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Faked out

Eric Prister | Monday, September 20, 2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. — As Michigan State kicker Dan Conroy lined up to attempt a 46-yard field goal to send the game into a second overtime, he was preparing for his first field goal try of the night. He never got that chance.

Instead, holder Aaron Bates rolled to the left and threw a touchdown to back-up tight end Charlie Gantt, propelling the Spartans to a 34-31 overtime victory over the Irish in Spartan Stadium.

“I saw the placeholder go up to No. 24 and tell him something, and something clicked in my head,” sophomore linebacker Manti Te’o said. “When does the holder ever go up and talk to somebody? But I just went down and tried to block a field goal.”

The fake field goal capped off an offensively driven game that saw over 900 yards in total offense between the two teams. Despite the back-and-forth scoring, though, the game came down to one play.

“It’s a difficult loss obviously,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “It came down to one play, and Michigan State executed that play. We did not. It was a hard fought game that went back and forth, and we came up short.”

Junior quarterback Dayne Crist carried the offense, completing 32 of his 55 passes for 369 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Theo Riddick pulled in 10 of those passes for 128 yards and a score.

“[Crist] did some good things,” Kelly said. “What he has to work on — some of the ball control, taking care of the football. We turned the ball over three times, twice in the red zone, one time on a fourth down situation when we’re trying to pick up a first down.”

Notre Dame got on the scoreboard first, capping off an 80-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Crist to junior receiver Michael Floyd. Floyd had six catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns against the Spartans.

“I think [the offense took another step this week],” Crist said. “I think that when we watch it tomorrow, that will be one of the positives. But we’re always going to look back and think ‘What if we made a play here or there, or executed a little better, what would have happened?'”

After an interception in the end zone by sophomore safety Zeke Motta, the Irish drove down the field, only to have their drive cut short when Floyd fumbled in the red zone.

“I was just disappointed,” Floyd said. “Disappointed with myself sometimes. I let the team down with my fumble and that was a play during the early part of the game I think it affected the team. You can’t do stuff like that.”

The Irish defense was able to force another three-and-out on Michigan State’s next series, and Notre Dame took over on Michigan State’s 27-yard line. They were unable to capitalize, however, as Crist’s pass on the first play of the drive was intercepted by sophomore Johnny Adams.

Michigan State took advantage of the change in momentum, driving 94 yards down the field and scoring on a Kirk Cousins pass to Keshawn Martin, which tied the game at seven. The Spartans rushed for 46 yards on the drive, including three straight runs by Bell which moved the Spartans from Notre Dame’s 42 to the 6-yard line.

“We hung in and we kept playing,” Spartan coach Mark Dantonio said. “Sometimes it wasn’t perfect but we ran the ball effectively. I don’t know how many times we have had three 200-yard rushing games in a row. So, we made quite a statement.”

The Spartans started the second half where they had left off, scoring on the second play when sophomore Edwin Baker ran 56 yards for the score, putting Michigan State ahead 14-7.

Crist then came out and completed five of his first six passes, finishing a 74-yard scoring drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Not to be outdone, Michigan State responded with its own 73-yard scoring drive which gave the hosts a 21-14 lead. Cousins completed every pass of the drive, and Le’Veon Bell finished off the drive with a 16-yard scamper, his lone score of the game.

Notre Dame responded once more, driving 77 yards on 11 plays to tie the game. Riddick caught three passes for 42 yards on the drive, including a 15-yard grab for a touchdown.

After the Irish defense forced another three-and-out, Notre Dame scored again on a 24-yard Crist pass to Floyd to give the Irish their first lead since the first quarter. After trading punts, though, Michigan State responded with a four-play, 56-yard scoring drive, which tied the game at 28.

The Spartans won the overtime coin toss and chose to defend first. After an incomplete pass and an Armando Allen run for seven yards, Crist completed a pass to Rudolph, but he came up just short of the first down marker.

“I was definitely at the stake,” Rudolph said. “I had the point in the corner of my eye and I thought I was right there when I caught the ball. But you know, they marked it short and we’ve just got to make plays.”

The Irish settled for a 33-yard field goal, and gave the Spartans their opportunity. Notre Dame’s defense forced the Spartans backwards four yards in three plays, when Michigan State lined up for a 46-yard field goal attempt. Instead, Dantonio called the fake field goal, and seconds later the Spartans were celebrating their third win of the year.

“We actually put it in on Wednesday,” Dantonio said. “It worked every time. We looked at all the different looks that they would have and felt like it was about timing. They lined up and tried to block it, and they had the first option covered. It was a great job by Conroy distracting the corner as he was coming up the field. To be honest, we made the call … and I said a little prayer. I said ‘Let’s go.'”