A 52-yard return by Devin Thomas gave the Spartans excellent field position to start the second half. Two key third down conversions, including a 3rd-and-17 completion from Brian Hoyer to Mark Dell, kept the drive going. It ended with a 16-yard scoring connection between Hoyer and Dell to increase the lead to 24-14. It was 31-14 when Hoyer found Kellen Davis from 30 yards out on a 4th-and-1 for a touchdown.
"All credit to them," middle linebacker Maurice Crum said, who led Notre Dame with 16 total tackles. "They played an excellent game and their backs hit the holes and they made the plays and when they need to make the plays. I think the difference was that we didn't make the plays that we needed. Getting off the field, coming up with turnovers, we just didn't make the plays that we needed to. All credit to them. They did had a they were supposed to do."
Michigan State did make the critical plays in the contest. Hoyer completed just 11 passes but four of them were for touchdowns. Javon Ringer controlled the flow of the game with 26 carries for 144 yards. Power back Jehuu Caulcrick rumbled for another 83 yards. All together, the Spartans ran for 219 yards. That's actually below Notre Dame's season average of 237 per contest. Still, it's far away from being good.
"We've just got to go to work," Crum said. "People running the ball on you, it's about attitude and we've just got to fix that and we've just got to keep that going and just get on the right track."
***Special teams did not have its best day on Saturday. Head coach Charlie Weis made the move in the off-season to include all the coaches on the unit to increase responsibility and involvement. The effects have not been felt through four games.
Fifth-year senior punter Geoff Price punted the ball six times for an average 36 yards. But Price shanked a few balls that gave Michigan State good field position. Sophomore Eric Maust actually punted three times for an average of 43 yards per boot. Throw in the long kickoff return at the beginning of the second half and the Spartans clearly won the game battle for hidden yardage.
"I don't have to say anything about that," Weis said about the field position game. "You guys all saw it. The kicking game killed us. I wanted to play field position and punting the ball a whole bunch, and we had an awful day in that situation right there. Field position was awful."
***Michigan State had the game in hand in the fourth quarter. The score was 31-14 and the Spartans were driving for another touchdown. Michigan State had the ball 1st-and-Goal with just over 11 minutes remaining. Instead of trying to punch it in one more time through the air or run a creative rush play, the Spartans ran it into the middle of the line three times in a row. Michigan State eventually missed a 20-yard field goal wide left. All throughout the fourth quarter, the Spartans called run after run. Weis clearly thought if the Michigan State wanted to run the score up and make it even more embarrassing on Notre Dame, head coach Mark Dantonio could have done just that.
"I thought it was very classy of Coach Dantonio at the end of the game," Weis said. "Because he could have scored again. He had us where our guys were pretty worn out at the end of the game, and if he really wanted to, he probably could have run it in again."
***Everyone has their own theory on why Notre Dame is 0-4 for the first time in school history. It could be one answer. It could be a combination of a few of them. One is a talent gap between the Irish and the teams they've played. Weis was asked if this was the case after the defeat on Saturday. This was the Notre Dame head coach's response.
"You really can't worry about the talent gap because Michigan State, that was a nice, decisive win for them and a great second half," Weis said. "It was a very competitive first half. Would you have asked me that question at half-time? I'm just saying, at half-time, you might not have asked me that question.
"But as the game turns out, that's a fair question to ask. I can't evaluate that now until after I've gone in there and given it a good, long look, because it would be premature at that point. I don't know if it's because they are playing so good; we are playing so bad; I don't know if it's talent."
***Freshman Kerry Neal recorded his first sack, tackle for loss and pass breakup on Saturday. Neal saw extensive action in the contest, the most the freshman has seen this season in a game.
***Dantonio is the first coach in Michigan State school history to begin his first season 4-0.
***The Notre Dame pass defense is limiting the opposition's quarterback to a completion rate of 48 percent. The Irish are also allowing just 119 yards per game through the air, although allowing more than 220 yards on the ground.
***Six of Weis' 10 losses have come at home.
***Sophomore safety David Bruton recorded his first career interception in the second quarter when the safety made a leaping effort to pickoff a pass from Hoyer in the end zone. On the day, Bruton finished with 15 tackles, second best to Crum's 16.