MSU at Notre Dame: Week 3, 2005

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It was a warm fall day, touchdown Jesus stood tall over one of the most sacred sports facilities in the nation: Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish entered this storied rivalry, #10 in the nation and the media darling of almost all outlets north, south, east and west of Lansing . Your Spartans enter the game perhaps one of the most underrated teams in the country. How could they be underrated you ask? I ‘ll tell you.The Spartans are very consistent at being inconsistent. They have struggled in keeping momentum for many years. Somehow however, I almost think that is a roll that MSU head Coach John “Lansing” Smith relishes. As he attempts to rebuild the storied MSU program, this is a defining game for Smith. As important as back-to-back victories against their biggest rival Um would be? No. However, this win, at this moment and circumstance is a great opportunity for Smith to make a statement.

His Spartans enter the game having owned this team on this field since 1993 and make no mistake, Smith and his guys respect the Irish, but they don’t fear them.

If you have ever been to Notre Dame for a football game, it is a great experience. With touchdown Jesus standing guard over the end zone, the house the Rockne built was rocking.

If you are a superstitious person (and I am not) then maybe it was a good omen, MSU won the toss and he took the ball a definite statement that it was the ND job to stop us. Great move coach.

Kyle Brown sat back at the MSU goal line and with the opening kick; it was game on. Brown took the ball from his seven and MSU started it’s first drive of the game from their own 20.

State opened with a miscue by Caulcrick, MSU lost 1 and it was 2nd and 11. Stanton had plenty of time, but Terry Love, dropped it. So MSU found themselves at 3rd and 11, but not rattled even with the crowd rocking. Stanton hit Matt Trannon for 10 yards but failed to get the first down. Fields hit a 33-yard punt and the Irish had the ball at their own 38. The first drive genius Weis sent his boys out and immediately they passed the ball and hit safety Eric Smith in the back. The next play found the much-heralded ND RB Walker smothered in his own backfield by Peko for a 3-yard loss. On 3rd down, the Irish failed to convert when Eric Smith smothered a receiver and they had to punt. The Irish had a terrible punt of 35-yards and the MSU offense began drive 2 from the 30. That was the first time all season the Irish failed to score on their first drive. New Irish coach Charlie Weis had built a reputation in college and the pros as a first drive-scoring guru.

Stanton began the drive with a pass to Jerramy Scott, almost intercepted, but Stanton ’s precision passing took care of that. The pass went for 23-yards and Caulcrick quickly picked up 4 yards on the next carry. On the 2nd and 6 play, Stanton found Kyle Brown and MSU had 1st and 15 with the 28-yard play. After a penalty, Stanton hit Trannon for a 20-yard TD score. Goss hit the PAT and MSU was ahead 7-0 with 11:38 to go in the first quarter. It was a 70-yard 4-play TD drive. It was 1:55 and it spoke volumes that MSU was not going to get hit, it was going to hit.

MSU attempted some type of funky kick the result of which was a ND 1st down at their own 30. The Irish had a nice 15-yard first down pass from Quinn, but most of all the MSU defense was all over him. On first down, Walker tried an up the gut run that got him 4 yards but an Excedrin headache form Eric Smith on a rattling hit. ND tried another run that MSU stuffed and gave the Irish 3rd and 4. From the 49, again with pressure, Notre Dame failed to pick up the first down, but got it on the fourth. Irish 1st and 10 on their own 44. Walker scooted out to the 36 on an 8-yard gain. Quinn under center on 2nd down fired across the middle and picked up yet another Irish first down, as the crowd rose to life. Walker could do nothing against the oppressive MSU D and lost 1 yard. On the 2nd, Quinn watched his TE shift followed by the right tackle and the Irish then found themselves with a 2nd and 16 from their own 38. Quinn picked up 8 and the Irish had an early but crucial 3rd down and 8 that resulted in a MSU sack by third string FS Otis Wiley for a 7-yard loss and the Irish found themselves with a 4th and 15 from the Spartan 37. ND came out ready to go for the first down. Quinn was running for his life, but caught Ashton Watson out of position and the Irish picked up a first down. Walker picked up 2 on 1st down and the Irish had a 2nd and 2. They came out in a double tight end I formation and Quinn had a beautiful pass for the TD. The PAT was good and with 5:14 in the first quarter, and the score was knotted at 7. The key stat of the drive was that ND was 0-2 on 3rd down and 2-2 on 4th. MSU had a great opportunity to really make an early game statement with both 4th downs but failed to do it. It was very evident that this was going to be a dogfight. MSU began its next drive at the ND 33.

