CFN Thoughts - Notre Dame Ds Up On MSU
Notre Dame QB Everett Golson
Notre Dame QB Everett Golson
Posted Sep 15, 2012

CFN's Instant Analysis on Notre Dame's tough win over the Spartans

Richard Cirminiello

Brian Kelly is adapting to the talent around him.

This isn't Kelly's Cincinnati. Or Central Michigan. Or Grand Valley State, for that matter. The Irish aren't going to blow through opponents with a fancy, high-powered offense that stretches defenses in all directions. It'd be nice, but that certainly doesn't appear to be the personality of this team. And no one seems to be complaining in South Bend.

Notre Dame went into East Lansing and beat Michigan State at its own bare-knuckle game—tough at the point of attack, able to pick up yards on the ground when needed and downright cantankerous on defense. The Irish are playing so well on D that it's able to survive on a night when the offense converts just 1-of-14 third-down attempts. 1-of-14. But, hey, when you hold your first three opponents to a combined 30 points, a swank offense can be a little overrated.

By the way, now that Michigan State has been humbled at home, who's carrying the banner for the Big Ten?

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

Everybody slow down.

Sure Notre Dame looked great against the tenth ranked team in the nation. Sure, the Irish won convincingly on the road by using a smothering defense and an opportunistic offense. It should be the type of win that says "we've arrived."

But it's not.

It was only a matter of time before Michigan State met it's Waterloo. For starters, the team lost all-everything QB Kirk Cousins to graduation. If that wasn't enough, with him went the team's top three pass-catchers. All told, Sparty only returned four starters on the side of the ball responsible for scoring points. And as good as Le'Veon Bell can be, he can't do it all on his own.

Tonight showed us exactly that.

Smothered by a swarming and aggressive Notre Dame defense bent on stopping the run, it was always going to be up to junior QB Andrew Maxwell to win the game through the air for MSU. Needless to say, it didn't happen. He'll be fine in the end, but it's just too much to ask for a new starting QB--with nary a cache of weapons around him--to move the ball on a consistent basis. Once the Irish got the lead, it was all over.

So yeah, Notre Dame is better. Notre Dame is fairly good and maybe on the track towards relevancy again. But let's reserve judgement until we get a better sampling of games against teams that can put more pressure on the Irish defense. They'll certainly be plenty of opportunities with the team staring down the barrel at Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma, and USC as future opponents.

Make it through that minefield and then let's chat.

By Matt Zemek

Michigan State's defense performed poorly on two Notre Dame possessions Saturday night. The Spartans did not smother the Fighting Irish or come close to pitching a shutout, but they allowed only six points after halftime and turned in an entirely credible performance. The cornerstone of coach Mark Dantonio's team did little to diminish its reputation. A solid B-plus grade would seem to be more than reasonable for Gang Green. At home, at night, against an opponent that was fortunate to beat Purdue at home a week ago, that probably – not definitely, but probably – should have been enough to win.

It wasn't even close.

In fairness to Notre Dame's offense, the Irish did not need to do much of anything in the second half. Had Brian Kelly's team been shut out after halftime, it still would have won by a double-digit margin. There was no need for Kelly to take risks… because his defense put this game on lockdown from the start.

This game was going to show just how much Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell had improved after a shaky season opener against Boise State. Clearly, Maxwell is not ready for prime time. Kirk Cousins made plenty of mistakes in his career, but MSU's former signal caller could push the ball down the field and cancel his mistakes with even bigger home-run passes. The utter absence of any vertical threat in the Spartans' passing attack left them utterly helpless against a Notre Dame defense that wisely loaded the tackle box to take away running back Le'Veon Bell.

Credit Notre Dame's defense – especially a heartbroken Manti Te'o, who lost two loved ones this past week – for taking such complete ownership of this contest.

By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn

Shake down the upset, apparently. In Notre Dame's latest installment of "I swear, we're back," the Irish drummed Michigan State at their place with punishing defense and heady athleticism. Things not recently associated with the school.

When Everett Golson went to Notre Dame, few people took notice. After all, he was a lightly known recruit from South Carolina. But the frosh ran for a score and threw for another, but the story was how inept MSU's offense looked against a top flite defense. The Irish packed the box and allowed 2 yards per carry, and 237 overall. The Irish, on the other hand, ran for 3.6 per carry, allowing them to control the clock when it was absolutely necessary. The narrative on Michigan State never changes. They're almost there a lot, but not quite over the hump. Their early season hubris was put in check tonight. Notre Dame on the other hand? It feels like we've seen this script before. The one that says "they're back." We shall find out against the other Michigan team in seven calendar days.

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

With both teams entering the game 2-0, tonight's contest would let the college football world know which team was a national championship contender, and which team was not quite ready for primetime.

As the final gun sounded, the answer was clear: 2012 could be the year that Notre Dame returns to a BCS bowl game. The Irish finally picked up the first marquee victory of the Brian Kelly regime, upsetting Big Ten favorite Michigan State in East Lansing.

While defeating a top ten team on the road is impressive in and of itself, its time to give the Irish defense the credit that it deserves. No one thought much of about it after the defense turned solid but not spectacular performances against Navy and Purdue. However, after shutting down Le'Veon Bell tonight, there should be no question that the Irish front seven can stop any ground game that it faces this year.

How else could they win a game where they finished just 1 of 13 on third down conversions?

On other hand, Michigan State isn't quite where it needs to be yet. Even though the defense was rock solid, the Spartans had no answers on offense once the Irish took Bell out of the equation. Unless MSU can find a few weapons in the passing game, it won't be able to score points against the physical defenses in the Big Ten.