No. 10 Spartans Take On No. 20 Notre Dame In Prime-Time Showdown
Sept. 13, 2012
FIRST-AND-10 (what you need to know about the MSU-Notre Dame matchup) -
Michigan State ranks second among opponents in all-time victories (28) over Notre Dame. Only Southern Cal (35) has posted more wins over the Irish than the Spartans.
Since 1949, the winner of the Michigan State-Notre Dame game has been presented the Megaphone Trophy, sponsored jointly by the Detroit alumni clubs of both schools.
The Michigan State-Notre Dame series began 115 years ago in 1897, making it one of the 27 oldest rivalries in college football. It also ranks as one of only three rivalries - joining Army-Navy and Auburn-Georgia Tech - that does not involve either intrastate or current conference rivals.
For the first time in school history, Michigan State is opening a home season with back-to-back night games. Saturday's Michigan State-Notre Dame game also marks just the 13th night game in the 89-year history of Spartan Stadium. The Spartans are 8-4 in their 12 previous prime-time TV appearances in Spartan Stadium, including a 2-2 record against Notre Dame. Four of those eight wins came over ranked opponents (No. 19 USC in 1987, No. 10 Notre Dame in 1998, No. 4 Wisconsin in 2011, No. 24 Boise State in 2012).
Michigan State has won four-straight night games in Spartan Stadium, including two on the last play of the game (vs. Notre Dame in 2010: Aaron Bates' 29-yard touchdown pass to Charlie Gantt off a fake field goal gave MSU a 34-31 overtime victory; and vs. Wisconsin in 2011: Kirk Cousins completed a 44-yard Hail Mary pass to Keith Nichol on the final play of regulation). Mark Dantonio is 5-1 in night games played in Spartan Stadium.
Michigan State moved up one spot this week to No. 10 in both The Associated Press and USA TODAY Coaches Polls. The Spartans have been ranked in the USA TODAY Poll for a school-record 32 consecutive weeks, dating back to the 2010 season. This marks the earliest in a season MSU has been ranked in the AP Top 10 since 1979, when it debuted at No. 10 in the preseason poll. It also marks the highest ranking the Spartans have been while playing against Notre Dame since 1979 (No. 7).
Saturday's game marks the first time since 2005 that both Michigan State and Notre Dame are undefeated heading into their matchup. It also marks the first time since 2000 that both the Spartans and Fighting Irish are ranked in the AP Top 25 during the week of the game (No. 16 Notre Dame vs. No. 23 Michigan State).
Michigan State has compiled a 42-16 record (.724) against non-conference opponents since 1999. Mark Dantonio is 19-8 (.704) against non-conference opponents, including a 15-1 record in Spartan Stadium. Overall, the Spartans have won 25 of their last 34 non-league games (.735).
Junior running back Le'Veon Bell ranks second in the Big Ten and sixth in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing, averaging 140.0 yards per game. The Columbus, Ohio, native is also tied for first in the conference in scoring (12.0 ppg.) and rushing touchdowns (4), and second in all-purpose yards (167.5 ypg.). Bell set career highs for rushing attempts (44), rushing yards (210), receptions (6), receiving yards (55) and all-purpose yards (265) in the season-opening win over No. 24 Boise State.
CLASS BREAKDOWN (STARTERS) -
STAT LEADERS -
Notre Dame (after two games):
CURRENT SPARTANS vs. NOTRE DAME -
INSIDE THE NUMBERS -
MSU is coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in program history. The 22 wins in 2010 and 2011 were the highest two-year total in school history and ranked tied for seventh most among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams during that same period.
Michigan State's 24 wins since 2010 are tied fifth most among NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams (Alabama, Boise State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech also have 24 wins since the beginning of the 2010 season).
