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Saturday, September 20, 2008
Halftime update: Michigan State 10, Notre Dame 0


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The good news is I'm still awake after watching one of the least exciting halves of this young football season. But Michigan State will make no apologies.

The Spartans are 30 minutes away from posting their second consecutive shutout. After struggling to stop Cal running backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen in the season opener, Michigan State has shored up its defensive front and is starting to reflect its defensive-minded head coach, Mark Dantonio. Michigan State's front seven has completely shut down the run, forcing Jimmy Clausen into pressure situations. The Notre Dame sophomore quarterback has thrown two interceptions and easily could have one or two more. Of Notre Dame's 111 first-half yards, 54 came on two plays.

I'm fairly convinced that for the second straight year, Notre Dame has no idea how to block. The Irish can't run the ball, screen passes take forever to develop and Clausen has been under pressure the entire game (sacked twice). Aside from deep passes to talented young wideouts Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, the Irish offense has very few options.

Spartans senior safety Otis Wiley is the obvious pick for first-half MVP. Anchoring a secondary missing two potential starters -- Kendell Davis-Clark and Roderick Jenrette -- Wiley has made plays all over the field, recording his third and fourth interceptions of the season. Defensive end Brandon Long also has come up big with 2.5 tackles for loss, and linebacker Greg Jones continues to impress.

The concern for Michigan State remains senior quarterback Brian Hoyer, who completed just 5 of 14 passes in the half. His receivers haven't helped him out a lot, but that percentage won't cut it against better teams. Aside from a fumble, running back Javon Ringer has been typically solid, racking up 82 yards on 18 carries. I still think the burnout factor could come into play for Ringer later in the season if Hoyer doesn't start playing better.

Both teams' struggles to move the ball was best illustrated on the game's only touchdown drive. Michigan State needed nine plays to go only 22 yards and scored as Ringer barely got the ball across the goal line.

At least Sparty the Spartan, who's wearing a sombrero for some reason, seems to be enjoying himself. Here's hoping for some more highlights after halftime.