talent we’ll have something special, and let’s not forget that the current recruiting class has some secondary help.

        Somewhere in South Florida a young man 6’6″ 270 lbs and and possessed of uncommon athletic gifts is quietly saying to himself: “damn!”

        This is a young team and it is getting better every week, AS IS THE COACH.

        Bring on the wolverines – it’s time.

        • My thoughts exactly on A.L. Very impressed with the way Tuitt stepped up to fill the void, hope he chases D.R.all the way back to Ann Arbor.

    22. What? No brilliant comments about the BE officials this morning?

    23. Great win!!

      The defense totally dominated and the offense did more than enough to win..

      It was very nice to hear Bret’s and Herb comments during the game… I wonder what Mark May has to say…

      Now on the Michigan… We really need to break their streak….

    24. Special teams were about a 1000 times better in all areas. Made a huge impact overset week.

    25. It is great to win, especially on the road. But let us not forget that we were 1 for 13 on third-down conversions. We have a long way to go to be a solid top-ten team.

    26. irishhawk50 says:

      Agree with Omalley, Golson missed a couple TD passes and had trouble with touch on the swing passes. He is a work in progress, still a way to go. This is the best I’ve seen ND play in a long time and the depth is beginning to show. Now we have to keep the foot on the pedal against Michigan, grind them down and beat them up. Go Irish

    27. Improvements from last week –

      1. GA3 had a few more carries than last week, but might be utilized better with slot screens and more touches in space, Cierre looked very good returning.

      2. Play calling was much better this week, EG continues to evolve. Defenses continue to ignore EG on the spread option. When he starts to keep, he will bust a few long runs and open up the run game.

      3. Corners played great, not only was the coverage great (Shumate), the YAC were nearly zero. Very impressive tackling all around.

      To beat the top tier teams, need to get Eifert involved. BK’s strategy to have the largest front 7 in the nation is paying off.

    28. Congratulations to the team.

    29. Condolences to Teo on his personal losses.

    30. Golson : ICBA Inter-Continental Ballistic Arm!

    31. ElkhartIrish says:

      I think the progress for the team can be seen each week. Obviously Kelly had them well prepared, especially on defense. Most people probably thought the Irish would lose this one. What a pleasant surprise. I think the offense is a shadow of what it will become. There will be some tough games to come but I think the Irish will benefit in recruiting, hopefully. There is room for improvement but no one can say the Irish aren’t improving. Go Irish and go Kelly!!!!!

    32. I want to say God Bless to Manti Te’o. His performance in the face of adversity should be an inspiration to us all! I know he is mourning and I remembered him in my prayers at church this morning…

      This is gonna be a fun season! Brain Kelly: a classic year 3 breakout? Go Irish!

    33. This was the second really important win for Kelly. First USC and now this. USC was not a dominating and was a game full of turnovers. This is Kelly’s best win. I have never been sold on Kelly but he proved a lot today. The first two plays consisting of penalties and time outs have been characteristic of his poor game planning and preparation but after that he and the team really showed they are getting there.

    34. Are you serious? Poor game planning and preparation? Did you ever play football? I remember personally working on a defensive alignment every day in practice for a college game. When the offense we were playing came out in the predicted formation, we were aligned incorrectly and the coaches had to burn a timeout. We had gone over the alignment numerous times on a daily basis and we still made the mistake, NOT the coaches. When kids get into a game and get very excited and have thousands of screaming fans staring at them, they make mistakes. You can’t hang everything on the coaching staff. Kelly scripts the plays. They knew the play yet the tight end forgot to go on the field. How is that a coaching error? It’s just an excited kid who became a spectator when he was supposed to be a participant.

    35. I suggested this in a comment beneath the MSU game preview and figured it’s worth repeating now that it all came to such a happy ending. As proud and awestruck as I am of Manti’s courageous performance, I’m just as proud of his bros who helped carry him through it (playing for Manti and that’s it!). When Manti looks back at this past week and the MSU game he just might see 84 sets of footprints in the sand.

    36. Great win, I was so excited for the team. I just pray the defensive play calling looks exactly like this the rest of the season, except with a little more pressure on third and long, GO IRISH!