Under Mark Dantonio, Michigan State has produced a 30-6 record (.833) in home games, including its current 15-game winning streak, which is the fifth-longest in school history and its longest home streak since winning 19 straight from 1950-53 (teams coached by Clarence "Biggie" Munn). The 15-game home winning streak is also the fourth-longest active home winning streak in the NCAA FBS (LSU - 19; Wisconsin - 17; Northern Illinois - 16; MSU - 15). For the second straight year, Michigan State posted a 7-0 record at home in 2011, marking the first consecutive perfect home seasons since 1955-56. The Spartans have gone undefeated at home 18 times (including ties in 1966, 1940, 1933, 1930) since the stadium opened in 1923. Prior to the 2012 season, the Sporting News named Spartan Stadium No. 3 on its "Five Toughest Places to Play Right Now" list.
MSU is off to a 2-0 start for the third-straight season and for the fourth time in six years under Mark Dantonio.
Over the last four years, Michigan State has won more Big Ten games (24) than any other conference team. (Note: Ohio State also won 24 games, but had to vacate seven victories following the 2010 season.)
Michigan State has won 18 straight games in the state of Michigan since the beginning of the 2010 season (15 straight at Spartan Stadium; vs. Florida Atlantic at Ford Field in Detroit in 2010; at Michigan in 2010; at Central Michigan in 2012).
Over the last two seasons, Michigan State is 10-1 in games decided by 10 points or less, including 4-1 in 2011. The only loss came in a 42-39 defeat against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Through two games, MSU's offensive line has not allowed a sack this season, tied with 12 other schools for first in the FBS.
Michigan State ranks fourth in the nation in passes defended (interceptions and pass break-ups) with 17. The Spartans have three interceptions (RJ Williamson, Johnny Adams, Isaiah Lewis) and 14 PBUs.
Michigan State is tied for first in the Big Ten in passing, averaging 285.0 yards through two games.
Michigan State was ranked No. 13 in both the AP and USA TODAY Preseason Polls. It marked MSU's highest preseason ranking in the AP Poll since 1979 (No. 10), and its highest-ever preseason rating in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll, which began administering the poll in 1991.
Michigan State returns four starters to its offensive line (senior right guard Chris McDonald, senior right tackle Fou Fonoti, junior left tackle Dan France, sophomore center Travis Jackson). In addition, junior Blake Treadwell (center) and sophomore Skyler Burkland (right tackle) each started the first three games of 2011 before suffering season-ending knee injuries at Notre Dame. Michigan State had four different starting combinations in 14 games on the offensive line last season, including three different starting centers (Treadwell, Jackson, Ethan Ruhland).
SPARTAN DEFENSE ONE OF THE TOP IN THE NATION -
Through two games, MSU hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown, and the Spartans rank among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision Top 15 in pass efficiency defense (fifth at 78.17), total defense (eighth at 225.5 ypg.), rushing defense (11th with 54.5 ypg.) and scoring defense (12th at 10.0 ppg.). In addition, the Spartans lead the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense.
In the 17-13 season-opening win over No. 24 Boise State, the Spartans held the Broncos without an offensive touchdown for the first time since 1997. They also limited the nation's highest scoring offense since 2000 to 206 yards of total offense and 37 rushing yards, both lows in the Coach Chris Petersen era at BSU; the 13 points scored were the second fewest under Petersen.
Dantonio recorded 44 wins from 2007-11, the most by as Spartan head coach in his first five seasons ("Biggie" Munn ranks second, with 36 wins from 1947-1951).
Dantonio is the first head coach in MSU history to win at least nine games three times in his first five seasons (9 wins in 2008; back-to-back 11-win seasons in 2010 and 2011).
Dantonio has won at least nine games in a season three times (9 in 2008, 11 in 2010, 11 in 2011), tying him with the most seasons of at least nine wins of any coach in MSU history ("Biggie" Munn, 1951, 1952, 1953; Duffy Daugherty, 1955, 1965, 1966).
A trademark of Dantonio's Michigan State teams has been their ability to produce wins late in the regular season. Under Dantonio, Michigan State has compiled a 13-3 record (.813) in November. His teams have won seven-straight games in November (3-0 in 2010 and 4-0 in 2011). In the four seasons (2003-06) prior to Dantonio's arrival, Michigan State went just 2-11 (.154) in November.
