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ND’s recent struggles against MSU no secret

Matt Gamber | Friday, September 18, 2009

A quick glance at the stats indicate that Notre Dame holds a 44-27-1 advantage in its all-time series with Michigan State – a pretty good marker of success for the Irish program.

But anyone who has watched Notre Dame’s match-ups with the Spartans over the past decade or two knows the tale hasn’t been that pretty for the Irish.

Michigan State has won nine of the last 12, including the last six games in Notre Dame Stadium. The three Irish wins in that period came by a total of 14 points, and in two of those games, a favored Notre Dame squad needed late comebacks to overcome the Spartans.

The lesson – even if the Irish look to be the better team on paper, when it comes to Michigan State, anything can happen. But by now, Notre Dame knows that.

“We know Michigan State is a good football team, and you guys are all aware of the history that they have in this place,” Irish safety Kyle McCarthy said. “We are going to be ready for them.”

There isn’t much talk of the possibility that Notre Dame will overlook Michigan State, even as the Spartans are coming off a tough loss to Central Michigan. Last week’s Irish defeat at Michigan, combined with their recent struggles against Michigan State, will have?Notre Dame on high alert.

“Yeah, we are aware of the streak they have here,” McCarthy said. “[Special teams captain Scott Smith] and myself were here two years ago. That was a pretty disheartening loss. Obviously the last time they were here it was tough.”

The streak itself, however, won’t overwhelm Notre Dame by any means. Smith pointed out that while the Irish have indeed struggled against the?Spartans at home in recent years, the players on the current roster have only been around for one, maybe two, of the losses in the Battle for the Megaphone.

“Really the only thing that’s been somewhat within our control is what’s happened since we’ve been here,” Smith said. “From my perspective, I don’t really look back to what happened in 1993 or anything like that.

“So for me, it’s just focusing on since I’ve been here and what I can do and our team can do to hopefully switch that in the other direction.”

The Observer’s Moments You Should Remember in the ND-MSU Series

2006: No. 12 Notre Dame 40, Michigan State 37It took a rain-soaked miracle comeback for Brady Quinn and the heavily favored Irish to escape East Lansing. Terrail Lambert took an interception of Drew Stanton 27 yards to the house to give Notre Dame the lead with 2:53 to play, and Lambert sealed the victory with another pick on Michigan State’s final drive, prompting one of the best tirades in recent memory from Detroit radio man Mike Valenti (“Maaaaaake plays!”).

2005: Michigan State 44, No. 10 Notre Dame 41 (OT)The Spartans withstood a furious Irish rally, hanging on to win in overtime before planting the Michigan State flag at midfield in Notre Dame Stadium. Quinn set career-highs with 487 yards passing and five touchdowns, but that wasn’t enough for Notre Dame to come all the way back from a 21-point third quarter deficit. The Irish managed only a field goal on their opening overtime possession, and Michigan State’s Jason Teague scored on a 19-yard run to hand Charlie Weis a loss in his first game at Notre Dame Stadium.

2002: No. 12 Notre Dame 21, Michigan State 17Quarterback-turned-wide receiver Arnaz Battle took a short pass 60 yards to the house with 1:15 on the clock to give the Irish the win in a game they almost gave away. Notre Dame led 14-3 to start the fourth quarter, but the Spartans took a 17-14 edge with less than two minutes remaining when Charles Rogers out-leapt two defenders for a spectacular 21-yard touchdown catch. Notre Dame’s victory was its first over the Spartans since 1994, and first-year coach Tyrone Willingham improved his record to 4-0 with the big win over his alma mater.

2000: No. 23 Michigan State 27, No. 16 Notre Dame 21A freshman quarterback throws for a late score to upset a favored Irish squad – sound familiar? Spartans quarterback Jeff Smoker connected with Herb Haygood for a 68-yard score on a 4th-and-10 with 1:48 to play to lead Michigan State to a big home victory. Notre Dame had rallied back from a 20-7 deficit behind the strong running of Julius Jones, as then-quarterback Arnaz Battle was out with a broken wrist. Jones ran in a score from two yards out to give the Irish a 21-20 lead with under eight minutes to play, but Michigan State’s late score gave the Spartans their fourth straight win over Notre Dame.

1966: No. 1 Notre Dame 10, No. 2 Michigan State 10Even a Irish-Spartans discussion focused on recent matchups wouldn’t be complete without a mention of “the game of the century.” A banged-up Notre Dame team fell behind 10-0 early but tied the game with a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. A late interception put the Irish on the Michigan State 18-yardline with a chance to take the lead, but the Spartans defense held and Notre Dame missed a field goal. The Irish took the ball back with 1:10 to play on their own 30, but coach Ara Parseghian opted not to risk a turnover with starting quarterback Terry Hanratty knocked out. Notre Dame instead ran out the clock to preserve the tie en route to a 9-0-1 season and a national championship.