Stanton ran the ball on first down and picked up 3. The Spartan offense was primed however for a statement and on second down Stanton hit Kerry Reed for a nine-yard first down. On 1st down, Caulcrick picked up 2 and the Irish let it be known that MSU would have to beat them in the air. Notre Dame was lured off sides by a Stanton hard count and the Spartans had 2nd and three now from the 48. Coach Lansing then went to Javon Ringer for a 25-yard first down. Stanton led the troops confidently again as he hit Love for a 9-yard pass. It was 2nd and 1 on the Irish 14. Stanton again handed the ball to Ringer for the MSU 1st down. Stanton then found Kellen Davis for the 11-yard TD. The first of his career. Davis laid motionless on the ND turf for several moments however after the helmet-to-helmet tackle by the Irish. Davis thankfully walked off under his own power and Goss hit the PAT. With 2:01 in the 1st quarter it was MSU 14 and the Irish 7. The drive was 67 yards and 7 plays that took 3:13 seconds off the clock. The Irish got the ball on the touchback that went out of the end zone and began their next drive from their own 20.

Out came the Irish and they immediately got a penalty so they began again with a 1st and 15 from the 15. Quinn came under center and went to the air for a 12-yard gain. On 2nd down, Walker picked up the first down. Weis’s tutelage was evident however as the Irish showed a mix of packages to the Spartans. On 1st down, Quinn was again under pressure and he threw an errant pass that MSU almost picked off. On 2nd down Quinn threw the ball away and was buried in the process. To add insult to injury they had a penalty that was declined. So, the Irish had a 3 and 10 from the thirty. Quinn tried a screen to Walker but Jaren Hayes read it well and it was 4th and 9. MSU blocked the punt and the Spartans had a 1st and 10 on the ND 42 as the first quarter ended.

Stanton missed Scott on 1st down for a big gain. On 2nd down Stanton handed off to Scott but they got a penalty. Stanton completed a pass to Brown who gave the ball to Ringer; he then fumbled so the Spartans had 3rd and 18. They picked up 15 and now the Spartans had a 4th and 3. Coach Smith went for it (a good decision) and MSU failed to complete it and gave up the interception. Smith made the right call however, and ND got the ball on the Spartan 34.

Quinn came under center and the Irish ran. Walker was stopped for no gain. The Irish once again tried a screen and once again got a holding penalty. They now faced 2nd and 20 on their own 24. Quinn hit his TE for a 19-yard completion and the Irish faced 3rd and 1. They went up the gut with the FB for the first down and now it was 1st and 10 at the 46. Walker again was punished on first down for a 3-yard gain. The Irish got another penalty and on 2nd and 12, he was under the gun again and threw the ball away. On 3rd down he hit his WR for a 23-yard gain and a first down. On 1st down, Quinn went for 7, but Jaren Hayes broke it up. On second down they tried a quick slant to the TE and that was just dropped, not Quinn’s fault. Once again, it was 3rd down and 10. Quinn went to the gun and under big pressure went out of bounds. The Irish had yet another 4th down and went for the FG. It was a 48-yard attempt and it was good, giving the Spartans a 14-10 lead with 9:49 left in the 2nd quarter. The Spartans took the kickoff to the 33, but Brown fumbled the ball and the Irish took over right there.

On first down, Quinn tried the flea-flicker but Hayes broke it up with a well-disciplined play. On 2nd down, the Irish ran up the middle with walker for 3 yards and Ashton Watson limped off the field. With 3rd and 7, Quinn dropped back and completed the TD pass over an out of position Jaren Hayes. With the successful PAT, the Irish took the lead 17-14 with 8:43 left in the 2nd quarter. The Spartans however took the kickoff for a touchback, and Stanton and the guys marched back on the field to try to make a statement.

