Saturday, September 17, 2011
Spartans down but not out in South Bend
By Adam Rittenberg
Notre Dame has outplayed its opponent so far today.
What else is new?
The Fighting Irish have looked like the superior team for much of their first two games and have no wins to show for their efforts. So while Michigan State needs a better performance in the second half, the Spartans aren't out of the game.
Although the fact their special teams fake didn't work on Notre Dame could be a troubling sign.
Mark Dantonio once again rolled the dice in calling for a fake on a short field-goal attempt in the final minute. Notre Dame, which got burned last year on a fake in East Lansing, didn't bite this time and took a 21-10 lead into the locker room.
It was a weird half for Michigan State's defense, which forced two Notre Dame turnovers and also allowed two long touchdown drives. The Spartans looked decent at times but must tighten up against talented Irish running back Cierre Wood.
Kirk Cousins has been fairly sharp so far, but Michigan State is getting nothing from its run game. Making matters worse, starting tackle Skyler Burkland was carted off the field last in the half with a leg injury.
The kicking game wasn't a strong point for the Spartans, who allowed a 89-yard return for a touchdown.
I still think if Michigan State makes this a close game in the fourth quarter, the Spartans have a great chance to beat a Notre Dame team that doesn't know how to finish.
But Dantonio's squad must clean up the mistakes.