News and Notes: 9/19/2007

One of the biggest battles in Saturday's contest between 0-3 Notre Dame and 3-0 Michigan State will be the Irish's beleaguered offensive line versus the Spartans defensive line. Notre Dame's inability to protect the quarterback through three games has been well documented. So far statistically, Michigan State brings one of the best pass rushes in the nation to South Bend.

The Spartans have totaled 17 sacks on the year, which is one more than all of last season. It puts Michigan State in a tie for first nationally in the category. On the other end of the spectrum, the Irish are dead last in the country in sacks allowed. Head coach Charlie Weis made his team go through several physical practices this week to improve their performance at the line of scrimmage. It's clear the Spartans will try to get after freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen as much as possible on Saturday.

"I would come after us, too," Weis joked on Thursday. "It's going to be dangerous till you start stopping them. I mean, the coaches aren't dumb now. They've sat there and watched the tape. They see what works. They're going to do it till you stop it. That's just the way it is. And it's going to be that way every week until you've shown you can handle it."

***In the kickoff return game, it was all Golden Tate last weekend against Michigan State. The freshman returned five kicks for an average of 26.3 yards. Tate had been seeing action on the unit with classmate Armando Allen. But the freshman running back has been more involved in the offense lately. Replacing Allen last weekend was senior Junior Jabbie, who'll continue those duties against Michigan State.

"Most of these kickers kick it to one spot, like this guy (Michigan State's Todd Boleski) usually kicks it to one spot," Weis said. "Golden will get the brunt of it. And with Junior back there, Junior is a good returner, but he's also a very good blocker. So if you're going to feature one guy, we'd rather not Golden or Armando be the lead blocker, we'd rather them be the guy with the ball in their hands."

***A statue of former Irish head coach Ara Parseghian will be dedicated on Saturday morning outside of Notre Dame Stadium's Gate D. The ceremony will start at 9:30 AM and more than 200 former coaches and players are expected to attend. 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte will speak on behalf of the players. Weis has made mention of Parseghian in the past as an excellent resource and thinks the statue is more than appropriate.

"A lot of people look at him as a legendary coach, great ambassador to Notre Dame," Weis said. "To me he's been more than that. He's been much more of a mentor. He's the first person that calls me after a loss. It's easy for people to call you after a win.

"But he's always there. He's always there to give me advice on the good and the bad. I can't think of anyone that was more deserved to be honored than Ara. He's been just great to me."

***The last time Michigan State came to South Bend, the Spartans built a huge lead but fell victim to a late Notre Dame comeback, which sent the game into overtime. Michigan State won the contest when Jason Teague took an option pitch 19-yards for the winning touchdown to give the Spartans a 44-41 victory. After the win, a few Michigan State players planted a Spartan flag at midfield. The move angered many people involved with Notre Dame. Because of the Irish's miserable 0-3 start, Weis hasn't had time to show the clip to inspire his players.

"That would be so far from our mind this year," Weis said. "If everything was going great, that would be the type of things people would be talking about. But we're worrying about Notre Dame. It's not just a coaching phrase. You can understand why. We're worrying about Notre Dame."

***This meeting will be the 71st all-time between Notre Dame and Michigan State. The Irish lead the series 44-25-1. There are only three schools who have played Notre Dame more. They are Navy (80), Purdue (78) and USC (78).

***The winner of Saturday's contest will receive the much-coveted Megaphone Trophy. It's been awarded since 1949 by the Detroit alumni clubs of both schools. Half the megaphone is blue with a gold ND monogram while the other half is white with a green MSC.

***Fifth-year senior Trevor Laws is having quite the season. The left defensive end leads the Irish with 26 stops and the tackle total is third in the nation for defensive lineman.

***Michigan State defensive end Jonal Saint-Doc shared the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after registering five tackles, including three for losses, and forcing two fumbles in the Spartans 17-13 victory over Pittsburgh. Top Stories