SOUTH BEND –TJ Jones kept Notre Dame in front of Michigan State with a big touchdown grab just before halftime.
The Irish senior made a leaping, spinning catch between two defenders to come down with a 2-yard touchdown that kept No. 22 Notre Dame in front of the Spartans 10-7 at the break.
Jones' touchdown on third-and-goal was one of the few bright spots for Notre Dame's offense in the opening half.
Tommy Rees is 12-for-27 passing for 130 yards, and running backs George Atkinson III, Tarean Folston, Cam McDaniel and Amir Carlisle have combined for 39 yards on 14 carries. Two Irish freshman have accounted for 91 of Rees' 130 passing yards as Corey Robinson has three catches for 54 yards and William Fuller had a 37-yard receptioin.
Both teams have been hurt by penalties as the Irish have been called for four fouls four 40 yards and the Spartans have given up 55 yards on four penalties.
Michigan State's offense has struggled even more than Notre Dame's. Spartans quarterback Connor Cook is 5 for 15 for 44 yards, and Michigan State has been held to 46 rushing yards.
Kyle Brindza missed a chance to double Notre Dame's lead 2 ½ minutes into the second quarter when he missed a field goal from 37 yards out.
Brindza had made five in a row before the miss and is 5 for 7 for the season.
Michigan State took advantage of the missed field goal and a couple of Notre Dame penalties to score the game's first touchdown.
The Spartans marched 79 yards on 14 plays as Connor Cook completed the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Macgarrett Kings Jr. for a 7-3 lead with 7:43 to play in the first half.
Michigan State was added by personal foul penalties by nose guard Louis Nix III and Kona Schwenke the moved the ball 30 yards. Nix and Schwenke were each flagged for face mask penalties.
Michigan State's touchdown was the ninth one Notre Dame has given up in its red zone this season. The Irish only gave up eight red zone touchdowns all of last season.
The Irish are playing without defensive end Sheldon Day, who suffered a sprained ankle in last week's win at Purdue.