EAST LANSING, MI – SEPTEMBER 15: John Goodman #81 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish catches a first quarter touchdown next to Johnny Adams #5 of the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on September 15, 2012 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Down go the “Little Giants.”
All that I could see today, all day, was that “Little Giants” play from two years ago. And with a heavy heart for a struggling Manti Te’o, I waited all day for this game to start. But Te’o and company surely did not disappoint Notre Dame nation today.
Notre Dame and Michigan State both entered this game 2-0. Both teams with young quarterbacks at the helm. Irish fans wondered if their offense could handle the organized chaos that Michigan State’s defense brings to the table. Irish Head Coach Brian Kelly and his Fighting Irish squad answered any and all the questions that were out there with a resounding … we’re back.
With this Notre Dame upset of #10 Michigan State, the Fighting Irish are now 3-0 and have snapped a six-game losing streak against ranked teams. Notre Dame is off to its best start since 2002 when Tyrone Willingham won his first eight games as head coach. The Irish opened 0-2 last year and 1-3 the season before in Kelly’s debut before bouncing back to finish with eight wins.
The pressure did not seem to bother Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson this week against the Spartans. Golson threw for one touchdown and rushed for another during the first half, against a Spartan defense who had not given up any offensive touchdowns in their first two games. Golson completed 14 of 32 passes for 178 yards. Freshman Spartan quarterback Andrew Maxwell, came out fighting as well, completing 23 of 45 attempts for 187 yards, while the Irish defense held his top running back Le’Veon Bell to only 77 yards on 19 carries.
Notre Dame’s defense, lead by a heart felt performance by Manti Te’o, held the Spartans to 121 total yards and sacked quarterback Andrew Maxwell three times in the first half.
The Irish scored first against the Spartans when Golson rolled to his right and made a remarkable pass across the field to wide receiver John Goodman for a 36-yard touchdown. Goodman, despite the interference from Spartan cornerback Johnny Adams, managed to hang on to the ball to complete the 51-yard drive.
Michigan State was unable to score on their next possession when kicker Dan Conroy missed a 44-yard field-goal attempt.
Golson was able to increase Notre Dame’s lead to 14-0 on a 6-yard scoring run with 10:50 remaining in the first half. When he was unable to find an open receiver, he found an opening in the Spartan defense and ran the ball in for the score.
Michigan State’s offense only managed to put three points on the board in the first half. Spartan kicker Dan Conroy made a 50-yard field goal (matching his career high) late in the first half to make it 14-3.
After a defense controlled third quarter that resulted in four punts for each team, Michigan State started to gain some momentum in the fourth quarter. The Spartans had their eyes set on a comeback. However, their hopes were dashed when Bell was going out of bounds and his lateral was caught by Irish linebacker Manti Te’o (his first career interception) with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter.
This key interception set up kicker Kyle Brindza’s 47-yard field goal (his second field goal of the half, the first being a 29-yard field goal earlier in the fourth quarter) that made it 20-3. Te’o had a game-high 12 tackles, one for a loss, and broke up two passes, playing a game full of emotion just a few days after the deaths of his girlfriend, who had a long battle with leukemia, and his grandmother.
Notre Dame’s 20-3 win today is the second straight in the series won by more than a TD, after nine of the previous 11 were decided by seven points or fewer.
When asked about Golson’s performance today, Kelly seemed very happy with his quarterback. “He made some big plays for us early which put us in a good position,” Kelly said.
Notre Dame – Michigan State post game presser:
Do you consider this Coach Kelly’s first signature win? Leave a comment with your thoughts!
Here come the Irish. Bring on the Wolverines.