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  • Irish Crush Sloppy Spartans

    by John Vannie

    Notre Dame took full advantage of three Michigan State turnovers to build a 28-7 halftime lead and cruised to a 38-18 victory over the Spartans in East Lansing. The Irish advanced to 3-1 on the season with an efficient, error free performance while MSU repeatedly self destructed with turnovers and penalties. After Notre Dame took the opening kickoff and drove 78 yards for a Brandon Wimbush touchdown, cornerback Julian Love returned an interception 59 yards for another score less than five minutes into the contest. The Spartans responded with a score and a defensive stop to regain some momentum, but quarterback Brian Lewerke coughed up the ball at his own 24 when he was sacked by the Irish. Wimbush quickly hit Dexter Williams with a scoring toss and Notre Dame led by 21-7 early in the second quarter.

    Moments later, MSU tailback L.J. Scott was stripped by Shaun Crawford as he was about to score, and Crawford recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a touchback. The Irish turned this good fortune into another Williams score and the game was effectively over with five minutes left in the half. Deon McIntosh added his first career touchdown for Notre Dame in the third quarter and Justin Yoon drilled a 45-yard field goal late in the game to close the Irish scoring.

    Although the Spartans ran 85 plays to 60 for Notre Dame and outgained the Irish by 485-350, many of the yards were accrued long after the issue was decided, and the avalanche of critical mistakes by MSU ensured their drives ended in frustration. Lewerke threw 53 passes and accumulated 334 yards through the air, although much of this success was the result of short throws underneath a prevent defense. The Irish won the battle in the trenches and outrushed the Spartans by 182-151. Wimbush threw the ball just 20 times and completed 14, many of which resulted in important first downs.

    Let’s look at the answers to the pregame questions.

    Which team will commit costly turnovers? A brilliant question, if I do say so. MSU’s turnovers were the story of the game.

    Will Notre Dame be able to dominate MSU’s front seven in the running game? The Irish did not run over the Spartans, but they had enough success to control the game.

    Can Wimbush find a rhythm through the air against the youthful Spartan secondary? Yes, he looked polished and in control while making quality throws to Equanimeous St. Brown and Durham Smythe, among others.

    Which quarterback will have the most success on runs and scrambles? Lewerke had one long run to set up a score and Wimbush ran a beautiful quarterback draw for a touchdown. While Lewerke ran out of necessity for much of the night, Notre Dame’s game plan did not expose Wimbush to constant danger by making him the main running threat.

    Will either team generate significant pressure on the passer? Both passers had time to throw the ball on shorter routes, but the Irish were better at bringing pressure throughout the evening.

    How will each team perform in the red zone? Notre Dame was solid in this area, while Scott’s fumble at the goal line ruined MSU’s report card.

    Will Chip Long or Brian Kelly call the plays in the fourth quarter if the game is close? Kelly was far too busy to call the plays by then. He was more worried about how he could come off as charming at the post-game presser.

    This was certainly a quality win, although Michigan State will prove to be one of the weaker teams on this year’s schedule. It is mostly unwise to look ahead, but Notre Dame should be 5-1 at the mid-season break before two consecutive foes, USC and North Carolina State, come to visit. The Wolfpack stormed into Tallahassee this weekend and dominated Florida State, so they won’t be afraid of the Irish who will be coming off a rivalry game with the Trojans. In any event, it’s refreshing to talk about positives this year and leave last year’s debacle far behind.

    37 Responses to “Irish Crush Sloppy Spartans”

    1. surprising outcome Kudos to our entire team, including our coaches.

      Finally, a chance to gain respectability and get back into the national picture.

      I just hope this isn’t just another false start. we’ve had too many!

    2. Great win for the Irish. Can’t bitch about Kelly this week. That pick 6 by Love was perfect understanding and execution by the defense.

    3. Excellent game. Wimbush managed offense very well. There was actually a QB sneak under center and a QB hand off from under center for a few plays. Good to see Williams get some touches, he’s very productive. Defense was solid, that punch for turnover was awesome – straight hustle play.

