Notre Dame defeats Michigan State in sloppy game; midday Week 4 Snap Judgments
• No. 22 Notre Dame 17, Michigan State 13: When penalties are the story of a game, fans know it wasn't an elite heavyweight bout. Yet flags dominated the matchup between the Spartans and Fighting Irish on Saturday. Michigan State saw yellow all day and ended up with 115 penalty yards, including a number of questionable pass interference calls that led to Notre Dame points.
With very little flow on offense, coach Mark Dantonio's team couldn’t afford to give away first downs. It kept happening, and Michigan State finished with just 254 total yards. Meanwhile, it was clear from the onset that Notre Dame was going to go vertical against a stout Spartans' front, and although quarterback Tommy Rees wasn’t great (14-of-34, 142 yards, one touchdown), he -- and the pass interference calls -- did just enough to keep the Irish moving downfield.
#NotreDame has now given up more touchdowns in the red zone in 2013 than they did in 2012. Eight more games to play.
— Dan Murphy (@BGI_DanMurphy) September 21, 2013
Despite the Irish surrendering another red-zone touchdown, Notre Dame’s defense kept the meager Michigan State attack in check, allowing an average of 3.6 yards per play. The Spartans had a chance to take the lead in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, but in a puzzling decision, quarterback Andrew Maxwell was brought in and the offense promptly stalled. On fourth-and-20, Maxwell scrambled and instead of throwing the ball and ran out of bounds after a harmless eight-yard gain.
Notre Dame improves to 3-1 with a home date against Oklahoma looming next Saturday. The Irish haven't looked like world-beaters on either side of the ball, and the Sooners should provide a real test for their defense. [RECAP l BOX]
• No. 19 Florida 31, Tennessee 17: This game was ugly, and Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel injured his ankle and will miss the remainder of the season. Backup Tyler Murphy, who combined for 218 total yards (134 passing, 84 rushing), takes over as the Gators' new starter. Andy Staples’ was in Gainesville and has more from the scene. Check it out, if you dare. [RECAP l BOX]
• USC 17, Utah State 14: The Trojans’ offense remains a work in progress, but their defense is quickly proving it’s good enough to keep the team in games. USC contained electric quarterback Chuckie Keeton and Utah State, forcing third-and-long situations for much of the afternoon. It was difficult for Keeton to get things going with his legs, and he was forced to settle into a role as a pocket passer.
To his credit, Keeton made the most of some opportunities, throwing for 178 yards and two scores with no interceptions. But the USC defense held the Aggies to just 284 yards on the day.
On offense, the Trojans relied heavily on running back Tre Madden, who carried 24 times for 94 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Cody Kessler went 13-of-27 for 164 yards and a score. USC's issues are fixed by any means, but this was an encouraging win for coach Lane Kiffin. A loss would have only added to the criticism he's heard in recent weeks. [RECAP l BOX]
• Rutgers 28, Arkansas 24 The Razorbacks entered this game looking to continue their strong start under new coach Bret Bielema. Arkansas won its previous three games rather easily, and it looked for a while like the Hogs were going to handle a feisty Rutgers team on the road. They went up 10-0 in the first quarter with a field goal and a Tevin Mitchel pick-six.
After the two teams exchanged blows in the second half, however, the Arkansas collapse was on. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova (22-of-43, 346 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) surged, throwing for two fourth-quarter scores to give the Scarlet Knights an impressive victory over an SEC foe. Just think: Had Rutgers been able to pull out its opening Thursday game against Fresno State, it would be 4-0 with wins over one of the best Mountain West teams and an SEC opponent.
For Bielema, the loss squashed hopes of a 4-0 start with a treacherous start to SEC play around the corner. Arkansas takes on Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama over its next four games. [RECAP l BOX]
• No. 20 Baylor 70, Louisiana-Monroe 7: The Art Briles Absolute Destruction Show rolls on. At one point, the Bears had 35 points on just 15 offensive plays, thanks in part to a pair of first-quarter defensive touchdowns. Quarterback Bryce Petty (351 passing yards, 26 rushing yards, five total touchdowns) and running back Lance Seastrunk (10 carries, 156 yards, one touchdown) were superb despite playing sparingly in the second half.
Baylor’s competition hasn’t been stellar to date, but its offense hasn't shown any signs of slowing down heading into Big 12 play. It simply has too many playmakers and too many options. Even more impressive is Baylor's scoring disparity: The Bears have outscored their opening three opponents 209 to 23. [RECAP l BOX]
• No. 17 Washington 56, Idaho State 0: This was a nice tune-up game for the Huskies, who now must face Arizona, Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State in succession. Things were easy from the get-go, as Washington led 42-0 at halftime. Quarterback Keith Price went 16-of-21 for 213 yards and three scores (he also added a rushing touchdown) before resting the second half. Running back Bishop Sankey had only four carries, but he made them count, racking up 77 yards and a touchdown. [RECAP l BOX]
• No. 18 Northwestern 35, Maine 21: It wasn’t as flashy as some of the other ranked teams’ cupcake wins, but Northwestern did what it needed to in order to improve to 4-0 entering its bye week, with the Wildcats staring down an Oct. 5 home game against Ohio State. Quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian combined to go just 10-of-17, but the Wildcats’ defense was stellar until the fourth quarter. Damien Proby and Dean Lowry both scored defensive touchdowns. [RECAP l BOX]
• Maryland 37, West Virginia 0: What an example of two programs moving in completely different directions:
Raise your hand if you predicted this the night of '11 Orange Bowl: Since WVU hung 70 on Clemson, Mounties are 9-8 and Tigers 14-2.
Maryland looks like it's steadily getting better, and the offense appears sharp under quarterback C.J. Brown (217 passing yards, 26 rushing yards, two total touchdowns). West Virginia, on the other hand, can’t stop anybody and is still trying to find an offensive identity.
This is the most points #WVU has allowed in a shutout loss since a 48-0 loss to Washington & Jefferson in 1914.
— Patrick Southern (@patricksouthern) September 21, 2013
The Mountaineers had just 179 yards and six first downs to go along with six turnovers. It also marked the first time West Virginia was shutout since 2001, per USA Today’s Paul Myerberg. [RECAP l BOX]
• No. 24 Wisconsin 41, Purdue 10: The Badgers needed a bounce-back game after last week’s controversial loss to Arizona State, and Wisconsin established its offense from the start. The Badgers want to run the ball, and they're at their best when running as frequently as possible.
Coach Gary Andersen's team finished with 388 yards on the ground, with tailbacks Melvin Gordon (147 yards, three touchdowns) and James White (145 yards, one touchdown) both averaging more than nine yards a carry. In the win, White passed Larry Emery to move onto Wisconsin's top-10 all-time rushing list, despite never having started a game. [RECAP l BOX]
• Nebraska 59, South Dakota State 20: It won’t quiet coach Bo Pelini’s critics by any stretch of the imagination, but after allowing 17 first-quarter points, the Cornhuskers’ defense rallied to allow just three points the rest of the way. Huskers quarterback Taylor Martinez missed the game with turf toe, but the duo of Tommy Armstrong and Ron Kellogg were efficient in relief, combining to go 20-of-24 with two touchdowns. Running backs Imani Cross and Ameer Abdullah added 199 yards and three scores on the ground. [RECAP l BOX]No. 8 Florida State 54, Bethune-Cookman 6: Seminoles Karlos Williams Devonta Freeman [RECAP l BOX]