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Comeback cut short

Ken Fowler | Monday, September 19, 2005

Michigan State running back Jason Teague foiled Notre Dame’s hopes for a dramatic comeback win Saturday when his overtime touchdown run lifted the Spartans (3-0) to a 44-41 victory over the Irish (2-1) in Charlie Weis’ first home game as head coach.

The 19-yard run, off an option pitch from Spartans quarterback Drew Stanton, capped a game in which the Irish fell behind 38-17 with 5:07 remaining in the third quarter. Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn turned in a record-setting, 487-yard, five-touchdown performance while leading the Irish back to tie the score at 38 with 2:31 left in regulation, forcing overtime.

But Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton had success of his own, completing 16-of-27 passes for 327 yards and rushing for another 28.

Stanton’s threat to run, which Notre Dame contained throughout the afternoon, nevertheless led to the Spartans’ backbreaking overtime score.

On first and 15 from the Notre Dame 19-yard line, after the Spartans defense held Notre Dame to a field goal in the opening overtime possession, Stanton rolled right and delivered the ball to his running back just before being hit by Irish linebacker Brandon Hoyte. Teague darted past the Irish secondary and high-stepped into the end zone, securing the Spartans’ fifth consecutive win at Notre Dame Stadium.

Though Notre Dame scored three times in the final 17 minutes of regulation to erase the 21-point deficit, Weis said his team should not be happy about their performance, which included 12 penalties for 92 yards.

“I told them that you don’t get any medals for trying,” he said. “I told them not to feel good about themselves when they came back and tied the game back when they’re down three scores.

“Just like there’s team wins, I felt like this was a team loss.”

Hoyte said the Irish players felt the same way their coach did.

“There’s definitely nothing to be happy about,” he said. “I think there was a collective consensus throughout the team of pain.”

Irish wide receiver Jeff Samardzija tied the game with a four-yard touchdown reception from Quinn late in the fourth quarter. Samardzija finished the game with six catches for 96 yards and a career-high three touchdowns but was not content with evaluating only his individual performance.

“It kind of doesn’t mean that much when you don’t get a victory,” he said.

Michigan State took its largest lead of the game at 38-17 when Stanton found wide receiver Matt Trannon (five catches, 136 yards, two touchdowns) for a 65-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter.

Quinn responded with a near-flawless, nine-play, 80-yard drive that took just 3:44. Quinn was 8-for-8 for 93 yards on the possession, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to running back Darius Walker that cut the lead to 14.

“At the end, it was a do-or-die situation,” Quinn said. “We shouldn’t have to have our backs up against the walls to perform like that.”

Quinn completed 33-of-60 pass attempts for a personal best 487 yards and a school-record five touchdown passes, but he was upset with the offense’s shaky play in the first thirty minutes.

“Especially the way we played in the first half, it was just really not what we wanted coming into this game,” Quinn said. “It all comes down to wins and losses, and today we couldn’t pull it out at the end.”

Michigan State extended its 7-point halftime lead just 18 seconds into the third quarter when SirDarean Adams returned a Quinn interception thirty yards for a touchdown.

Notre Dame’s defense stiffened after allowing the long touchdown pass to Trannon and forced Michigan State to try an unsuccessful 53-yard field goal with 13:46 left in the fourth quarter.

“I think we stepped up when it was needed,” Hoyte said.

The Irish took over on offense when kicker John Goss’ attempt fell short and right, and they wasted no time cutting the lead to seven. On 3rd-and-10 from the Notre Dame 36, Quinn found Maurice Stovall for a 50-yard reception down the middle to the Spartan 14.

Two plays later, Quinn again found the 6-foot-5 senior for a 7-yard score.

“Maurice obviously played well,” Quinn said. “[Throwing to Stovall] was part of what we wanted to try to do coming into this the game with his size and ability.”

Stovall had a career-best 176 yards on eight catches, but, like Samardzija, he said any satisfaction he had in his career day was swept away in defeat.

Michigan State opened the game’s scoring on its second drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Stanton that floated over safety Tom Zbikowski’s head and landed in the arms of Trannon.

The Irish responded on the ensuing possession, mixing short passes and inside runs en route to a 13-play, 70-yard drive. The only long play during the sequence was Quinn’s 18-yard touchdown strike over the middle to Samardzija.

Stanton and the Spartans regained the lead three minutes later with an 11-yard scoring pass to Kellen Davis.

The Irish took their only lead in regulation, 17-14, when Quinn hit Samardzija for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 8:43 left in the first half. The play occurred just 1:06 into the Irish drive, which started when Notre Dame tight end John Carlson forced Spartan return specialist Kyle Brown to fumble on the 32 and Chinedum Ndukwe dove on the ball at the Michigan State 34.

Irish kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick nailed a 48-yard field goal on the preceding possession.

Stanton reclaimed the lead for the Spartans just before the half with a 3-yard touchdown run.