From his first day on the job, Dantonio has pledged to support student-athletes as they pursue excellence, both in the classroom and on the playing field. In his first five seasons, nearly 80 percent (72 of 91) of his Michigan State players who have completed their eligibility have earned their undergraduate degrees. In addition, 56 Spartans have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, including two Academic All-Americans (2009: Blair White, first team; 2011: Mike Sadler, second team).
NCAA STAT LEADERS -
Individual Statistics (Top 50)
THE LAST MEETING -
MSU's Kirk Cousins, who had 11 straight completions at one juncture of the second half, was 34 of 53 for 329 yards but he was intercepted at the Notre Dame 6 with just under four minutes left by Blanton, who returned it 82 yards to the 12. The Spartans had just recovered a fumbled punt by Notre Dame's John Goodman at the Irish 21 and were ready to set the stage for another frantic finish between the rivals. But with the Spartans trailing 28-13 and having a first and goal at the 3, Blanton came up with a juggling interception and then took off on his long return that sealed the win.
Cousins completed 12 of his passes to B.J. Cunningham as the Spartans were forced to go to the air and play catch-up. Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees overcame a first-half fumble and interception and finished 18 of 26 for 161 yards.
Notre Dame pushed the lead to 28-10 in the third quarter when Rees hit Michael Floyd on a 22-yard pass and then lofted a perfect 26-yarder to TJ Jones for a touchdown. Cousins came right back after a 42-yard kickoff return by Nick Hill gave the Spartans good field position. His 21-yard pass to Todd Anderson and an 11-yarder to Cunningham gave the Spartans a first down at the Irish 8. But after the drive stalled, MSU lined up for a field goal, only to have their attempt at a fake field goal turned away.
After Notre Dame took an early 7-0 lead on a Wood TD run, the teams traded turnovers twice. Rees took a hard blindside hit from Kevin Pickelman and fumbled with MSU's Jerel Worthy recovering. But just moments later, Notre Dame freshman defensive end Aaron Lynch drove into Cousins from behind, forcing a fumble and Johnson recovered for the Irish. Three plays later Rees' pass was picked off by Kurtis Drummond and returned 34 yards to the Irish 27, setting up Conroy's 40-yard field goal that made it 7-3. But 12 seconds later, Atkinson - the son of the former NFL star defensive back - took the ensuing kickoff, broke to the sideline and sprinted in for the touchdown.
THE LAST MEETING IN SPARTAN STADIUM -
With Dan Conroy lining up for a 46-yard field goal to tie the game in overtime and the play clock running low, holder Aaron Bates took the snap, stood up and waited for Charlie Gantt to come open downfield. The stunning fake worked to perfection, and Gantt's 29-yard touchdown catch gave the Spartans a 34-31 win.
David Ruffer had given Notre Dame the lead with a 33-yard field goal earlier in overtime. Dayne Crist threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns for the Irish. Notre Dame took a 28-21 lead with 13:20 to play in the fourth quarter when Michael Floyd caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Crist behind two defenders in the back of the end zone.
Kirk Cousins tied it by scrambling to his right and finding B.J. Cunningham along the right sideline for a 24-yard TD with 7:43 remaining. Until the final trick play, Michigan State was the more methodical team, content to push Notre Dame off the line of scrimmage and gain yards on the ground. Le'Veon Bell rushed for 114 yards, and Edwin Baker ran for 90.
After a 7-7 tie at halftime, Michigan State began finding more running room. Baker cut to the left through a big hole, then back to the right through the Notre Dame secondary for a 56-yard TD run just 40 seconds into the third quarter.
The Irish needed less than two minutes to equalize with their spread offense, going 74 yards in six plays and tying it at 14 on a 10-yard TD pass from Crist to Kyle Rudolph.
The teams then traded 11-play touchdown drives. Bell scored on a 16-yard run for Michigan State, and the Irish tied the game again on Crist's 15-yard TD pass to Theo Riddick. Notre Dame opened the scoring in the first quarter on Crist's 7-yard TD pass to Floyd.
The Irish appeared poised to take control in the second quarter after intercepting Cousins in the end zone, but Floyd fumbled after a catch, giving the Spartans the ball at their own 11. The Irish forced a punt and got the ball back in great field position at the Michigan State 27, but Crist threw an interception on the first play. After that, the Spartans finally started moving the ball, going 94 yards in seven plays and tying the game on a 6-yard TD pass from Cousins to Keshawn Martin with 2:22 left in the half.