MSU on 1st down had a screen to Scott that gave them 2 yards. Then Stanton ran for the first down and ND got a late hit personal foul and MSU found itself with a 1st and 10 on the Spartan 46. Stanton on 1st down gave the ball to Caulcrick and he marched straight ahead for 9 yards. Stanton then hit Teague for a 45-yard completion and MSU had a first and 10 on the ND 10. Teague took the ball up the middle on 1st down and on 2nd and 8 the Spartans once again had Stanton in the gun and he took a QB draw down to the Irish 5. 3rd and 4 found the Spartans in a gun, and Stanton ran again for a 1-yard gain. With a 4th and 3, MSU sent Goss out to attempt the field goal. He hit the 21-yard field goal and MSU was tied with the Irish at 17. The Irish took the touchback on the kick and they began at the 20 with 5:26 remaining in the 2nd quarter.

Quinn has 4 wide outs and the Irish tried to run. Walker for 3 yards after great pursuit from the MSU D. On 2nd down Quinn once again handed to Walker and once again, the MSU D answered with only a 1-yard gain. ND now faced a 3rd and 5. Quinn completed a bomb but the Irish receiver pushed off and the play came back. It was now 3rd and 17 for the Irish from their 13. Quinn had his offense shift and he aired the ball out incomplete. Weis sent out his punting crew however on this 4th down. The Spartans fielded the punt from their 44 and Brown tried to make up form his fumble, but MSU got an illegal block in the back penalty and the Spartans began with a 1st and 10 from their own 40.

Out came the epitome of a Spartan himself, as Drew Stanton, the field general rallied his troops for more. Stanton was under huge pressure on 1st down and couldn’t hit an open Woods on the screen. On second down, MSU got a personal foul penalty on a hands to the face call on Kyle Cook. Now Stanton had a 2nd and 25 on his own 25. He handed the ball off and immediately lost 3 yards. Now it was 3rd and 28. Stanton missed Kyle Brown, (he was under immense pressure) and they had to punt. The Irish took possession at their own 31 after a 47-yard Fields punt.

Quinn came right out and hit a wide-open TE for a 24-yard gain. On the next play, Walker broke open and ran for 16-yards. Again, 1st down for the Irish. Quinn dropped back and threw it away under pressure; the same exact thing happened on 2nd down also. The Irish then went Um on us and tried a conservative run that got them no gain. Again they tried a FG, it was 48-yards and they missed it. So, with 1:13 left in the 2nd quarter, it was MSU 17 and the Irish 17. MSU ball at the 29. Stanton gave the ball to Teague who showed off his circus talent for a 18-yard gain. MSU was now at the 47, and they took a time out. Stanton came out in the gun, but Scott couldn’t catch it. Again, Stanton came out in the gun and the Spartans connected this time with a great Stanton run for 5 yards and a stop of the clock. 47 seconds to go. Stanton in the gun with 5 receivers hit 45-yard completion to Love.

First and goal at the 2. They tried a Perles era run with Teague and he is stopped for a loss of one. Spartan time out. With 32 seconds left the Spartans needed the score. A fade to Trannon would look good here, but as the Irish pumped up the crowed, here came the Spartans. Stanton under center took the option himself and scored a 3-yard TD. Goss hit the PAT and the Spartans took the 24-17 lead with 27 seconds left in the second quarter. The drive was 71 yards over 6 plays and it lasted a whole forty-six seconds.

The Spartans kicked off and the Irish ran it out to the 20. Quinn hit his WR for a 16-yard gain and the Irish found themselves at the 36. Quinn missed his receiver on 1st down, and the Irish found themselves with 2nd and 10, from their own 36 with 7 seconds remaining in the half. Quinn came out in the gun, and aired the ball out for a 33-yard gain, but time ran out.

After a quick halftime break, the Irish got ready to take the kick as MSU had selected to receive at the first. The Irish fumbled the kick but still got great field position on the MSU 27 after a great return.

Quinn started the second half in the gun and his WR dropped the pass. On the next play, SirDarean Adams intercepted the ball and ran it back for the MSU TD. Goss hit the PAT and MSU had a 31-17 lead with 14:42 left in the 3rd quarter. MSU kicked off and the Irish began their next possession from their own 24.

