Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 26, 2016

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

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Page 26 of 55 SEPT. 26, 2016 27 TAKING A CLOSER LOOK What Worked • Big Shots Late. Notre Dame entered the game with a matchup advantage on the perimeter, with senior wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. and sophomore wideout Equanimeous St. Brown poised to control their matchups. There were opportunities early in the game for Notre Dame to attack Michigan State down the field, but for whatever reason either the Irish staff failed to call downfield shots or junior quarterback DeShone Kizer was unwilling to let loose. That changed in the third quarter with the Irish down 36-7. Kizer fired on a deep vertical route up the left sideline that Hunter Jr. hauled in for a 47- yard gain. Three plays later, St. Brown outplayed a Michigan State defender for a 15-yard touchdown reception. On Notre Dame's first drive of the fourth quarter, the Irish staff inserted freshman wide receiver Chase Claypool at tight end and ran him up the right seam. Kizer threw the ball up, and Claypool made a tough catch for a 33-yard gain. Two plays later, Kizer hit a streaking sophomore slot receiver C.J. Sanders up the seam for a 34-yard gain, setting up another Irish touchdown. Kizer hit a 19-yard strike to freshman wide receiver Kevin Stepherson on Notre Dame's final scoring drive, but those big plays were too little too late. What Didn't Work • Kizer Struggles Early. Although his numbers reflect a strong performance, Kizer was a key contributor to Notre Dame falling behind 36-7. Through most of the first three quarters, Kizer struggled to get into rhythm. He put up good numbers in the first half, completing 8 of 12 passes for 128 yards, but there were several missed opportunities that kept Notre Dame from get- ting into the end zone. In the third quarter, Kizer really hit a skid, complet- ing just 2 of 7 passes. His mechanics were out of whack and he could not hit open receivers. He locked onto Sanders and threw an interception that helped Michigan State build a 29-7 lead. By the time he got back on track, the Irish were down 36-7. • Situational Struggles. When Notre Dame loses, one of the primary culprits is its inability to play good situation football, especially on defense. Going back to the start of the 2015 season, Notre Dame has lost five football games. In those five losses, the Irish defense has allowed its opponents to go a perfect 25 of 25 in the red zone. An amazing 20 of those drives ended in a touchdown, good for an 80.0 percent touchdown rate. Michigan State had three trips into the red zone, and all three ended with touchdowns. Notre Dame has struggled to get off the field on third down. In its five losses during that stretch, op- ponents have converted 49.4 percent of their third- down opportunities. In the four losses that weren't played in a downpour — like the Clemson game last Oct. 3 — opponents have converted 53.3 percent of their third downs. Michigan State went 9 of 18 on third down, includ- ing two conversions on its final game-clinching drive. — Bryan Driskell Though Notre Dame junior quarterback DeShone Kizer struggled in the third quarter, he threw for a career-high 344 yards and accounted for 89.3 percent of the team's total yardage. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA .0007 Percentage points — by our calculation — separating Michigan from once again overtaking Notre Dame for No. 1 in all-time winning percentage in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Wolverines with their 3-0 start are now 928-331-36 (.7305), while the 1-2 Irish are now 893-315-42 (.7312). 2-4 Michigan State's record against Notre Dame in the 50 years since the epic 1966 clash when the Spartans were ranked ahead of the Irish. MSU was ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press poll coming into this game, while the Irish were No. 18. The only other such Spartans victory during that span was in 1997 when it won 23-7 when ranked No. 17, while Notre Dame was unranked. 7-7 All seven red-zone opportunities by each team resulted in touchdowns, with Michigan State finishing 4 of 4 and Notre Dame 3 of 3. The Irish have scored 11 touch- downs in 14 red-zone situations this year, one of the few bright spots of a 1-2 start. 10-4 Michigan State's record against ranked teams since 2013 (7-2 ver- sus the top 10), including this year's Notre Dame win. Over that same span, the Irish are 5-10. 14 Victories by Michigan State in Notre Dame Stadium, tying it for USC for the most ever by a Fighting Irish opponent in the edifice. This was the Spartans' seventh victory at Notre Dame since 1997, but their first since winning six in a row from 1997-2007. 29 Victories by Michigan State against Notre Dame in a series the Irish lead overall 48-29-1. Only USC has more all-time victories against Notre Dame with its 36-46-5 record. After next year's Sept. 23 meeting in East Lansing, the Irish and Spartans are not tentatively slated to meet again until 2026-27. 36 Unanswered points scored by Michi- gan State during the second and third quarters. That was the worst streak by an Irish team in a game since both Michigan and USC administered 38-0 beatings on them during the 3-9 season in 2007. 71 Yards on a Tyler Newsome second quar- ter punt that was downed at Michigan State's 8-yard line. It was the longest Notre Dame punt since Oct. 10, 1998, when Hunter Smith drilled one that traveled 79 yards in a 28-9 victory at Arizona State. Alas, the Spartans still drove 92 yards for a touchdown, scoring with 23 seconds left until halftime for a 15-7 halftime lead. 89.3 Percent of the offense ac- counted for by junior quar- terback DESHONE KIZER against the Spartans. Notre Dame totaled 401 yards, with Kizer passing for 344 (a career high) and rushing for 14. He also was involved in 46 of the 62 plays with 37 passes and nine rushes. BY THE NUMBERS BY LOU SOMOGYI

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