Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 24 of 55 SEPT. 26, 2016 25 MICHIGAN STATE RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE The Spartans totaled only 22 rushing yards in the first quarter and 48 in the second. However, like a strong wave that keeps pounding against the dam, the Irish barrier cracked in the third quarter. Michigan State's three touchdown drives in that frame to take a 36-7 lead included 166 of its 192 yards of total offense coming via the ground game. Junior running back Gerald Holmes accounted for 73 of them on a run up the middle that resulted in a touchdown, but the other 93 yards came on 16 carries — at nearly six yards per pop. Run fits remained a consistent problem for the Irish defense. ADVANTAGE: Michigan State MICHIGAN STATE PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE Seldom did the Spartans try to go vertical, mainly because the outs, hitches shovel passes and dump-offs were made effective by a bevy of missed tackles by the Irish secondary. While trying to keep the ball in front of them, the Irish defensive backs often arrived late or at a bad angle. This accounted for both a high completion percentage for MSU (19 of 26, 73.1 percent) and too many yards after the catch. Much is made about the youth of the secondary, but two of the more glaring mistakes were made by senior cornerback Cole Luke, a three-year starter — on a 38-yard touchdown to freshman wideout Donnie Corley in which he appeared to have an interception, and then on a blown coverage on third-and-seven on a 28-yard toss to Corley that helped run out the clock. The Irish also have not yet recorded a sack this season. ADVANTAGE: Michigan State NOTRE DAME RUNNING GAME VS. MICHIGAN STATE RUN DEFENSE In the first half, Notre Dame's 15 rushing plays netted only 52 yards, with ju- nior DeShone Kizer's 14-yard touchdown off a quarterback draw the highlight. Michigan State had an answer to virtually every inside or outside zone read, or even counters. The running back tandem of sophomore Josh Adams and senior Tarean Folston managed only 43 yards on 16 carries, with no attempt exceeding nine yards. Notre Dame supposed strength (offensive line) lost decisively to Michi- gan State's supposed Achilles heel (defensive line). ADVANTAGE: Michigan State NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. MICHIGAN STATE PASS DEFENSE Kizer was 8-of-12 passing for 128 yards in the first half, with the highlight a 43-yard "pop" pass to sophomore wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown after rolling to his left and faking the option. Most of his damage — a career-high 344 passing yards — occurred after the Spartans had built a 36-7 cushion, and that was in part because the offense bogged down for a stretch of 32 minutes in which Kizer and his troops were not at their sharpest. ADVANTAGE: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS The opening kickoff returned for a touchdown by sophomore C.J. Sanders was negated by a holding call on freshman Jalen Elliott, forcing Notre Dame instead to start from its 10-yard line. Then on MSU's opening punt in the sec- ond half, a personal foul on sophomore safety Nicco Fertitta moved the Irish back to their 23. More devastating was a Michigan State punt from its 18 bouncing off Irish blocker Miles Boykin, who was not aware of where the ball was heading with his back to it. One play later, Michigan State scored on a 38-yard pass and went ahead 8-7 with 9:30 left until halftime. A 71-yard Tyler Newsome punt for the Irish in the second quarter was nullified by the ensuing 92-yard touchdown drive by the Spartans. ADVANTAGE: Michigan State THIRD-DOWN CONVERSIONS Notre Dame was only 1 of 4 at halftime, and the lone conversion was a nine-yard completion to junior wide receiver Corey Holmes on third-and-eight from the Irish 11 that kept alive a 91-yard touchdown drive. On MSU's 92-yard touchdown march before the half, it moved the chains on third-and-three and third-and-five. The Spartans had to convert only one third down (third-and-three) on their three third-quarter touchdown drives. Finally, the third-and-seven completion to Corley for 28 yards pretty much sealed the outcome. Michigan State finished 9 of 18 on third down (50.0 percent), while Notre Dame was 4 of 11 (36.4 percent). ADVANTAGE: Michigan State TURNOVERS An interception by Notre Dame freshman safety Devin Studstill on the second play of the second quarter from the Irish 22 negated a Spartans scoring oppor- tunity. More damaging, though, was the special teams snafu by Boykin that set up MSU at the Irish 38 and quickly resulted in a touchdown and the go-ahead points. A Kizer interception toss to Sam linebacker Jon Reschke midway through the third quarter set up a 39-yard touchdown drive and a 29-7 advantage. Not only did MSU win the turnover battle 3-1, but it resulted in a 14-0 scor- ing edge from it. ADVANTAGE: Michigan State SUMMARY Michigan State asserted its dominance on both sides of the line of scrimmage by producing an eye-popping 260-57 advantage in rushing yards, winning the turnover battle 3-1, connecting on four passes that totaled 23 to 38 yards to provide some vertical stretch, and taking advantage of two critical mistakes by Notre Dame on special teams. The Spartans played sound football, while the Irish did not. It's really a won- der that the game was still hanging in the balance with less than four minutes remaining. ON PAPER REVISITED BY LOU SOMOGYI Notre Dame sophomore running back Josh Adams finished with just 29 yards on 12 carries, part of an Irish rushing effort that tallied only 57 yards against the Spartans. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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