You never know what will happen in a rivalry game. Four days prior to the game, both coaches are saying all the right things, using all the PR tricks to explain to the media what they hope their respective teams hope to accomplish in the game.
For the Irish, it was about the defense playing well and getting quarterback Deshoun Kizer off to a good start offensively. Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio wanted to establish the run game and get pressure on Kizer.
Kizer opened up the scoring when he led the Irish on a 10-play, 91-yard drive capped by his 14 yard scamper into the corner of the end zone. The young signal caller finished the game with 344 yards in the air and 4 total touchdowns. So you can say that Brian Kelly got what he wanted, but the down side to that is that the bulk of the scoring came late in the game when the Irish were trying to rally back.
The Spartans ran off 36 unanswered points by taking advantage of turnovers. Their defense was sound when they didn’t force mistakes from Notre Dame and the turnovers meant short field drives for the Sparty offense. Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor was no stranger to the offense even though he was somewhat inexperienced as a starter. O’Connor started a few games last season while senior Connor Cook was nursing an injury. His biggest win as a starter prior to this point was against Ohio State last year in Columbus. He did what was asked of him, which was not to make any big mistakes. O’Connor was 19-26 for 241 yards with 2 touchdowns with 43 yards on the ground. Managing the passing game while getting great support from the running game. The Spartans had 260 yards and 3 touchdowns from their rushing attack.
For the Irish, the run game was abandoned late in the third when the Spartans went up 36-7 after running back Gerald Holmes went 73 yards for a touchdown run.
It was certainly a valiant effort in front of their home crowd, the Irish rallied and cut the deficit to 8 at one point. Even with the momentum in hand, the Michigan State defense was able to respond, clamping down so their team could hang on for the win.