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Monday, September 19, 2011
Weekend rewind: Notre Dame

By Matt Fortuna

A Notre Dame win makes this look back at the weekend much more enjoyably for many of you, as the Fighting Irish washed away the demons from a pair of heartbreaking losses to top Michigan State 31-13.

The Good: The pass rush was at its absolute best Saturday, knocking around Kirk Cousins and holding the Spartans' ground attack to 29 yards on 23 carries. Freshman Aaron Lynch, who didn't play at Michigan a week earlier, led the charge with six hurries, five tackles and one sack that forced Cousins to fumble.

The Bad: Three turnovers are still three too many. As Brian Kelly said afterward, he's not at the point where he will simply take the bad with the good because of a win: "We've got to hold onto a punt late in the game. We can't do that. And Tommy [Rees]'s developing, and I'm not happy with interceptions but he knows what's happening and he's going to continue to get better.

The Ugly: What was Mark Dantonio thinking? Down 11 just before halftime and set to get the ball to start the second half, the MSU coach passed on a chip-shot field goal by attempting another fake against the Irish. Surely, Notre Dame's guard was up, and the call made little sense given the time and situation. The attempt was stuffed, MSU went three-and-out to start the second half and the Irish scored on the next possession to make it 28-13.

Turning point: Robert Blanton's interception and ensuing 82-yard return put to rest any nightmares Irish fans had after John Goodman fumbled a punt return in the MSU red zone. The pick secured the first win of the season for Notre Dame and sent a sigh of relief throughout town.

Call of the day: George Atkinson III's 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown answered MSU's first score and made it a 14-3 game early. The Irish executed the play by bringing an "ambush" player, walk-on Chris Salvi, from one side of the field to the other, taking out the coverage and contain men simultaneously. It created enough room for Atkinson, a freshman, to take it all the way and give the Irish some much-needed momentum.

Next up: The Irish travel to Heinz Field to take on a Pitt team that must be feeling how Notre Dame felt after Weeks 1 and 2. The Panthers blew a 24-3 lead at Iowa on Saturday and ultimately fell 31-27.