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First Half Rapid Reaction: Notre Dame 10, Michigan State 7

Joseph Monardo | Saturday, September 21, 2013

That was far from pretty. Notre Dame leads Michigan State, 10-7, after a half marked by stagnant play offensively, special teams blunders and penalties.

The Good: Notre Dame’s defense contained an impotent Spartan offense, allowing only one touchdown and 90 yards. Even with the absence of defensive lineman Sheldon Day, the Irish front line did its job. The secondary was also steadier than it had appeared during much of Notre Dame’s three games this season. Freshmen receivers Corey Robinson and William Fuller combined for three catches and 74 yards in the first quarter, and TJ Jones made a spectacular play toward the end of the half to turn a bold pass from Rees into Notre Dame’s first touchdown.

The Bad: Tommy Rees looked very shaky, overthrowing his receivers and forcing balls down the field into tight man coverage while also leading the Irish into several delay-of-game penalties. Several timely penalty calls against Michigan State’s secondary were the most effective contributors to Notre Dame’s offensive efforts. The running backs were ineffective, on the whole. Brindza missed one of his two field goals in the half and TJ Jones hurtled into a bouncing ball on punt return. It would have constituted a ghastly error had Notre Dame not recovered.

What We Learned: Notre Dame’s defense showed it could be very effective, and Michigan State’s did the same. The Spartans weren’t as stingy as their nation-best statistics suggested, but they made things tough for Rees and the Irish. We already knew Rees could stay in the pocket and take punishment, but he showed his toughness- if not his poise and accuracy – once again. He wants to challenge Michigan State’s corners by throwing deep sideline routes.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu