South Bend, IN– The Notre Dame Fighting Irish fell to the Michigan State Spartans in their renewed rivalry on Saturday night after their inspiring comeback attempt fell just short. The Irish are now 1-2 on the season.
The Irish led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, but a series of miscues allowed the Spartans to take over the game. The first mistake was a special team’s turnover and the second was a C.J. Sanders fumble after a big gain. The costly turnovers limited the Irish offense considerably, and the Irish found themselves down 15-7 at half.
The third quarter was one of the most embarrassing defensive performances for the Irish in recent years. Michigan State took over the game by dominating in the trenches and running the ball down Notre Dame’s throat. The Irish were down 36-7 at one point and the Spartans were running away with it.
Allowing 36 straight points in a game usually would mean the game is over, but the Irish showed some fight in the fourth quarter. Irish quarterback Deshone Kizer scored a rushing touchdown to make the score 36-21 with plenty of time to go.
MSU continued their game plan of pounding with the run game and trying to drain the clock, but the Irish defense started to show some resistance to get the ball back into the hands of their QB. Their efforts began to pay off when Kizer threw a touchdown to TE Durham Smythe to make it a one score game with 6:02 to go.
The Irish forced another stop on defense, but the offense was halted when Kizer was sacked on third down. The Spartans were able to get the first down needed to seal the game on the next possession.
Kizer finished with 344 passing yards with two touchdowns passing as well as two on the ground. The problem was the MSU running backs. Gerald Holmes and L.J. Scott gashed the Irish defense with 198 combined rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Much credit needs to go to Irish head coach Brian Kelly for keeping his guys motivated when things looked bleak and trusting his second year quarterback. The offense was more spread out in the fourth quarter when they were forced to pass and the Irish nearly had a miraculous comeback.
The loss nearly eliminates the Irish playoff chances, but it was also a wake-up call that says they are not quite ready to match up with the top programs in the country this season. Michigan State is a fine team that was in the playoff last year, and their traditional offensive attack kept the Irish on their heels.
The Irish will most likely stay the course and I would not expect any major changes in the coming weeks. However, anything is possible with this team.
The Irish face the Duke Blue Devils next Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium at 3:30 p.m.