A signature win for Notre Dame
Posted: 09/16/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Rachel Terlep
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Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly stands on the sideline during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Notre Dame's John Goodman, center, Everett Golson (5) and Troy Niklas, right, celebrate Goodman's touchdown reception during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson, center, looks to pass between Michigan State's Marcus Rush (44) and Anthony Rashad White (98) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Let that sink in because it’s been a decade since that’s been said in South Bend.
No. 20 Notre Dame is 3-0 for the first time since 2002 after upsetting No. 10 Michigan State Saturday night in East Lansing, 20-3.
That’s 20 points against a Spartan defense who didn’t allow an offensive touchdown in its first two games and three points for a Spartan offense that boasts a tailback who is on a lot of Heisman Trophy watch-lists.
That might be a surprise to everyone except for the Notre Dame lockerroom.
“I’ve just felt like this group since January has totally committed themselves to wanting to win each and every week,” Kelly said. “That’s very important to them. It’s been coming. We’re right in the thick of that process of developing our football team.”
That development started last year with new faces along the Irish front seven and carried over to this year with a new quarterback, young secondary and a slew of fresh faces on both sides of the ball.
Though Kelly knows they’ve had it in them, Saturday’s win makes a statement to the team that no coach can verbalize.
“It’s a signature win,” Kelly said. “There’s no question. When you go on the road against the No. 10 team in the country and to beat them, it’s definitely going to build a confidence in that locker room. If they believe that they do the little things the right way — there’s only so much a coach can tell you, you need one of those wins to break it open. And this win will help in that development.”
Notre Dame’s oppressive defense stole the show, holding to Michigan State to three points, which hasn’t happened at Spartan Stadium since 1991.
Linebacker Manti Te’o stood at the helm, overcoming the deaths of both his grandmother and girlfriend earlier this week to lead the Irish with 12 tackles (one for a loss) and two pass break-ups.
In total, Notre Dame’s defense accounted for four sacks, six tackles for a loss, eight pass break-ups and five quarterback hurries. It held Spartan tailback Le’Veon Bell to 80 yards on 19 carries. The only points the Irish gave up all night came off a 50-yard field goal by Spartan kicker Dan Conroy in the waning minutes of the first half.
“When you know you play really good defense, offensively you don’t have to rush a freshman quarterback,” Kelly said. “We can be patient with (Everett Golson). And that patience is going to pay off, because you saw what he was capable of.”
Though Golson didn’t put up jaw-dropping numbers — he finished 14-32 for 178 yards, one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown — he showed that his escapability is just as effective against premiere defenses.
Notre Dame’s only receiving touchdown of the day happened when Golson outran a pursuing Spartan defender and aired out a 36-yard pass to Goodman, who caught the ball with one hand while being wrapped up by Michigan State defensive backs.
“One or two arms, it doesn’t matter, you got to make the catch,” Goodman said after the game.
Golson also scored the second and final touchdown of the game off a 6-yard quarterback keeper early in the second quarter.
Michigan State kept Notre Dame out of the end zone in the second half, but Irish kicker Kyle Brindza nailed 29- and 47-yard field goals to give Notre Dame six more points and put the game out of reach.
The Irish run game also woke up in the final quarter, allowing Notre Dame to keep control of the game clock.
“Crucial time in the game, the ball on the 4-yard line, the ability to run the football, proved to probably be the deciding factor,” Kelly said. “Not turning the football over, which was our Achilles Heel last year. We’re taking much better care of the football, being smart and managing offensively what we do so we can win football games.”