In a sloppy, mistake filled game the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were able to take advantage of several Spartan miscues – including an interception off of a failed trick play – to defeat Michigan State for the third consecutive time 17-13.
The game featured little in the way of offense. Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees was off most the day, completing just 14 passes of 34 attempts for 142 yards and a touchdown. Cam McDaniel was the Irish’s leading rusher, totaling 40 yards on 16 carries (2.5 average) and a touchdown. Michigan State faired no better. Starting quarterback Connor Cook went 16 for 32 for 145 yards and a score, though RB Jeremy Langford did have some success rushing for 68 yards on 14 carries (4.9 average).
If defense is your thing, you probably enjoyed this game. Michigan State was the #1 defense in yardage allowed heading into this week, and its unlikely they gave up enough to lose that distinction after this one.
But of you are like 98% of the rest of the college football loving population, this one had to make you cringe. Especially Rees’ performance. He missed on several passes, and on more than one occasion chucked it deep to receivers who were blanketed by the Spartan defensive backs. Even head coach Brian Kelly wasn’t sure what happened:
“He just missed open receivers,” Kelly said. “I mean, we had guys open. He just didn’t hit them.”
Rees had opened the season with three straight 300-yard performances through the air, but came up short against the Spartans. And don’t expect things to look much better in the coming weeks. Both Oklahoma and Arizona State rank in the top 35 in defense so far in 2013. The one thing Rees has going for him after this game is his lack of turnovers. So far, “Turnover Tommy” has only accounted for two all season (interceptions against Michigan), though he had a fumble reviewed and called back as an incomplete pass in the first quarter.
But the decision to put the game plan in his hands was a questionable one by the coaching staff. I understand the idea: Try to stretch the defense by throwing deep in order to open up run lanes. But Rees just isn’t the kind of player you can trust to win you games. He is strictly a game manager who has decent performances occasionally.
On the bright side, the defense played its best game by far, holding Michigan State to 254 total yards. Maybe the defense is starting to figure things out, or maybe MSU’s offense just really isn’t that good. I’m a homer, so we’ll go with option A for now. The coming weeks will tell us for sure. Notre Dame faces #14 Oklahoma next week. We’ll learn a lot about where this team is headed for 2013 after that game.
Follow me on Twitter @IrishColt1