    4. Thank you Irish, I dislike nothing more than Mich St, this win feels good!

    5. Undoubtedly, some fans will say that Sparty beat Sparty more than ND beat Sparty. But good teams make bad teams look silly. Good teams make you pay for your mistakes. Good teams make you cough up the ball at your home stadium in prime time. Nice job D on the turnovers (esp Love pick 6-what a beauty!) and good job O on sealing the deal. We haven’t seen either of those in a while. Nice road win Irish! Hope injuries not too bad.

    6. Terry McManus says:

      This was an impressive performance – this team is for real.
      MSU made mistake after mistake – as much our doing as theirs, and we took advantage of their errors – the mark of a good team.

      • I get so sick of hearing “Alabama, look at that defense causing havoc and turnovers!!” and then to ND, “Michigan State beat themselves more than the Irish beat them.” This is shaping up to a great team! By season’s end, if they continue to head in their current direction, this will be an unstoppable force.

    7. Awesome win, but I have a question: would we still have won if the Spartans had not handed us the ball twice? (The interception was pure skill, so we can take credit for that; the fumbles were unforced errors we can’t count on from better teams.)

      • Mike Coffey says:

        Not necessarily “handed”. The QB’s fumble may have been closer to it, but the strip at the 1 was good old fashioned football.

        • I really want to believe that, I do. It would be easier to believe if the Spartans didn’t already have have a serious issue with turnovers and/or hadn’t played such an otherwise sloppy game.

          My takeaways are that the passing game is getting better, and our defense is a pretty well-coached bend-but-don’t break unit. Everything else is up in the air until we meet USC, which will tell us exactly how good we are.

      • Terry McManus says:

        We might move up in the ranking a bit from this. Big test is against USC on the 21st – they will probably be favored.

        We need a solid win over a higher-ranked team that we’re NOT supposed to beat – USC will do nicely.

    8. Last year’s team seemed to have more talent. This year the ability to move the ball and stop the other team is just OK. However, this year’s team has eliminated the mistakes which just killed us last year. That’s HUGE! I’d much rather have a team making fewer mistakes and winning, but I think work still has to be done to improve the ceiling for this team.

    9. Fulk's Ghost says:

      Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. Every victory just prolongs the Kelly agony.

    10. Great win over a very good Sparty team – kudos for the team’s opportunism! Two questions: 1) Why are the Irish’ screen plays unsuccessful – in fact, downright awful? and 2) Where was Josh Adams in the 2nd half?

      • Ankle was tight. Had precautionary X-ray that came back clean. Kelly decided he is too important to risk it with the game well in hand. McIntosh was superb in relief.

    11. Does anyone know where Claypool has been? Thanks

    12. ND was opportunistic, especially the defense, and the other phases did what they had to do to win. ND obviously doesn’t have a shut down defense like Alabama or Clemson, but they create turnovers and seem to come up big when it counts which has been missing ingredient for a long time.

      No complaints this week I just hope they continue to improve so they can ruin USC’s season on 10-21.

    13. Glad I was wrong about the defensive team’s tackling and fear MSU would out-physical the Irish !

    14. Out all of the gloom and doom scenarios and the playoff hyperbole, the one possibility no one talked about is this team’s defense being a plus turnover type of defense. If the D can create turnovers by this margin the rest of the year this team can win some games.

    15. Elko has made a huge difference. The defense may give up some yards, but it is aggressive in making game changing plays. And because we are not constantly engaged in shootouts, the offense is not under pressure to score every time we have the ball, which is helping to limit mistakes on that side of the ball.

    16. I’m staring to slowly buy into this team. Three distinguishing factors this team has than others from years past: Mental toughness, opportunitistic on opponent’s mistakes and great conditioning. It seems to players are really buying into the system on both sides of the ball and it’s paying dividends. Anyone notice that this was the largest margin of victory by either team since 1998? I think that stat alone speaks volumes.

      It will be interesting to see if the coaches keep the players in tune and the momentum moving forward. Miami OH is inferior, and UNC is very beatable. If composure can be maintained until USC, I don’t see why we can’t knock off “you can’t spell SUCK without USC.” I gurantee the players have that date circled, but we still have to get there first.

    17. irishhawk50 says:

      A decent outing but FSU 0-2 ranked ahead of ND. Really!!!??!!

