College football has a simple motto: Survive and advance.
With that in mind, the Fighting Irish executed. They barely edged out a team they haven’t beaten at home in 16 years, but they got it done. I hope Notre Dame fans understand the importance of this victory.
Time for the report card:
Offense: For the third straight game, the Irish put up more than 30 points. Clausen was his usual self, completing 22 of 31 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns. He found his big-time tight end Kyle Rudolph early and often and of course connected with his top playmakers, Tate and Floyd. Armando Allen Jr. is running with purpose and again topped 100 yards (115 yards on 23 carries). The Irish even pulled out some “Wildcat” formation plays which worked for a touchdown. Despite the major loss of superstar Mike Floyd (it will hurt), this is a top-five offense, hands down.
Defense: For the second straight game, the Irish allowed more than 30 points. The Spartans racked up 459 total yards, including 354 passing yards. The Irish defense wasn’t necessarily efficient on third downs either (Michigan State was 5-10). At least the rushing defense held up nicely, allowing only 105 yards against a solid offensive line. They did give up an easy go ahead touchdown to Blair White with nine minutes remaining, but forced the biggest turnover of the season – and possibly Charlie Weis’ career – when the game was on the line. Grade: C+
Special Teams: Nick Tausch was 2-for-2 on field goals with a long of 46 yards, which has been a step up from his recent performances. Eric Maust only punted three times, but averaged over 40 yards. And Theo Riddick had a few nice kick returns, highlighted by a 38-yard scamper. You could see the talent oozing out of that kid, and it’s great to notice his improvements each week. Grade: B+
Overall: Even if you’re not a Blue and Gold fan, you have to feel good for Charlie Weis. The guy is criticized more than any other head coach in the country, and even with all the pressure the Irish still found a way to win. And in this game, that’s all that counts. But what’s with all the penalties (11 on Saturday) against Notre Dame lately? That must be worked out. Grade: B