Initial Analysis: Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3

notre dame msu
East Lansing, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive linesman Ronnie Stanley (78), defensive end Stephon Tuitt (7), and running back Cierre Wood (20) celebrate after their win at Spartan Stadium. Norte Dame won 20-3. (Photo - Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE)

Notre Dame went on the road and beat a top 10 team for the first time in a long, long time Saturday night with a 20-3 win over the 10th ranked Spartans of Michigan State thanks to a dominant defensive performance led by it’s front seven.  Here are my initial thoughts.


  • Everett Golson is improving and is getting closer to being the kind of quarterback we all think he can be, but he still has some work to do.  He looked more comfortable out on the field this week even though he had the least impressive numbers to date with a 14 of 32 performance for 178 yards and a touchdown to go along with 7 yards rushing and a second touchdown on the ground.  Most importantly though, Golson did not turn the ball over for the first time this season despite playing the toughest defense to date.
  • Cierre Wood is by far the best running back on this football team.  None of the other backs have his combination of size, speed, strength and above all else, vision.  Wood pulled out some great runs towards the end of the game and finished with 56 yards on 10 carries.
  • Side note, if Wood gets the handoff in the 4th quarter where Theo Riddick was tripped up with a field worth of green in front of him… he is still running.
  • Tyler Eifert was essentially taken out of the game by Michigan State and Notre Dame still moved the ball through the air somewhat although it was clear that the Irish passing game was very limited with big old #80 getting a heavy dose of the football.
  • Davaris Daniels played, but was not on the field much.  Looks like he was a little more banged up than we thought – hopefully he is 100% by next weekend when Michigan comes into town.
  • Great rebound game by the offensive line.  A week after Purdue put a hurting on them, they bounced back in a big way against a very good defensive front seven.  Hats off to Harry Hiestand, Chuck Martin, and Brian Kelly here.
  • GREAT catch by John Goodman in the end zone on his 2nd career touchdown.  Goodman only had one catch, but it may have been the most important one of the game.
  • Would have liked to see more short passes to TJ Jones and Roby Toma.  If Notre Dame can find a deep threat, both Toma and Jones could have some big games catching the quick throws from Golson and turning them into big gains.]
  • One major concern coming out of this game, however, is 3rd down conversions.  Notre Dame was just 1 of 14 on 3rd down tonight.


  • Absolutely dominating performance by the Irish defense out there tonight.  That was probably the best I have seen a Notre Dame defense play in a really long time.  Le’Veon Bell had a lot of hype coming in and the Irish D held him to  just 77 yards on 19 carries.
  • Notre Dame’s defensive line turned in a monster of a football game.  They got pressure on Andrew Maxwell all night without the need of extra blitzers.  Stephon Tuitt picked up another sack tonight giving him five on the season.
  • Another great performance by Prince Shembo.  Shembo’s prowess as a pass rusher was one of the 5 things I liked in the win over Purdue last week and he was in rare form tonight as well.  Shembo was a disruptive force and ended the game with 9 tackles and a sack.
  • Great performance by Manti Te’o after a very tough week off the field for the senior captain.  Te’o picked up another 12 tackles and another fumble recovery.
  • Notre Dame’s young secondary is starting to come of age.  Kei’Varae Russell, Bennett Jackson, and Elijah Shumate all had great games out there tonight and are looking better each week.  Major tests still lie ahead when they will be tested by the likes of Landry Jones and Matt Barkley, but so far this season they are passing their early tests.
  • Overall, tackling was much, much better this week.  There were very few missed tackles.  There were still some bad angles taken, but nothing like we saw a week ago against Purdue.
  • Sheldon Day had another nice game and looks to have a very bright future for the Irish on the defensive line.
  • The defense did a good job getting off the field tonight limiting Michigan State to just 5 of 17 on 3rd down and 0 for 2 on 4th down.