SPARTANS RANK SECOND IN ALL-TIME VICTORIES vs. NOTRE DAME -
The Spartans recorded six-straight victories in Notre Dame Stadium from 1997-2007. The six-game winning streak marks the longest run by an Irish opponent in the 80-year history of Notre Dame Stadium.
MEGAPHONE TROPHY -
Michigan State and Notre Dame played 36 consecutive seasons from 1959-94 until the two-year interruption of the series in 1995-96. After the contract with Notre Dame expired following the 2011 game, the Spartans and Irish will meet 10 times over the next 14 seasons, with two-year breaks in 2014-15 and 2020-21.
MSU/NOTRE DAME CONNECTIONS -
Notre Dame tight ends coach Mike Denbrock spent two years as a graduate assistant at Michigan State (1988-89) under George Perles.
Michigan State assistant director of strength and conditioning Lorenzo Guess spent the last two seasons (2010-11) as an assistant director of strength and conditioning at Notre Dame while working with head coach Brian Kelly. Guess also worked with Kelly for one season at Cincinnati as a tight ends coach, helping the Bearcats to a 12-1 record in 2009 and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl following UC's second-straight BIG EAST Championship.
Michigan State's veteran play-by-play radio announcer George Blaha graduated from Notre Dame in 1966 with a degree in economics. Blaha is in his 35th season as the Spartans' radio voice.
SPARTANS FROM THE HOOSIER STATE -
NOTES FROM THE CENTRAL MICHIGAN GAME -
Andrew Maxwell threw for a career-high 275 yards on 20-of-31 attempts against the Chippewas. He also threw a career-best two touchdown passes (20 yards to Dion Sims, 7 yards to Bennie Fowler). Maxwell became the first Spartan starting quarterback to win his first two starts since Jeff Smoker in 2000 (Missouri, Notre Dame).
Bennie Fowler registered career highs in receptions (8) and receiving yards (99), including a 7-yard TD reception in the third quarter.
Keith Mumphery posted career highs in receptions (4) and receiving yards (52).
Larry Caper compiled 66 yards rushing on nine carries (7.3 avg.). He recorded a career-long 39-yard rush in the third quarter.
Nick Hill scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run at the 9:39 mark in the fourth quarter and also had a career-long 31-yard punt return.
Isaiah Lewis returned an interception 40 yards in the first quarter, marking the fifth interception of his career (129 yards). Lewis also had an interception against CMU last season, running back the pick 37 yards for a touchdown.
Dan Conroy kicked two field goals (29 yards and 26 yards), giving him 35 for his career, which is tied for eighth in MSU history.
William Gholston led MSU with seven tackles, including two for losses (8 yards) and a 7-yard sack, to go along with two quarterback hurries and a pass break-up.
SPARTANS RETURN TO PRIME TIME -
Here are brief recaps of the previous 12 night games played in Spartan Stadium:
Sept. 7, 1987 (Michigan State 27, No. 19 Southern Cal 13)
Sept. 12, 1998 (Michigan State 45, No. 10 Notre Dame 23)
Sept. 2, 1999 (Michigan State 27, Oregon 20)
Oct. 26, 2002 (Wisconsin 42, Michigan State 24)
Sept. 18, 2004 (Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 24)
Sept. 23, 2006 (Notre Dame 40, Michigan State 37)
Oct. 13, 2007 (Michigan State 52, Indiana 27)
Oct. 24, 2009 (No. 7 Iowa 15, Michigan State 13)
Sept. 18, 2010 (Michigan State 34, Notre Dame 31)
Sept. 2, 2011 (No. 17 Michigan State 28, Youngstown State 6)
Oct. 22, 2011 (No. 15 Michigan State 37, No. 4 Wisconsin 31)
Aug. 31, 2012 (No. 13 Michigan State 17, No. 24 Boise State 13)
UPSET SPECIALS -
For the second year in a row, Michigan State defeated ranked opponents on back-to-back Saturdays (2011: 28-14 over No. 11 Michigan and 37-31 over No. 4 Wisconsin). In 2010, MSU knocked off No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 18 Michigan on consecutive weekends. The Spartans have defeated three ranked opponents in the same season seven times in program history.
