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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, September 23, 2017 10:10 pm

Halftime thoughts: Notre Dame 28, Michigan State 7

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Quick thoughts on the first half:

Opportunistic defense: Brandon Wimbush and Dexter Williams, who accounted for three of Notre Dame's first-half touchdowns, will get the headlines, but the defense really carried the day. The defense set up the offense with three turnovers -- an interception returned for a score by Julian Love and fumble recoveries by Daelin Hayes and Shaun Crawford. The three takeaways set up 21 points, making the Spartans, who went 3-9 last year, look terrible.

Miscue: In all, a great half for Notre Dame, but there was one play in particular the Irish would like to have back -- quarterback Brian Lewerke's 52-yard run on Michigan State's second possession. On third-and-inches, middle linebacker Nyles Morgan couldn't get off his block, and outside linebacker Te'von Coney badly misread the play, allowing Lewerke to dart through Coney's gap.

Pick-six, burn-six: Love was involved in two scoring plays -- one negative, one positive. He scored on a 59-yard interception return but also got beaten by receiver Darrell Stewart Jr. on a 4-yard touchdown. Stewart's size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) enabled him to make a play in a jump-ball situation against the 5-11, 193-pound Love.

Rotation: Tommy Kraemer again got the start at right tackle, but Notre Dame continued to use a rotation. Robert Hainsey was in on the second series and allowed a third-down sack. A blitzing outside linebacker, Chris Frey, won with a speed rush to force a punt.

However, Hainsey later contributed in the running game, getting out in space and making a nice block on Justin Layne in the second quarter as Williams gained 9 yards on a toss sweep. Two plays later, Williams scored on an 8-yard reception to put the Irish ahead 21-7.

Draw it up: Offensive coordinator Chip Long made one of his best calls of the season on Notre Dame's opening drive, a second-and-10 quarterback draw from the Spartans' 16-yard line. Wimbush was in shotgun formation for an apparent passing play. Long made a perfect call, exploiting gaps up the middle against Michigan State's five-man box. Wimbush slipped behind a block from center Sam Mustipher for a 16-yard scoring run to give Notre Dame a 7-0 lead.