Special Teams

  • Ben Turk had one bad punt, but overall turned in another great game by pinning Michigan State inside their 20 yard line 4 times out of 8 punts.
  • Kyle Brindza had another strong outing too.  After a shaky start to his career, he’s hit on his last 4 attempts including a 47 yarder tonight that not only cleared the cross bar with plenty of distance, but split the uprights.  Brindza looks like he could be a good one.
  • Not much going on in the return game tonight.  George Atkinson only had 1 kick that was returnable and Davonte Neal didn’t have much room to work with.

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  1. Why should the color of the Qb ever come into the discussions? In my unit if you asked anyone his color, the answer is always “GREEN”. Just as any Irish player should answer as well. “Green!” Tis the color of envy!

    1. Sorry, ND has had black QB’s since the days of Tony Rice.

      Holiday, Battle, & Jackson.

      All good QB’s, they just never had the calliber of defence playing on the other side.

  2. Fantastic win for Kelly and Co.! I never imagined that the D would hold MSU to zero red zone appearances, zero touchdowns in EAst Lansing! Wow.

    We have alot to work with this year. Not to introduce a negative, but I’m getting more worried about our secondary. Now Slaughter is out for the year w/ an achilles too? Talk about life imitating art.


    1. Not to worry JDH. The younger players have learned quickly and the D Line is a true monster. It’s very difficult to pass when 1800 pounds of fury are breathing down your neck and all over your face.

      1. Agreed SW. The younger guys who’ve stepped it up in the secondary have been great. It’s just very difficult to replace a Wood and a Slaughter- not sure you really can. But we have much to be excited about. A throttling of Michigan is in order!

  3. GREAT win over a very good MSU team. The defense is a s good as you will find. The offense is improving as player after player emerges. Another plus was the sheepishly angered look on Mark May’s less than lovable face! The ‘Oneonta Oaf’ was deeply offended by the Irish victory. Add to that the high pitched intensity (squealing) of Brent ‘Mushburger’s’ voice each and every time the Irish touched a positve was thrilling! His bias against Notre Dame is intolerable. Add to the fact that he is a sub par announcer unworthy of his lofty rating and you get the idea. Both are annoying ‘Talking Heads’. It was karma to see the racist and the bigot choke on their own venom.

    Now on to the Wolverines who took notice. Go Irish! Hooah!

  4. Delta,

    I especially like the part where Herbie came to a new revelation that “ND is now relevant!” Brent said: “Well, ND has always been relevant and now in football again!” WOW, break out the green beer and belly up to the bar Irish Fans!!

    Here come the Irish!”

  5. What about it SteelfanRob,

    We just hopped past ‘Billy Buckeye Badness’ and the Urban Renewal Program in the AP Poll!

    Must have been Our New ESPN Boy’s Herb and Brent casting their vote for us! Hahahahaha love it!

    Here come the Irish!

    1. JC,

      Excellent win!

      Have things to improve but for the first time in a long time I have confidence that they will improve.

      The key is the D. If the D plays at this level or gets even better, then the O will have time to catch up. If that happens, the I see the Irish winning at least 10 games.

      1. Amen SteelFan,

        Yeah, this one felt real good
        and so good I forgot what it was like. An old fashion ass kicking delivered in Michigan States’ backyard!

        Hopefully, Michigan has the same medicine coming because we owe them one!

        Well on Monday back to being serious again, however in a better light and hope for more improvement!

        Here come the Irish!

  6. ND is up to #11 in the AP Poll, the highest ranking under Brian Kelly. If they can handle their business and beat Michigan, they should be able to enter the month of October in the Top 10.

    Sucks to hear that Slaughter is out for the season, but it will allow these younger guys to grow up quickly, which should bode well for next year.

  7. A defense will always be great if the defensive line can put pressure on the QB without blitzing. There is a lot of NFL caliber players on this Notre Dame defense. They will keep ND in games when they play the top teams this season.

    For the offense, they will struggle against the top teams, especially those who play defense as well as Michigan State can. If the offense can score enough points, not turn over the ball, along with dominating defensive performances, then that is a winning formula.

    Hopefully they can stay healthy. Jamoris Slaughter is out for the season.

  8. I love that Brian Kelly is not afraid to play any of his players no matter what year of school they are in. If you can play, you will play. I love that! The more players you play, the harder it is for the opposing team to key in on your team because all players play differently!

