Notre Dame provides true test for MSU

Spartans enter South Bend looking to find out "who is who" on their team

Year in and year out, Michigan State's game against Notre Dame provides the Spartans with an early season test.

This season as much as any other, the meeting with the Irish will give MSU a real understanding of where its football team is.

"It's a high profile game for us," MSU coach Mark Dantonio said. "We're going to find out a little bit more about who is who in our football team as move forward. It's going to be exciting to see that."

Coming off a win in which the offense seemed to put the pieces together after two lackluster games, it is of particular importance to the offensive side of the ball.

"If you look in the big scheme of things it was exciting (to have a big performance)," offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. "It was satisfying, but it was one game and it was against Youngstown State, taking nothing away from them, but it was against Youngstown State and we realize that.

"We will obviously have a much better feel of where we are offensively come Saturday late afternoon."

Warner praised the way the Spartans threw the ball, caught the ball and blocked up front against the Penguins, and said he wants to learn if MSU can do the same thing this weekend against Notre Dame.

"We're trying to get somewhere close to what we did last week, to be real, because Notre Dame's obviously a very good defense," Warner said. "We're just trying to execute and move the football."

While the offense will look to replicate its recent success, the top-ranked MSU defense has produced three solid games to open the season but will face its biggest test thus far Saturday.

"I think this is our first big challenge, whether they've struggled the first three games or whatever they've done the past few weeks," senior linebacker Max Bullough said. "It's definitely the best personnel that we've seen. We are ready for a big test. We are ready to go on the road."

Senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard agreed with Bullough and that it will test the Spartans secondary.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge for us," Dennard said. "This is the best receiving corps we have gone against so far. They got a bunch of great receivers that make a lot of plays for them and going against Tommy Rees, he's a good quarterback and gets them in the right checks and the right plays.

"It's definitely going to be a great test for us this week."

Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi downplayed the need for MSU to prove anything and said it just a game to try to win.

"I don't care if they rush for 300 yards, if we win it doesn't matter," Narduzzi said. "But you know, it's Michigan State vs. Notre Dame. What else is there to it? It's a big game, it's a highlighted game and one we're gonna go after."

While they go after it, Dantonio said a win is important for the way it sets the Spartans up moving forward.

"It's very important in the fact that we can go 4-0, sit for a week and get in the Big Ten Conference," he said. "We have to go to Iowa for our next game after and it prepares us for the environment, even though the environment is different.

"It gives our guys a chance to play in what I would say is a marquee game, which is what we're going to be seeing beyond this game. All these things we can learn from."

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