- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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Notre Dame had lost nine consecutive games to teams ranked in the AP top 10, but behind an inspired and emotional performance from senior linebacker Manti Te'o, the 20th-ranked Fighting Irish erased that streak and made a strong case to be in the top 10 themselves with a 20-3 victory over No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing.
It wasn't the cleanest game Notre Dame could've played, but with its 3-0 start (the first time that has happened in more than a decade) the Irish are setting themselves up for one of their better seasons in recent memory.
It was over when: The Spartans turned it over on fourth-and-5 with just over four minutes remaining. The Irish would settle for a field goal on the ensuing possession, but the lead at that point was 17-3, so it didn’t matter that they didn’t make it all the way to the end zone.
Game ball goes to: Notre Dame's front seven.
The Fighting Irish provided constant pressure on Michigan State junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell all game. They sent blitz after blitz and kept the first-year starter uncomfortable. Maxwell finished 23 of 45, with neither touchdown nor interception.
But more impressively, Notre Dame kept junior running back Le'Veon Bell in check. Bell, who had averaged 140 yards and two touchdowns per game coming into the Notre Dame matchup, ran for just 77 yards on 19 carries.
And as a unit, the Spartans accounted for just 50 yards on the ground -- nearly 150 yards less than their season average.
Stat of the game: In the past decade, the Spartans had only been held to three points twice -- both to Nebraska (once in 2011, once in 2003), though not in the past 10 years have they been held to so little at home.
What it means: Big Ten teams have been given a blueprint for how to handle the Spartans. No, not every conference team has the front seven that Notre Dame does, but for teams wanting to stop a foe that’s expected to contend for the Big Ten title, Notre Dame just showed you how.