SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame got the game it expected and the result it wanted in Saturday’s 17-13 win over Michigan State.
It wasn’t going to be a beauty contest, coach Brian Kelly said of a game that had little offense and plenty of penalties. I felt like it was going to be this kind of game.
The No. 22 Irish (3-1) gained only 224 yards. The Spartans (3-1) picked up 254. Irish quarterback Tommy Rees completed 14 of 34 passes for 142 yards with a touchdown, while Spartans quarterback Connor Cook went 16 for 32 for 135 yards with a TD.
TJ Jones caught a 2-yard touchdown pass, Cam McDaniel scored on a 7-yard run and Kyle Brindza connected on a 41-yard field goal for Notre Dame, while Michigan State got a 12-yard TD catch from Macgarrett Kings Jr. and two field goals from Michael Geiger.
Michigan State was called for 10 penalties costing it 115 yards, and the Irish were penalized 86 yards on eight penalties. Notre Dame got seven of its 14 first downs thanks to penalties, and Michigan State was called for pass interference four times costing it 60 yards.
I’ve been coaching 30-plus years, no never, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said of being called for pass interference that often.
An ill-timed trick play and three penalties – a personal foul and two pass interference calls – helped set up Notre Dame’s game-wining touchdown.
Michigan State receiver RJ Shelton attempted a pass from his 47 to a target surrounded by three Notre Dame defenders. Irish safety Matthias Farley intercepted the throw at the Irish 19, raced to the 48 and Notre Dame got 15 extra yards when Michigan State’s Trevon Pendleton was flagged for a personal foul on the return with 2:06 to play in the third quarter.
Notre Dame picked up the initial first down of the drive thanks to Darqueze Dennard getting flagged for pass interference on second-and-10 from the Spartans’ 37.
And Notre Dame got a fresh set of downs from the 7 when the Spartans’ Bennie Fowler was flagged for pass interference on third-and-10 from the 22 at the start of the fourth quarter. McDaniel scored on a 7-yard run two plays later for a 17-10 lead with 14:44 to play.
It was kind of like right jab, hit them hard and they would come back with a left hook, said McDaniel, who ran for 44 of Notre Dame’s 82 rushing yards
They made it tough. We knew it was going to be tough, and we did what we had to do to win today.
Notre Dame appeared to be in danger of giving away its seven-point lead on the next drive as Michigan State marched to the Irish’s 14 on six plays and Prince Shembo’s 15-yard personal foul penalty.
But Irish linebacker Dan Fox dropped Spartans running back Nick Fox for a 5-yard loss, nose guard Louis Nix III swatted down a pass at the line on the next play and after a 5-yard false start penalty, Cook’s third-down pass to Fox fell incomplete.
That left Michigan State settling for a 42-yard field from Geiger with 10:40 to play for the game’s final points.
I think today finally showed what we are capable of as far as our defense playing as a team, Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russel said. We are far from where we want to be; today is just a short example of what we are capable of.