The Irish (3-1) also took advantage of another questionable pass interference in the first half that set up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Rees to T.J. Jones and a holding penalty that kept alive a drive that led to a 41-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza. The Spartans (3-1) had 10 penalties for 115 yards by the Big Ten officials.
But Michigan State made some costly mistakes on its own, including a trick play after the Spartans appeared to be gaining momentum. After opening the second half with a field goal, receiver R.J. Shelton threw a pass that was intercepted by safety Matthias Farley and led to Notre Dame's go-ahead touchdown.
Michigan State had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter when Connor Cook threw a 19-yard pass to Bennie Fowler to drive to the Notre Dame 14, but the drive stalled. Irish linebacker Dan Fox tackled Nick Hill for a 5-yard loss, receiver Aaron Burbridge was called for a false start and Nick Hill dropped a shovel pass, one of several drops by Michigan State receivers, and the Spartans had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Michael Geiger.
The Spartans entered the game with the nation's No. 1 defense, allowing 50 yards a game rushing, 127 yards a game passing and its defense had scored four touchdowns, which is also how many touchdowns it had allowed. They stopped the Irish on the ground, holding them to 82 yards, and holding Rees to a season-low 142 yards passing after he opened the season with three straight 300-yard passing games. But the defense couldn't do enough to win as the game was decided by a touchdown or less for the ninth time in the past 14 meetings.
Rees was 14-of-34 passing as the Irish matched the school's longest winning streak under Bob Davie from 1997-99. The Irish won 19 straight under Lou Holtz 1987-90.
Cook was 16-of-32 passing for 135 yards while the Irish held Michigan State to 119 yards rushing, led by 68 yards by Jeremy Langford.
The key to the victory Saturday, though, was taking advantage of Michigan State's mistakes.
The costliest mistake, though, likely was the interception thrown by Shelton that shifted momentum Notre Dame's way after the Spartans were making progress against the Irish. Shelton threw into double coverage and picked it off. The Irish, who continually passed even on short running situations, appeared to surprise the Spartans with the run call as McDaniel raced into the end zone.
It was a defensive struggle in the first half, with both teams needing key mistakes by the opponent to score. It started in the first quarter when on third-and-9 from the Notre Dame 21, Darqueze Dennard was called for a hold to give the Irish a first down. On the next play, Rees completed a 37-yard pass to freshman Will Fuller, for his first career catch, to the Michigan State 32. That set up a 41-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza to give the Irish a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Irish responded with a key penalty in the second quarter when on fourth-and-1 from the Notre Dame 41, the Irish appeared to stop Nick Hill short of the first down. But defensive end Kona Schwenke was called for a personal foul, giving the Spartans the ball on the 25-yard line. Cooks, who was only 5-of-15 passing in the first half, completed a 12-yard scoring pass to MacGarrett Kings in the end zone to make it 7-3.
After Michigan State couldn't recover when a bouncing punt hit Notre Dame returner TJ Jones, the Irish took advantage of a questionable pass interference call on fourth-and-1, giving the Irish a first down on the Michigan State 19. A 19-yard pass from Rees to Corey Robinson set up a 2-yard TD catch by TJ Jones, who outmuscled Dennard in the end zone with 17 seconds left in the half.