      • College football is the world’s most exciting sport.
        It is also plagued by the Observer-Expectancy effect as AP preseason rankings contaminate the entire season with spurious signal to noise. The answer to this absurd statistical situation is the captain obvious, that the BCS ranking released starting October 31 be the only one considered by reasonable educated people. Which brings up the amazing nonlinear properties of emotion, ESPN and money…
        Go Irish 11 wins and a bowl!

    18. How on God’s green Earth are FSU and MsSt in the Coach’s top 25 and ND is absent? How does a 28 point beat down by UGA equate to a 1 point, one play loss? Complete disrespect, pure and simple. Keep takin’ em to the woodshed the rest of the way Irish.

    19. 1. Great win…..
      2. Should have been a win either way….
      3. keep improving
      4. Should have planted the ND flag at center field like they did to us!!!!

      • #4…. I watched until the End for the off chance we would put a real dagger ( flag ) in MSU. Great win, better morals but it would have been a beautiful sight! GO IRISH!

    20. This team sure has a lot of grit and fight. And after Georgia just whipped Miss St, our 1 point loss to them looks even sounder. Last night looked like a confident team that could compete with anyone.

    21. goirish1988 says:

      Sad that we get really excited about beating a team whose last 5 recruiting classes have been ranked 27th on average, but I’ll try to focus on the good outcome versus the context. A few other observations:

      1-Elko seems to be making a difference. It’s nice to see a defense that is mindful of where the ball is and that they’re allowed to try to take it.
      2-Kickoffs and kickoff coverage continue to frustrate me. How many times do we see our offense provide momentum only to watch the kickoff team kick it out of bounds or allow a 35-yard return?
      3-Would be nice to see someone teach ball carriers how to set up their blockers and use them.
      4-Was nice to see us throw some passes downfield in addition to the 30-yard sideways passes.
      5-Hard to get excited about a running game that continues to prove it can’t gain even one yard when it’s needed and the defense knows we’re going to run (despite putting up 100s of yards of long runs against inferior opponents).

    22. I have complained since GA game that ND was not using the Chip Long offense used by Memphis last year.
      They tried to expand on the complexity against MSU and the obvious was noted.
      ND is not ready for full implementation and Long is feeding them a little bit more each game. The missed blocking assignments due to learning a new offense and I think Wimbush is slower to catch on than most expected.
      Each play has to be executed with a timing precision ND is not used to. Once they catch on, I do believe this could be the making of a very good team.
      Kelso impact has been quicker. Never seen ND defense this agressive since Lou.
      If the offense catches on look out!

    23. The best part is we will tie our win total from last year this week against Miami, OH and the season isn’t even at the midway point.

    24. The only thing that provides hope that we actually can compete at an elite level is that Georgia, kicking the living crap out of a highly touted Mississippi State squad, could be an indication that we’re better than I think. We could have easily won the UGA game, scoring five times and only putting up 19 points. Though play calling was markedly better, I continue to have at least a salad plate of skepticism when it comes to being able to be effective when facing a top notch defense. And look, at this point if anyone seriously thinks there’s a team who can compete with Alabama, he’s nuts. I will be at both UNC (we should kill them) and USC. Prior to the season I almost had them penciled in as L’s. But they both now seem vulnerable, particularly Carolina. What I love most about what’s happened thus far is that we’ve been super in the red zone. Something that was missing last year. And how great is it that instead of coughing up the ball, we were taking it away to immediately capitalize.

    25. Nice win, but I agree with a previous post that MSU will be an average team at best this year. I’ll be more impressed if the Irish come out and dominate Miami, Ohio from the opening kickoff. Good teams like Alabama jump on inferior opponents (like Vandy) and keep them down.

    26. Hard to add much that hasn’t been said already. Good win! It feels like we can compete because we finally tackle better and limit those huge plays. Having a competent defense makes all the difference. The coaches poll is a joke but until the get rid of pre-season rankings you will see things like 0-2 FSU ranked. Doesn’t matter- lets just continue to win the games we should, upset USC and see if that Miami/ND game in November turns into a game with playoff implications.