SOUTH BEND, IN--Notre Dame Stadium was buzzing as the Fighting Irish went into the locker room at halftime only trailing Michigan State 17-14, but what they saw from the Spartans in the second half was a tough and determined team.
Devin Thomas gave his team great field position with an impressive 52-yard kickoff return to the Notre Dame 45-yard line to start the second half.
"Really it's just the players," said Thomas about the team's newly found resolve to win.
"We came together and told ourselves we need to get it done, we came out in the second half and we were on fire," said Devin Thomas
From there, Brian Hoyer led the offense down the field with authority for 45 yards on 9 plays, connecting with freshman Mark Dell for a 16-yard touchdown.
"We really came out fired up and ready to go, our offensive line did a great job on that drive of being physical, it was a big statement to open the second half," said Brian Hoyer.
Our plan all along was go after things, we came out and we scored, and we made some big plays, said Coach Mark Dantonio.
Another huge play came with 9:49 left in the third quarter when the Irish faced a crucial fourth-and-one play in Michigan State territory.
MSU was leading 24-14 at the time and were seeing a running attack of Travis Thomas and James Aldridge coming at them.
Linebacker Eric Gordon provided the big play on the fourth down, stuffing Aldridge in the backfield, forcing the Irish to turn the ball over on downs.
"That was big," said Gordon. "Our whole defensive line put so much pressure on their offensive line and we just told ourselves we had to get the job done."
Gordon said the key is the team's mindset to come out after halftime like it's a new game.
"Every time we come out after halftime we think of the game as 0-0. I felt like we played very well, we came out and executed a little more, we didnt allow very many big runs except for one play, it was a huge win because it was a rivalry game," said Gordon.
As a defense, Michigan State did not give up a touchdown in the second half much less any points at all.
They recorded four sacks, forced one fumble, and showed why they are one of the top teams in the nation at rushing the quarterback.
Mark Dantonio becomes the only first-year coach at Michigan State to win his first four games of the season, as GSN's Joe Torok talked about earlier in the week.
Devin Thomas led Michigan State with four catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. He added three returns for 98 yards.
Otis Wiley, Travis Key and Kaleb Thornhill led the Spartans defensively with six tackles each. Jonal Saint-Dic continued to shine brightly adding a sack and two tackles for loss and four tackles overall.
Mike Gyetvai was a surprise starter at right guard in place of the injured Roland Martin. Gyetvai's presence strengthened the MSU offensive front and he is a candidate to move to left guard when Martin returns.
The Irish loss means that for the first time in their history, Notre Dame has started out a season 0-4.
Michigan State has now completed their non-conference schedule and will kick off their Big Ten schedule next week in Madison, Wisconsin against the highly-ranked 4-0 Badgers.
Thomas: "We Came Out On Fire"
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