Quinn once again came under center and over threw and open receiver while he was under huge pressure. Quinn called his own number this time gaining 6 yards giving the Irish a 3rd and 4. Quinn hit his WR with a quick out, and he turned it into a nice 29-yard play. Now the Irish had a 1st and 10 at the MSU 41. Quinn gave the Ball to Walker who once again was stuffed with a 3-yard gain. On 2nd down Walker however ran it straight at the Spartans who stopped him after a nice 10 yard run. On the first down, Walker tried to run again but was stuffed by the MSU D with a loss of 3. Quinn came out under center and dropped back to pass with a misdirection screen. He hit a wide-open TE for a nice gain of 12. It was 3rd and 1. Walker ran for it but was stopped. Now it was fourth an 1, at the Spartan 19 and again Weis went for it. Walker went off left tackle and got the first. 1st and 10 at the Spartan 16. The Irish went for the TD but the MSU backfield got a bad call for a pass interference and the Irish had the ball first and 10 at the one. The Irish went for the score and fumbled the ball. MSU got the ball at 8, first and 10. Peko caused the fumble and David Herron, Jr. recovered.

Out came Stanton and his Spartans from their own 7. Caulcrick took the ball right up the middle for a 1-yard gain. On second down Stanton tried the bomb but it wasn’t there. On third down, Stanton came out in the gun and hit Scott for a pick up of 6, but it wasn’t enough and MSU had to punt on fourth down. The Irish returned the fifty-yard punt to the forty one of the Spartans, but once again, ND hurt themselves with a penalty and they started at their own 30.

Quinn came out onto the field and he had to be sore. MSU had constant pressure on him all day, and he was getting punished with each possession. The Irish drove to the Spartan 42, but got stopped on a big 3rd and 6 when Kaleb Thornhill put huge pressure on Quinn and knocked down a pass. After the punt, the Spartans took over at their own 11.

Once again, out came Drew Stanton and your MSU Spartans. Stanton’s crew was quickly faced with a 3rd and 13 however. Stanton answered with a bullet to Trannon for a 27-yard 1st down, giving the Spartans a 1st and 10 at their 35. The next play however was a 65-yard TD strike from Stanton to Trannon and the domination was on. Goss hit the PAT giving the Spartans a 38-17 lead with 5:07 remaining in the third quarter.

Quinn quickly marched his Irish down the field to the Spartan 27, but another foolish penalty put them back to the Spartan 32, with a first and 15. He however made up for his teammates mistake and hit his WR for a strike, giving his Irish a 1st and goal from the seven. After a quick TD score and a PAT, the score was MSU 38 ND 24 with 1:23 to go in the 3rd. The Spartans got possession at the 32 to begin, after the kickoff.

Stanton’s army marched back onto the gridiron being watched over his back by Touchdown Jesus. If ND was going to get back into the game, they needed an exorcism to summon back all the greats. On a key third down with 1:04 in the 3rd, the crowd stood and did its best to summon Rockne’s ghost, but he was out of town and Stanton once again hit Trannon for a 14 yard first down. Effectively ending the third quarter. MSU was up over the Irish 38-24.

As the shadows fell over historic Notre Dame stadium to begin the fourth quarter, there was no doubt. This was MSU’s day. The exorcism failed, the Spartans took over physically, and began to punish there hosts. Make no doubt, Weis is a good coach, and this is a great program, but this was Coach Lansing’s day. Today, even with the fourth quarter yet to be played, he was the better Coach.

Surprisingly, MSU was able to get to the Notre Dame 36, but missed a 53-yard field goal attempt. The Irish then began their first 4th quarter drive from their own 36.

Quinn and his Irish moved quickly down the field however and got to the Spartan 7. From there they where able to convert for the TD and the PAT making the game 31-38 MSU with 12:29 left in the fourth. The Spartans got the ball at their own 18 after the kickoff.

Once again, with the crowd at a feverish pitch, the cool-headed Stanton confidently came on the field. Caulcrick picked up two yards on 1st. Stanton gave the ball to Caulcrick again (a la Perles era) and he gained 2 more. It was 3rd and 6. Stefon Wheeler took a foolish false start penalty and it was 3 and 11. Stanton came out on 3rd down and ran the ball to the 25. It was 4th and 25. Fields had a terrible punt and it was now ND, 1st and 10 at their own 43.

