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Back to the drawing board for Michigan State offense

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It was a frustrating afternoon for the Michigan State Spartans in South Bend. Multiple pass interference penalties helped keep drives alive for Notre Dame and the lone turnover of the game was cashed in by the Irish for a game-winning touchdown. Notre Dame picked up their second straight win against a Big Ten opponent, winning Saturday by a score of 17-13.

As expected heading in to the game, the defenses for both teams led the way against offenses lacking much punch early on this season. Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees completed just 14-of-34 pass attempts for 142 yards and a late first half touchdown. The running game also struggled mightily against the Spartans, with just 73 yards on the ground. Michigan State’s offense was worse, with all three quarterback options getting some playing time. Connor Cook got the start for the Spartans and completed half of his passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. R.J. Shelton came in and threw one pass, but it was intercepted at the Notre Dame 19-yard line by Matthias Farley. Farley’s pick set up Notre Dame to score a touchdown five plays later when Cam McDaniel rushing seven yards for the score. With the game on the line, Mark Dantonio called on his fifth-year senior Andrew Maxwell to come off the sideline and lead a game-winning drive. Maxwell went 0-for-3 and ran out of bounds on a 4th and 20 play to turnover the football on downs.

If we learned one thing from this game, it is that the Spartans still have some serious concerns about their offense, starting at quarterback. Could we see Damion Terry once again get some reps in practice and maybe even a shot to lead this offense?

Notre Dame has a big stretch of games coming up in the next few weeks. Oklahoma visits Notre Dame Stadium next Saturday and Arizona State meets the Irish in Arlington the following week. Neither of those teams have the same questions about their quarterbacks or their offense, so Notre Dame will be tested.

This game marked the first time since 2001 that neither team managed to score at least 20 points in a game. Michigan State won that game, 17-10 in South Bend.

Notre Dame, Michigan State locked in defensive tussle

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Neither team has been able to do much of anything on offense in the first half, but Notre Dame managed to take a lead against Michigan State to the break after scoring a late touchdown for a 10-7 lead. T.J. Jones caught a pass from Tommy Rees at the back of the end zone to extend his reception streak to 31 games. If Jones did not bring in that pass the Irish may have gone to the locker room with their heads dropped after a frustrating first half.

Connor Cook‘s 12-yard touchdown pass to a back-peddling Macgarrett Kings Jr. gave the Spartans the lead midway through the second quarter, but Tommy Rees and the Irish moved down field before halftime to grab the lead back. The late score by the Irish was aided by one of three pass interference penalties called against the Spartans in the first half.

This game was expected to be more about the defense than the offense, and for the most part that has held true. Michigan State is finding out rather quickly that the offense they discovered last week against Youngstown State is having a much more difficult time this weekend in South Bend. Neither offense has been able to do much, but neither offense has made any costly mistakes. There were no turnovers in the first half. Given the recent history of this rivalry, the first turnover could become a huge factor in the second half.