NCF Nation: Lansing 0804

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
 Jimmy Clausen was 24-of-41 for 242 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in Notre Dame's 23-7 loss to Michigan State.

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The wackiness of the Michigan State-Notre Dame rivalry often leaves the losing team feeling bitter and angry.

Notre Dame was steamed after an overtime loss in 2005, and Michigan State never recovered after blowing a big lead against the Fighting Irish the next year.

Notre Dame's 23-7 loss on Saturday at Spartan Stadium stirred different emotions. The defeat was definitive, and though the Irish had their share of chances, there were fewer "what-ifs" and widespread disappointment.

"We didn't deserve to win," head coach Charlie Weis said. "We had a chance to win the game, but we didn't deserve to win."

Teams that deserve to win run the ball effectively. Notre Dame didn't. Teams that deserve to win stop the run. Notre Dame didn't stop Javon Ringer enough.

Teams that deserve to win convert in the red zone. Notre Dame failed on its only two chances.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Several minutes after Saturday's game ended, there was a knock at the back door of Michigan State's media trailer.

When it opened, a parade of Spartans players walked through. The five starting offensive linemen. The fullbacks. The tight ends. Ten players in all. The 11th man, the star of the day, the one whom everyone had come to hear, brought up the rear.

 
  AP Photo/Al Goldis
 Javon Ringer rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns to carry Michigan State to a 23-7 win over Notre Dame on Saturday.

"I can do nothing without these guys paving the way for me," Michigan State running back Javon Ringer said. "We were able to win because of these guys, not because of me or because of our receivers. It came from the guys up front. I told y'all they should be doing the interviews instead of me."

It's no surprise that Ringer once again deferred the credit for his latest masterpiece to Michigan State's trailblazers. But it's time to give the Spartans senior running back his due.

With Beanie Wells hobbled and P.J. Hill splitting carries, Ringer has emerged as the Big Ten's best back and one of the best in the country. After four games, he's the obvious choice for league MVP after another yeoman's effort -- 39 carries, 201 yards, 2 touchdowns -- in a 23-7 win against Notre Dame.

Ringer became the first Michigan State player to record back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances. Through four games Ringer has 700 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on a nation-high 143 carries.

"He's the best back in the country," Spartans quarterback Brian Hoyer said. "I go and look on ESPN.com and they've got the Heisman hopefuls or whatever. Javon Ringer should be in there. He's got to have close to 1,000 yards by now. And for him to be that type of person says even more."

Hoyer isn't the only one putting a plug in for Ringer.

"I'll put my vote in for Javon Ringer for the Heisman Trophy," Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said to open his news conference. "That needs to start getting picked up a little bit because that guy's a machine."

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Notre Dame is showing signs of life on offense, but Michigan State's disciplined defense continues to come up big.

The Fighting Irish wisely shelved their run game after getting nothing out of their backs in the first half. Quarterback Jimmy Clausen is operating almost exclusively from the shotgun, usually with no backs, and he's beginning to find his rhythm. But every time the Irish get on track, they seem to make mistakes. They had a nice drive at the beginning of the quarter that ended with wideout Michael Floyd fumbling in the red zone.

If the Spartans hold on, they can credit a marauding defense and senior running back Javon Ringer (118 rush yards, TD). Senior quarterback Brian Hoyer hasn't improved his completion ratio (9-for-23), and the Spartans are too one-dimensional. They mounted a nice drive following Floyd's fumble but stalled again in the red zone. As I stated before, Hoyer will need to make a play or two down the stretch for Michigan State to hold on.

Clausen appeared to injure his left arm/shoulder on a sack late in the quarter. Backup Evan Sharpley started to warm up but Clausen re-entered the game.

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.

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.

Greetings from Sparta

September, 20, 2008
9/20/08
3:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State won't have to worry about rain washing away a big lead today in the second half, as it did two years ago against Notre Dame. It's a gorgeous day here and should stay that way through the rest of the afternoon.

Great atmosphere around the stadium today. The Michigan State student section is filling up fast in the southeast corner of Spartan Stadium. Notre Dame Nation also is here in force. Saw several Jeff Samardzija No. 83 jerseys milling about. Best G-rated T-shirt I've seen so far: Sparty On. Good stuff.

So I'm officially famous. Sort of. For the first time I've been recognized at a game, by a most likely inebriated Michigan State student you yelled, "Hey, Big Ten blogger!" I was honored.

I haven't spotted Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis yet. Weis is going to tough it out today with a brace on his knee after tearing his ACL and MCL last week.

The Stanley Cup is on display in the northwest corner of the stadium, and fans can take a picture with the most famous trophy in sports for a $5 donation. Proceeds go to help kids with cancer, part of the "Shoot for a Cure" initiative led by Justin Abdelkader, a former Michigan State hockey player now with the champion Detroit Red Wings.

Check back later for updates throughout the game.

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