Under head coach Mark Dantonio, Michigan State has defeated nine ranked opponents: No. 24 (AP)/No. 22 (USA TODAY) Boise State in 2012; No. 11 (AP)/No. 10 (USA TODAY) Michigan, No. 4 (AP/USA TODAY) Wisconsin and No. 18 Georgia (AP/USA TODAY) in 2011; No. 11 (AP)/No. 9 (USA TODAY) Wisconsin and No. 18 (AP)/No. 17 (USA TODAY) Michigan in 2010; No. 22 (AP) Michigan in 2009; No. 22 (USA TODAY) Northwestern in 2008; and No. 22 (USA TODAY) Penn State in 2007.
Since 1998, Michigan State is 9-8 (.529) against teams ranked in the AP Top 10, including a 6-3 record (.667) in games played in Spartan Stadium. (Note: For a complete list of all-time results against ranked opponents, please refer to pages 132-134 in the 2012 MSU Football Media Guide.)
BELL PACES GROUND GAME -
Bell rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries (3.9 avg.) and scored two touchdowns in the win over Central Michigan. He has four rushing TDs this season and 25 for his career, tying him with Craig Thomas (1990-93) for 10th most in MSU history.
Bell collected several weekly honors after his career night helped lead Michigan State past No. 24 Boise State, 17-13, in the season-opening win. He was named the Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week by the conference office and also the Big Ten Player of the Week by ESPN.com. In addition, he was named the Heisman Player of the Week by CBSSports.com. Bell set career highs for rushing attempts (44), rushing yards (210), receptions (6), receiving yards (55) and all-purpose yards (265) against the Broncos. He outgained the entire Boise State offense, 210-206, and 84 of his 210 yards came after contact. In addition, Bell's 265 all-purpose yards rank as the 10th-highest single-game total in Spartan history, and his 44 carries tied for fourth most in school history.
Bell's 210 rushing yards against Boise State tied for the 23rd-highest single-game total in school history, and he became the first Spartan running back to eclipse the 200-yard mark since Javon Ringer gained 201 yards on 39 rushes against Notre Dame in 2008. The 210 rushing yards were also the most by a Big Ten running back in a season opener since Purdue's Ralph Bolden in 2009 (234 vs. Toledo) and the most by a Spartan in an opener since T.J. Duckett in 2000 (219 vs. Marshall).
Bell has rushed for 1,833 yards and 25 touchdowns in 29 career games. He ranks among MSU's all-time leaders in rushing TDs (tied for 10th with 25), rushing average (15th at 5.22), rushing yards (18th with 1,833) and rushing attempts (19th with 351).
MAXWELL WINS FIRST CAREER START -
Maxwell is the first Spartan starting quarterback to win his first two starts since Jeff Smoker in 2000 (Missouri, Notre Dame).
Michigan State's last 19 quarterbacks have compiled a 13-6 record (.684) in their first collegiate start, including a 9-2 mark in home games.
Charlie Gantt NAMED HONORARY CAPTAIN -
A second-team All-Big Ten selection by the media in 2010, Gantt ranked fourth on the team in receptions with a career high 24 for 301 yards (12.5 avg.) and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end matched his career high with four receptions each at Penn State (38 yards) and Iowa (35). His 3-yard TD grab from wide receiver Keith Nichol with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter proved to be the game winner against the Nittany Lions as MSU claimed its first Big Ten Championship since 1990. He had three catches each at Northwestern (20) and against Wisconsin (41), including a 1-yard TD grab from Kirk Cousins that gave MSU a 27-17 lead late in the third quarter. His 29-yard TD reception from holder Aaron Bates, off a fake field-goal attempt, gave MSU a 34-31 overtime victory over Notre Dame.
2012 CAPTAINS ELECTED -
An additional captain will be selected each week during the 2012 season (senior offensive tackle Fou Fonoti vs. Notre Dame).
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