First-quarter update: Michigan State 3, Notre Dame 0

September, 20, 2008
9/20/08
4:37
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- We could be in for a defensive struggle at Spartan Stadium, as Michigan State leads 3-0. The teams have combined for just six first downs and 149 yards of offense.

Both defenses have looked impressive so far, and both quarterbacks are struggling to find a rhythm. The Fighting Irish wisely are stacking the box against Spartans star running back Javon Ringer, forcing Brian Hoyer and his receivers to beat them down the field. Hoyer has had some opportunities, but wayward throws, dropped passes and a touchdown-saving deflection by Notre Dame's Raeshon McNeil have stymied the offense. Irish linebacker Brian Smith continues to impress, stripping the ball from Ringer after a Jimmy Clausen interception.

Michigan State safety Otis Wiley has definitely returned to his 2006 form, when he led the team in tackles and pass breakups. Wiley already has an interception in the end zone and earholed Notre Dame running back James Aldridge on a third-down run. Notre Dame simply has to get Golden Tate more touches. The sophomore is a threat every time he has the ball in his hands. Clausen looks shaky under pressure but can throw the deep ball and has the weapons to capitalize. Michigan State's front seven have dominated the line of scrimmage, and linebacker Greg Jones continues to make plays.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is moving gingerly on the sidelines and wearing athletic pants over his injured knee. Strength coach Ruben Mendoza is flanking Weis wherever he goes. Probably a good idea.

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