#12 Spartans prevail, 36-28

Consistency proved to be an issue yet again for the young, #18 ranked Irish, as the team failed to follow up an impressive 39-10 win against Nevada last week at Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish lost at home to a Michigan State team that totaled 501 yards of offense, the second such time the Irish defense allowed 500-plus yards (517 in loss at Texas) in just three games thus far. While the defense is young, the biggest surprise was on the offensive side of the ball, which aside from an early DeShone Kizer 14-yard run, was silenced by the Spartan defense in the first half.

The turning point of the game occurred when the Irish, after taking a 7-0 lead and holding the Spartan offense scoreless in the first quarter, caught an unfortunate break on an under-kicked punt by Michigan State’s Jake Hartbager. Hartbager, who punted seven times that day, was bailed out as his poor punt deflected off a member of the Irish return team, leading to a Spartan recovery in Irish territory. One play later, fifth-year quarterback Tyler O’Connor threw a 38-yard touchdown to wide receiver Donnie Corley, who ripped the ball out of a Notre Dame secondary which struggled all night long.

With the momentum on their side, Michigan State took a 15-7 lead into halftime, a run which continued into the second half. Running back Gerald Holmes capped off a spurt of 36 unanswered Spartan points on a 73-yard run, giving the Spartans a 29-point advantage with only three minutes left in the third quarter. With their hopes for college football playoffs on the line, the Irish put up a fight and rattled off 21 straight points, a comeback led by none other than their offensive star, Kizer. This was simply too little too late, however, as the Spartans were able to run out the clock, preserving an 8-point lead and improving to 3-0 this season. The Irish fell to 1-2.

What’s Next?

Nine games remain on the Irish’s schedule, headlined by an October night game vs. Stanford and the regular season finale at the University of Southern California. The Irish will finish up their three-game home stand next week against a very beatable Duke team, who also sits at 1-2 this year. Barring a collapse, Notre Dame will still find themselves in a bowl game in December; additionally, if the team can show more of their “4th-Quarter vs. Michigan State” selves, they could still end up with nine or ten wins, a steep goal that would certainly provide optimism for the future of Brian Kelly’s program.

Reason for Optimism

While nobody expected the pre-season ranked #10 Irish to start the season 1-2, there are still reasons for the Irish faithful to believe in the future of the team:

  1. True freshman safety Devin Studstill: Wearing #14, Studstill has made the most of his playing time, seeing significant action in all three games. Against Michigan State, he tallied his first career college interception, a deflected ball to end a Spartan drive that was deep into Irish territory. A three-star recruit last year, Studstill just might be the piece that picks up this secondary for the remainder of this season, and certainly beyond.
  2. The incoming Irish recruiting class: Headlined by this weekend’s acquisition of four-star defensive end Donovan Jeter, Notre Dame currently has the fifth-best recruiting class nationwide, according to ESPN. Pair this to the developing young talent that the Irish possess, and there is reason to be encouraged.
  3. Deshone Kizer: While many already foresee Kizer entering the 2017 NFL Draft, who knows what will go through the junior quarterback’s mind. A potential 2017-2018 Irish team led by a senior Kizer doesn’t just scream success, but whispers even the faintest sounds of Heisman Potential.

Chris Wittig is a freshman planning on studying finance and actuarial science. He runs his own lawn care business back home in Rochester, New York. Contact him at cwittig@nd.edu.