It wasn't pretty, but Notre Dame improved to 3-1 on the season with a gutty 17-13 win over the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday afternoon. On a day when the Irish couldn't get much going offensively, it was their defense that came up time and time again for Brian Kelly.
Our Notre Dame blog, One Foot Down, wasn't too pleased with how the team executed at times, but was happy with the win regardless:
In a game that was at times grinding and at others flat out sloppy, the Irish were able to hold on behind McDaniel's runs and a Michigan State team that just could not get out of its own way on defense and could not do much of anything on offense.
But again, the Irish were able to hold on against a Big Ten opponent for the second straight week. The Irish defense was particularly stout on Michigan State's last offensive drive. Led by Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo and Louis Nix, the Irish forced Andrew Maxwell, filling in for an injured Connor Cook, backwards. The Spartans final drive? Minus-2 yards on four plays.
On the Michigan State side, their blog writers were simply baffled at the play calling and offensive gameplan for the Spartans. They feel changes need to be made if the team is going to salvage anything of worthiness from this season:
How does MSU end up throwing the ball more than they run it in a game where they never trailed by more than seven? How can the identity of this team, right now, be a balanced attack, when every data point against a DI opponent has screamed to unbalance it. Why is Cook throwing 33 times and running it three times? Why was the fourth quarter 17 passes to five runs? Someone help me understand. It's clear that throwing the ball, because every second pass is an incompletion, is just putting MSU behind the chains. And that often requires the sort of long third down conversion that the other, completed, pass, because it only averages a little over nine yards, often can't even convert. It's bad strategy and our QBs haven't even thrown any picks yet, which, thank God, because we all saw what happens when MSU throws an interception and it's not pretty.
On a day where the conference played pretty well as a hole, Off Tackle Empire was disappointed with how the Spartans and a couple of other teams played:
In non-conference, the B1G went 7-2, with no real "upsets," but certainly some disappointment for Sparty and the Hoosiers that they couldn't make that a perfect run. We also some both types of ugly wins -- ugly wins where fans shake their head and wonder why the team played so sluggish/poorly (Michigan, Northwestern) and ugly wins where you wonder why on Earth you even scheduled such a weakling (Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa, Penn State).