Quinn came out, well into his best career day, and looked over his squad. The Spartans desperately needed their defense to do something and stop the Irish. Quinn on first down gave to Walker who quickly picked up 7 yards. On 2nd down Walker finished what he started on the previous play and picked up the first down. The next play however, once again, ND picked up a dumb false start penalty and they had a 1st and 15. Quinn took the snap under center and evaded a sack but his rushed pass was off the mark. 2nd down once again gave us Quinn from the gun and the Spartan pressure just didn’t let him do anything, and his pass fell incomplete. So, with 8:53 to go in the ball game, the Irish ha a huge 3rd and 15. The Irish threw a bomb, but the MSU receiver wisely took a penalty and Notre Dame had the ball first and 10 at the 30. On first down, Walker had all of the faithful standing and cheering with what appeared to be a Irish TD, but again, a penalty brought it back to the Spartan 26. Quinn’s pass fell incomplete and on first down, and he was sacked by Greg Cooper on second down. So with a big 3rd and 13, the ball on the 33, the Irish took a time out. The MSU defense had spent most of the second half on the field and they looked exhausted. When the time out was over, Quinn took the snap and completed the pass to the 21. Once again, the Irish had 4th down. Weis rolled the dice however and the Spartans held. First down MSU.

The game was a seesaw, but ND was able to come back and tie on a Quinn strike for the TD. The PAT was good, and the score was all knotted up at 38, with the crowd at a feverish pitch. MSU took the ball on the kickoff and began to drive however. Kyle Brown got a great pass from Stanton and picked up some big yards as the Spartans tried to move down for the game winning score. Kyle however took a hit and fumbled the ball giving ND a last chance to drive and score a winning score.

The exhausted defense held the Irish and again, Kyle Brown made a foolish mistake on the punt and MSU was now pinned, inside their own 5 with moments left in the game. MSU ran up the gut on first down, barley avoiding a safety. ND took a time out and MSU ran it up the gut almost getting another safety and losing some more of the precious remaining yardage. Again the Irish took a time out and MSU had Stanton do a QB sneak and the clock ran out with ND having no more time outs left.

As I walked down the sidelines I looked at the many of the dejected MSU band and students and I told them to “get up, we are going to win this game!” MSU won the toss and we wanted the ball last, a great idea in OT. MSU held ND on three straight plays, again applying relentless pressure on Quinn “the Eskimo, as Coach Lansing calls him.J ND was able to hit the FG and the Spartans took the field led by s Drew Stanton who refused to lose.

On the final third down of a grueling 4-hour game, Stanton took an option to his right, and at the last moment of the day flipped the ball to Jason Teague who ran it in for a 19-yard TD. It was an MSU victory for the 12th straight year.

This was a great victory for MSU and most of all John L. Smith. Now, we will beat Illinois and UM, thus putting this team back on the cusp of re-emerging into what we should be.

Final stats:

Teague had 10 carries for 72 yards, and 1 TD.

Stanton had 14 carries for 48 yards and 1 TD.

Ringer had 4 carries for 24 yards.

Caulcrick had 6 carries for 10 yards.

Stanton was 16 for 27 in passing. He had one INT and 3 TD’s. His longest was 65 yards.

Trannon had 5 receptions for 136 yards and 2 TD’s.

Love had 3 receptions for 69 yards.

Brown had 3 receptions for 39 yards.

Scott had 2 receptions for 29 yards.

Grades and game balls:

Offense: A

Defense: C got exhausted and let ND back in the game, but held for a win.

Special Teams: C+ They got a FG and had plenty of leg for a long one that had accuracy issues. Kickoffs were good and returns but to many mental errors. PAT’s also were good.

Coaching: B To conservative in the second half and that made their defense stay on the field to long. However, it was great to see the kids play disciplined football and hold on through adversity for the W.

Game Balls:

Drew Stanton, enough said.

Matt Trannon, break out game of his career.

SirDarean Adams, he also established himself as the bandit Coach Lansing wants and needs.

Jason Teague was suspended but when called upon produced.

Eric Smith, he had some bone rattling abusive hits that had to make the WR’s fearful when they went for a pass.

Kaleb Thornhill. Could have played better, but was consistent and ferocious.

David Herron, Jr., he was a huge presence.

The MSU defensive front: these guys had Quinn running all day. Conservative play calling by the coaching staff let ND back, not these kids.

Finally to Coach John “Lansing” Smith. Coach has taken some tough criticism, much deserved and much from me, and he kept plugging away. We see that in his kids now. We are not a fully turned around program yet, and I think he would agree. We are however on the right track and for that Coach: game ball!