    1. You also keep your tream refreshed and get players valuable game time experience that can only be acheived by playing in a game. Remember Lou Holtz would use 4 to 5 different running backs in a game, 7 to 8 different recievers, 3 to 4 tight ends in the same game, etc. All players have different skill sets, strengths and weaknesses.

  9. Let me make a point here since there was some grumbling about BK’s deceision making in the 2nd half, whose team, by the way, did what they needed to do last night to earn a win. BK has done something (I believe) Weis, Willingham, and Davie COULD NOT DO. They beat sparty back to back years. I look forward to next week’s game. Again, one game at a time. Getting some young guys in who can play is nice and it will be paying off bigger dividends in the future in wins, recruiting, etc.

    Go Irish

    1. storespook, I am very happy about the win. I just am pointing out some areas that I see we need to improve in if we want to become a complete team.

      1. I gotcha on that. I too believe we have room to make improvement. I try to be as realistic & fair in my opinions too. Let’s just don’t forget we’re 3-0 for the first time in 10 years and the coaching staff have a role in that as well as the players that have been recruited here. Let’s just not so so damper after a big win. To get Herbstreit to make a positive statement about ND, something has to be right. Oh, Mark May, if you’re reading this (doubt it), take your crap you’ve spilled out of your mouth earlier this week on ESPN about how ND doesn’t win this game and shove up your ass, you big windbag. Sorry if I offended anyone with that.

        Go Blue & Gold

  10. Great win for the Irish last night! I think we are starting to see a team that will compete for national championships for years to come. Are they there yet? No, this team is very young and will experience some “growing pains” but they will only get better as they continue to play. What we are starting to see, though, is a team which possesses more athleticism, speed, and depth than we have seen from the Irish since the early-90’s. I was extremely impressed with their ability to play in a hostile environment against a very good team last night and completely control the game. Here are some of the things that impressed me the most:
    -the defensive front seven dominated the game (they are playing extremely well)
    -Golson played with poise and didn’t turn the ball over (he is going to be an extremely good college quarterback)
    -In the 4th quarter, the offensive line started controlling the line of scrimmage (would like to see more consistency here)
    -even though MSU really keyed on Eifert (limiting him to zero catches), we saw that ND has an abundance of playmakers on offense, which is something we haven’t had in quite some time
    -The Irish are playing with confidence and believe in themselves (the importance of which can’t be overly stressed)

    This Irish team is different than any we’ve seen in the past 15-20 years. They are for real. Are they going to navigate this unbelievably difficult schedule undefeated? No. They are going to lose some games due to their youth and a killer schedule – the most difficult in the country. However, at the end of it all, I think we are seeing the reemergence of Notre Dame Football.

    Go Irish!!

    1. I’ll add one thing that stuck out to me last night:

      – They have SWAGG and appear to be having fun!! Love Brian Kelly’s new approach with his players.

      On another note: I’m really going to miss Manti when he is gone after this season. His commitment to this team is the catalyst of this return to winning football. THANK YOU MR. TEO!!

  11. I agree with JC. Kinda got to go out of your way to bitch about last night. Can our offense improve? Definitely. But, considering we had a redshirt freshman qb in his first night road start in a very hostile environment against the #10 team in the country with a defense the pundits said was only behind Bama and LSU? I think he and the O did way better than could be expected.

    And defensively I saw a unit that looked like it would be comfortable in the SEC.

    First 3 and 0 since 2002. The irish are movin on up baby.


  12. So pumped up about our win last night!! I can’t recall the last time that a ND defense looked that good at getting pressure on the QB and stuffing the run. Granted, there is still room for improvement, which is all the more impressive! It’s interesting, but even though we lost Lynch, it doesn’t seem like our front men on D have lost a step.

