Well now, who saw a Notre Dame blowout of Michigan State in Spartan Stadium coming? That is what happened this evening as Notre Dame marched into East Lansing looking for revenge from last year’s loss to Michigan State and walked out with a 20 point victory thanks to its ballhawking defense and opportunistic offense. A lot went right for the Irish in their rout of the Spartans, here’s our post game 6-pack.
Notre Dame’s passing attack was better, but still needs work
The Irish passing game was under the microscope all week after back to back subpar performances so the Irish came out throwing. Early on it looked like Brandon Wimbush might just have his first big game passing, but in the end, it was just a step in the right direction with more work to be done. Wimbush completed 14 of 20 for 173 yards and a touchdown on the night. After last week, that is a big step forward.
While the Irish were improved in the passing game though, there is still some work to be done here. It was good to see Equanimeous St. Brown involved early and Chase Claypool had a nice game, but the Irish still left some plays on the field. Based on what we are seeing so far, if the offense starts to make those plays, look out. Also, let’s also remember, this was just Brandon Wimbush’s fourth career start. He is headed in the right direction and tonight was a big step forward for him just like Everett Golson’s performance in East Lansing was in 2012.
Notre Dame’s defense continues to force turnovers
Notre Dame’s passing game didn’t have to do too much tonight because the Notre Dame defense forced three first half turnovers that lead to 21 points for the Irish. It started with Julian Love’s 59 yard pick six on Michigan State’s first possession of the game. Greer Martini then set up the Notre Dame with a short field after forcing a Brian Lewerke fumble. Shaun Crawford got into the mix with what turned out to be the play of the game in the 2nd quarter with his forced fumble at the goal line on LJ Scott.
The Notre Dame defense has now forced three turnovers in each of the last two weeks. Remember when I wrote earlier this week that the Notre Dame defense under Mike Elko had a lot of positive early returns? Of course you do. Ok, if you don’t I mentioned that Notre Dame forced just 14 turnovers all last season. With three more tonight, Notre Dame now has nine in four games and is on pace for 27 this season. That folks is big time improvement.
Shaun Crawford is one hell of a football player
I didn’t go into detail on Crawford’s big time play because it deserves its own spot in this week’s six pack. Shaun Crawford literally changed the entire complexion of the game this evening. LJ Scott was headed for the end zone and a touchdown that would have made the score 21-14, but Crawford wasn’t having any of it. He hit Scott before the goal line and jarred the ball loose before pouncing on it. In real time my first thought was, why is Crawford jumping on the ball, Scott was clearly in. Then I saw the referee signal touchback. When I saw the replays I was just in awe.
After that recovery, Notre Dame marched 80 yards down field to make it a 28-7 Notre Dame lead. Much like Tevon Coney’s sack in the Temple game, this play changed the entire course of the game. If Michigan State gets that touchdown it’s 21-14 and maybe Notre Dame is in for a dog fight the rest of the night.
Crawford had a hand in three turnovers last week alone so he now has four in four games this season. He had an interception and a blocked PAT return in his only full game of 2016 before injuries robbed him of another season too. So in five full games of collegiate action, Shaun Crawford has five turnovers. This is a special football player folks.
Notre Dame out Michigan Stated Michigan State
Michigan State has made its name under Mark Dantonio by being a hard nosed, disciplined football team that won by limiting mistakes and feasting on their opponents mistakes. The only team that did that tonight was wearing gold helmets. Notre Dame didn’t put up gaudy stats like they did last week, but they still won the game by 20 points because they limited their mistakes and they capitalized on all of their opponents mistakes. Those three MSU turnovers resulted in 21 Notre Dame points and a 28-7 half time lead.
By the second half, Notre Dame made Michigan State grind out every yard and every first down. The Spartans moved the ball between the 20’s but once they got to the redzone, the Irish defense stepped up. They added a late garbage time touchdown, but every yard they gained was a struggle.
Look what happens when you get Dexter Williams the ball
Dexter Williams got to touch the football int he first half for a change and look what happened. He scored a touchdown through the air and on the ground. Williams touched the ball nine times tonight and he scored two touchdowns. All this kid does is score touchdowns when he is given the chance and he proved that again tonight.
Williams didn’t play much in the second half with Notre Dame feeling comfortable with riding Deon McIntosh with the Irish up big, but Williams showed what he is capable of again this weekend. He’s scored touchdowns in three of four games this year despite just being a complementary back. Josh Adams is still the #1 back, but we say again, get the ball in Dexter’s hands.
Michigan State still racked up almost 500 yards
For all of the positive tonight, Michigan State did still move the ball pretty well even before the garbage time yards and points from the Spartans so there are still some things to shore up on the Irish defense. Notre Dame is definitely forcing more turnovers and getting to the quarterback better this year, but then the bar was set really low in both areas. As Notre Dame continues to get used to the Mike Elko defense, however, the Irish will need to cut down on the yards because better offenses won’t be as kind once they get near the endzone.
Overall though, there was not a lot to be upset with in this one. Notre Dame beat a team that always plays the Irish tough and most (myself included) thought this one would be much closer. Notre Dame turned this one into a bit of a snoozer though and now sits at 3-1 with a spot in the Top 25 likely coming this week. Notre Dame has a tune up against Miami of Ohio before a very winnable game in Chapel Hill and then a bye before USC comes to town. The same USC team that just struggled again this week with another unranked opponent.