So bewildered were the Irish that they sat and watched as the Spartans disrespected Notre Dame's Stadium, tearing up turf and planting a flag at the 50-yard line as if to say they owned the place.
Unfortunately the Spartans can almost stake claim after stealing five wins in a row at Notre Dame Stadium.
As awful as that sight was to see for Notre Dame fans, one can't forget the big picture, and in a few quotes by Irish head coach Charlie Weis after the game, it's obvious he understands the big picture.
"I told them that they don't give out medals for trying, that they shouldn't feel good about themselves for coming back," said Weis sternly after Saturday's loss.
"People are down, but I just want them to know that it's not okay to lose. You can't feel good about coming back."
Weis is correct that losing isn't OK when you're at Notre Dame. It happens, and has happened far too often lately, but it's not OK.
But despite the loss, there are plenty of positives to take from this game.
The Irish Have A Gamer, Too
Leading into the game the hype was about Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton. Stanton clearly is a special quarterback and played like one on Saturday, but Quinn also impressed when under fire. One thing we didn't know about quarterback Brady Quinn before Saturday's game was if he had the something special that the great quarterbacks have—the ability to lead his team to victory when behind.
Quinn didn't quite finish the job, but he certainly put on a show. After throwing an early second half interception that lead to a Spartan touchdown, Quinn bounced back and moved the Irish to the one-yard line before fullback Asaph Schwapp fumbled. Most players would have a hard time bouncing back from such a devastating blow.
The Spartans eventually increased their lead to 38-17, and then Quinn went on a terror, completing 15-of-19 and three touchdown passes to tie the game 38-38.
Quinn's five touchdown passes were the most of his career, but he couldn't quite connect in overtime with three failed attempts at the end zone. In his defense he did face considerable pressure on all three passing attempts.
But the important thing to take out of Quinn's performance on Saturday is, at least for this day, he had that something special you see in the great quarterbacks. His performance is certainly something this team can build upon.
Weis is correct in that the comeback shouldn't mean anything since the team didn't win, at least that's the way they team should look at it.
However, the team, and more importantly, the defense didn't quit when all hope appeared lost.
After surrendering their 38th point of the game, the Notre Dame offense narrowed the lead 38-24, but the Spartans were driving and had the ball first and 10 on the Notre Dame 24-yard line. Corey Mays sacked Stanton for a 12-yard loss and the Irish defense eventually held after Spartan kicker John Goss missed a 53-yard field goal attempt.
That stand sparked the Irish defense and they held the Spartans to three straight three-and-out series allowing the Notre Dame offense to get the ball back and score three straight times to tie the game.
Weis is right that the comeback didn't amount to a hill of beans in the win-loss column, but you can be assured it mattered and will matter for the rest of the season.
The Irish actually are a very similar team to Michigan State. They can and will score points, and their defense is young and inexperienced and will give up points. Spartan coach John L. Smith said that his offense will have to carry the load until their defense catches up—so will it go for the Irish.
As ugly as it seemed at times out there for the Irish, they did score 41 points and almost stole a victory. If they can learn to limit the many mistakes they made on Saturday, this still can be a very good football team, and they proved that for awhile on Saturday.