SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Michigan State jumped out to a 36-7 lead in the third quarter but had to withstand Notre Dame’s comeback attempt for a 36-28 victory Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.
The Spartans rushed for 260 yards, getting 98 yards and one touchdown from LJ Scott and 100 yards and two touchdowns from Gerald Holmes, but it was the passing game that eventually helped close out the game. Quarterback Tyler O’Connor completed a 28-yard pass to freshman Donnie Corley with 2:29 left to play on a third-and-7 play that forced Notre Dame to use its final timeout. O’Connor completed 19 of 26 passes for 241 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Things were going Notre Dame’s way early in the second quarter. The Irish had a 7-0 lead and had just stopped Michigan State with a 3-and-out from inside the Spartans 20-yard line. Jake Hartbarger’s punt wasn’t a thing of beauty but it couldn’t have resulted in a better outcome for MSU. The ball bounded away from returner C.J. Sanders and hit off the foot of blocker Miles Boykin while his back was turned to it. Collin Caflisch came up with the fumble at the Notre Dame 38-yard line.
O’Connor said during the week that there would be opportunities for big plays in the passing game and he proved prophetic. On the first play after Caflisch’s fumble recovery, O’Connor threw deep down the left sideline for Corley, who had beaten cornerback Cole Luke to the end zone. The ball was underthrown, however, allowing Luke to be in perfect position for an interception. Corley had other thoughts. He came back for the ball and stole it away from Luke for a touchdown. The Spartans added a 2-point conversion on a pass from Matt Macksood to Josiah Price for an 8-7 lead the Spartans never relinquished.
Can O’Connor come up big when he has to? Absolutely. The coaches showed a lot of trust in him, especially on the third-down play to Corley late in the game when everyone in the stadium figured Scott or Holmes would get the hand-off.
How good are the Spartans? They looked pretty d#$! dominant in building up a 29-point lead but then had to survive as DeShone Kizer and the Notre Dame offense got on a roll. The defense came up with a 3-and-out with 3:30 left to play, forcing Notre Dame to punt. The Irish had two timeouts left and were banking on getting the ball back one more time. They didn’t.
501: That’s how many yards the Spartans rolled up on Notre Dame, which gained 401 yards. Michigan State outgained the Irish 260-57 on the ground. That helped limit Kizer being on the field.