Just the Facts

IrishEyes' weekly look at Saturday's matchup...by the numbers.

Due to events beyond the author's control (namely poor tackling), our weekly Just the Facts feature has undergone a mild adjustment from its 13 AND 0 numbering format as the Irish enter Saturday's matchup with the Spartans.

Today's column examines the last 12 contests vs. Michigan State dating back to the resumption of the series (after a two-year hiatus) in 1997. Tomorrow's Throwback Thursday will shift its focus to happier times for Irish fans, including Lou Holtz's 8 consecutive victories vs. the Spartans from 1987 through 1994.

1 – Matchup during the Weis era in which the Irish rush defense held the Spartans to fewer than 200 rushing yards. Weis' first team allowed MSU 161 yards on 36 carries including the game-winning 19-yard off-tackle touchdown run by Jason Teague in the Spartans 44-41 overtime victory. In 2006 (248 rushing yards); 2007 (219) and 2008 (203) State wracked up 670 total rushing yards vs. Notre Dame's 180 over that span.

2 – Losses by the Irish by the score 23-7 since the series resumed in 1997. The Irish fell at home by that score in '97 as they were outrushed by a 232 to 87-yard margin, and dropped another 23-7 decision last season in East Lansing, losing the rushing battle with an astounding 203 to 16-yard gained gap.

3 – Contests over the last 12 seasons in which the Irish have outrushed the Spartans: 2001, 2002, and 2004. ND defeated MSU in both '02 and '04 under former head coach Tyrone Willingham.

4 – Matchups vs. MSU since 1997 in which the Irish have surrendered at least 30 points – falling short in 1998, 2005, and 2007, but defeating the Spartans, 40-37, in the wild, rain-soaked comeback of 2006.

5 – Losses by ex Notre Dame coach Bob Davie to the Spartans during his Irish coaching tenure. Davie never defeated Michigan State, losing by 16, 22, 10, 6, and 7 points from 1997 through 2001.

6 – Consecutive victories by the Michigan State program at Notre Dame Stadium. The streak dates back to the 1993 season when the Irish hammered the Spartans, 36-14, outgaining MSU on the ground by a margin of 269 yards to 58.

7 – Return touchdowns produced by the Spartans defense and special teams vs. the Irish from 1998 through 2006. Michigan State has scored on two blocked punts ('98 and '04); four interceptions ('98 '03, '05, and '06) and a kick return ('04). The Irish managed to bounce back and win two of those contests ('04 and '06) and have scored on three returns of their own in the same span, returning a fumble 96 yards for a touchdown in '98; scoring on Tom Zbikowski's "strip-and-sprint" 75-yard fumble return in '04 and on Terrail Lambert's game-winning 27-yard interception return in '06.

8 – Games over the last 12 seasons in which MSU has led the contest at halftime. The Spartans hold a 7-1 advantage in those contests (the Irish trailed 31-14 at intermission in '06 before rallying for the aforementioned 40-37 victory). The Irish hold a 2-0 advantage ('02 and '04) with a halftime lead over MSU but have dropped both contests ('99 and '01) when the game was tied heading into the break.

9 – Victories by the Spartans in their last 12 games vs. the Irish dating back to the 1997 season. Notre Dame had emerged victorious in 23 of the series' 26 prior contests.

10 – Combined touchdown passes thrown against the Spartans by former Irish quarterback Brady Quinn in the '05 and '06 contests. As an upperclassman, Quinn completed 53 of his 96 attempts for 806 yards and 10 touchdowns vs. the gang from East Lansing. In an '03 relief role during a 22-16 loss as a freshman; and then with a starting assignment as victorious sophomore in '04, Quinn accounted for a total of 3 touchdowns (2 passing and 1 rushing) vs. 1 interception, completing 18 of 41 passes for 318 yards. Quinn's 13 total touchdowns and 1,124 career passing yards (in less than four complete contests) vs. the Spartans rank as Notre Dame individual records vs. any opponent.

11 – Games over the last 12 seasons in which the Irish have committed at least one turnover vs. the Spartans (in 2007 the Irish protected the football but were outgained 354 yards to 203 in a 33-14 loss).

12 – Wins by the Spartans in South Bend since 1951 – the most by any Irish opponent in Notre Dame Stadium in the last (nearly) six decades.

And

1 – Contest involving the Michigan State football team (which gained varsity status in 1896) vs. a non-FBS (formerly Division I) opponent. The Spartans defeated the Montana State Bobcats, 44-3 in their season-opener on September 5 this year.

USC, UCLA, and Notre Dame now rank as the only three FBS programs to never face a FCS (formerly Division I-AA) opponent.

Bonus Stat: 20 – Consecutive quarters in which Jimmy Clausen has not thrown an interception in Notre Dame Stadium. Clausen was last picked off at home in the fourth quarter of last year's 35-17 victory over the Wolverines.

On the Horizon

Irish players that could reasonably accomplish statistical milestones Saturday vs. the Spartans:

Jimmy Clausen: Needs three touchdown passes to pass Rick Mirer (1989-92) for third-place on Notre Dame's all-time passing touchdowns list with 42.

As well, Clausen needs 28 completions to move beyond Steve Beuerlein (1983-86) for third on the school's all-time list. Clausen has completed 446 passes in 24 starts.

Michael Floyd: Needs 100-yards receiving to tie Maurice Stovall (2002-05) and Golden Tate (2007-present) for fourth on the program's all-time list. Floyd has six career 100+ yard receiving games, including two this season.

Raeshon McNeil: Needs one pass break-up to Mike Richardson (2002-2006) for 10th on the all-time list, or two break-ups to tie Dave Duerson (1979-1982) for ninth place. (McNeil has been credited with 14 break-ups in his Irish career).

Brian Smith: The junior needs 11 total tackles to reach the century mark for his career.

Armando Allen: Allen needs one touchdown to hit double-digits in his Irish career. Allen has scored 5 rushing, 3 receiving, and 1 KR touchdown in 27 career games (14 starts).


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