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Irish Insights

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Third time's the charm, and other notes

Michigan State's daring trick play in a 34-31 overtime win over Notre Dame was actually pulled off by the Spartans hitting their third option.

With kicker Dan Conroy lined up for a 46-yard field goal in the first overtime, holder Aaron Bates pulled up the ball, waited for tight end Charlie Gantt to get open then delivered a 29-yard touchdown pass.

The play is called "Little Giants," and the reason Bates waited so long to throw to Gantt was because he had to look off two other options first.

"They had the first option covered," Spartans coach Mike Dantonio said. "The second option was to go to (running back) Le'Veon Bell, and they had that covered. And Aaron sort of looped to the right.

"… To be honest, we made the call, 'Little Giants,' and I said a little prayer. I said, 'Let's go.' "

Bouncing back

Notre Dame is 1-2 for the first time since 2003.

Irish coach Brian Kelly is under .500 for the first time since September 2006 and lost two games in a row for the first time since October 2007.

But Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph said the team will be able to handle the setback.

"We're built for this, we're gonna come back," Rudolph said. "We said last week, we're never going to quit fighting no matter what the score is, how much time is left on the clock or what our record is. We're going to come back next week and be ready to go."

Breaking out

Easily lost in the wild ending Saturday was receiver Notre Dame receiver Theo Riddick's breakout game.

The converted running back led all receivers with 10 catches for 128 yards.

Riddick, who entered Saturday night's game with four catches for 52 yards, had 15-yard touchdown catch that tied the game at 21 in the third quarter.

He also had some highlight reel plays against Michigan State.

During the Irish's scoring drive in the first quarter, Riddick turned a short catch into a 17-yard gain with a spin move away from a defender to get to the 50-yard line.

Riddick added a 24-yard leaping catch over the middle early in the third quarter that set up Kyle Rudolph's 10-yard touchdown catch, and Riddick made a nice stutter step to shake a defender later in the quarter for an 11-yard gain.

Big plays hurt Irish

Big plays came back to bite Notre Dame again.

After giving up numerous plays of 20 yards or more against Michigan last weekend, four of the five Michigan State scoring plays against Notre Dame went for more than 16 yards Saturday night.

The Spartans got a 56-yard rushing touchdown from running back Edwin Backer, a 16-yard rushing touchdown from Le'Veon Bell, and 24-yard TD catch from B.J. Cunningham and the 29-yard touchdown catch by tight end Charlie Gantt on the fake field goal that ended the game.

Still for all the big scoring plays the Irish gave up, there were some nice defensive plays.

Notre Dame escaped a Michigan State touchdown in the first quarter when Robert Blanton tipped a pass into Zeke Motta's arms in the end zone.

And Darius Fleming's sack on third-and-5 in overtime appeared to set the Irish up for a victory, until Michigan State's fake field goal worked.

"They have good players," Dantonio said of Notre Dame's defense. "They run a good system. They are disciplined in what they do."

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