College football is often a game of runs. No game was a better example on Saturday night than the latest classic between Michigan State and Notre Dame.
The Irish opened scoring with a nice quarterback scramble from DeShone Kizer to go up 7-0 in the first quarter but watched rather helplessly as the team found all sorts of ways to allow the Spartans to take control of the game.
During a 36 point run by Michigan State, just about every wild thing that could go wrong did for Notre Dame. There was a muffed punt recovered in the second quarter that was followed quickly by quarterback Tyler O’Conner lofting a pass into the end zone that receiver Donnie Corley simply snatched away from the hands of a defensive back.
As if that play was bad enough, the Spartans converted a two-point conversion out of a swinging gate formation, recovered another fumble and picked off Kizer to help fuel the run. It was an impressive swing of momentum that seemed to signal a runaway in South Bend.
The Irish had other ideas however.
Kizer eventually started to make things happen and helped swing momentum back in favor of the home team by finding Equanimeous St. Brown, who made a circus catch in the corner of the end zone to kick off a 21 point run.
Notre Dame cut Michigan State’s lead to just one score with over six minutes left when Kizer found Durham Smythe for yet another touchdown pass and it was the Spartans who suddenly found themselves in a second half drought.
Kizer eventually got the ball back with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter but was sacked on third down to end stop a streak of three straight touchdown drives. With 3:37 left, Brian Kelly curiously opted to trust his defense and called a timeout to punt the ball instead of going for it on fourth and seven.
The decision would end up costing the Irish head coach as Michigan State salted the game away behind a clutch O’Conner throw and some quality runs Gerald Holmes.
The win gives the Big Ten another big non-conference victory early in the season and should vault MSU even higher in the polls as a potential conference title contender.
As for Notre Dame, it could be a long season for Kelly and his staff with such a young and inexperienced defense. The Irish still have a few remaining marquee games left but dropping two of their first three all but knocks them out of the College Football Playoff race and could signal some potential changes coming on the team as soon as next week.