    On a side note, though, something seems fundamentally wrong with our punt return set up. The opposition seems to just run straight up the middle, untouched, to meet Neal as he catches the ball. We’ve got to find a way to block better or change the scheme because until we can stop them from getting to Neal before the ball is in his hands, it won’t matter who we have back there as long as they can field it cleanly. The end result will continue to be a fair catch due to a lack of an opportunity to return it. The special teams coach needs to get this figured out soon, and maybe watch some film on some other teams that are effective returning punts for new ideas.

  13. I think Notre Dame should continue to use wristbands. It seemed to me using wristbands allowed Notre Dame to get the play calls in much easier than looking to the sideline.

  14. Hey, it’s time to give credit where credit is do! Our players did exactly what everyone was BITCHING about this GAME being a must win! But excuse me, they just kicked Michigan State’s ASS in East Lansing! Get over your nit-picking drivel! Kelly and staff deserve better fans for this game!!!

    I’ve been hypercritial of Kelly for 2 years but now he’s delivered so get on the train of improvement and support the progress! This game proves we are turning a corner so ACKNOWLEDGE IT!! Your blind if you don’t see the developing youthful talent on this team!

    Here come the Irish!

  15. While I enjoy analysis, and seeking opportunity for improvement, I just really enjoyed yesterday’s solid win! Great job Notre Dame!!

    1. I agree Rich. Last night was the first time in a long time that I went to bed with a sense of well being after watching Notre Dame play football.

  16. agree with above about play calling. there was that lull in the second half where ND offense couldn’t get much going for 4-5 series, but still impressive performance, can’t complain to much! Last note, the D looked unbelievably fast last night, I thought for a few plays we were an SEC defense.

  17. We need to start trying to block punts. We can still set up the return game while trying to block the punt. If we tried to block the punt where the Michigan State punter bobbled the snap, we would probably tackled the punter or recovered the ball right then and there.

  18. Also, Kelly needs to develop a killer instinct. Calling conversative play calls particularly in 2nd half against Michigan State was no good.

    1. I think Kelley did the right thing in going conservative. There were time when ND did and should not have. There are time to slow it down (14 point lead and great defense). It was the right decision.

      We all knew that ND needed an infusion of speed and that is how BK has recruited. Light years ahead of when he took over and it is becoming very evident. They are even winning over Herbstreit and that is saying something.

  19. We need to run outside the tackles not inside the tackles. So far this season, we have had success running the ball outside the tackles and no success running inside the tackles. If we are going to have success in the run game, we need to run outside the tackles using running plays such as the “stretch play”.

    1. On running plays designed to go up the middle, why is the running back taking the ball from the quarterback so deep in the backfield? That is great for draw plays when you trying to slow down an over aggressive defense but not regular runs because the lineman have to hold their blocks longer.

  20. That was a HUGE win, and yes, our defense pretty much controlled the line of scrimmage all night long. I have to say I was impressed with Kelly’s play calling, although I thought he got a little conservative in the second half. But with an inexperienced QB in a big game like that in a hostile environment, it obviously was the right decision. We certainly didn’t want to give Mich. State any momentum and let them get back into the game. Loved holding Bell to 77 yards rushing. Loved seeing Te’o have another outstanding game. Loved the poise of Golson and the Irish in general. I think we planted OUR flag in THEIR field in a big way.

  21. Our front 3 D guys destroyed their o-line to smithereens all night long. Further, talk about stuffing the run and bringing the “Shembo Heat!” ND Nation, if this improvement continues we will have a National Championship Defense in the making by year end.

    The good news is the offense is definately not far behind. Zero turnovers and EG proved he has elite QB skills without question. All of our offensive weapons have yet to arrive but make no mistake, we have serious talent on both sides of the ball. Excellent break out game against a top ten team!

    Here come the Irish!

  22. It was a good performance overall. Everett Golson was nearly intercepted four time just prior to halftime however and against a USC, OU type opponent he would have been. Utilizing Tyler Eifert as a blocker on outside sweeps/runs was effective and the difference in the critical fourth qtr. The D overall gets a B+.

    1. D gets a B+? They only yielded 3 pts and didn’t let Michigan State’s vaunted Offense get in the red zone. What exactly would constitute an A+, the Steelers Iron Curtain D coming back from the past to play out there?

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