SOUTH BEND, IND. - By the time Gerald Holmes ran for daylight, Michigan State’s offensive line appeared to have said goodnight to Notre Dame.
Then the 18th-ranked Irish fought back.
It took all of the No. 8 Spartans' defensive might to hang on for a 36-28 victory Saturday night at Notre Dame Stadium.
The win was MSU coach Mark Dantonio’s first in South Bend since his debut season in 2007, snapping a three-game losing streak to Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly since the 2010 “Little Giants” win in East Lansing.
The Spartans (2-0) dominated the Irish (1-2) in the trenches, especially on the offensive side of the ball, especially on the offensive side of the ball, en route to more than 500 yards of offense.
MSU imposed its will in the third quarter, outscoring the Irish 21-0 to take a seemingly insurmountable lead. Holmes scored on runs of 3 and 73 yards, and LJ Scott added a 9-yard scoring run. MSU finished with 260 rushing yards, 100 from Holmes and 98 from Scott.
The Spartans’ defense stymied the Irish offense for three quarters, then held on late while Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer rallied the Irish from a 36-7 third-quarter deficit with three-straight scoring drives between the end of that period and the fourth.
First was a 15-yard, toe-tapping touchdown catch by Equanimeous St. Brown to close a quick four-play drive. Then Kizer bulled his way in from 3 yards out. On the next drive, Kizer pump-faked and found tight end Durham Smyth for a 12-yard TD pass that sliced MSU’s lead to 36-28.
Tyler O’Connor overcame an early interception while going 19 of 26 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. His chain-moving, third-down completions to Donnie Corley (for 28 yards) and Shelton (for 23) helped the Spartans run out the clock in the final minutes after Notre Dame punted.
Corley’s first TD of his career was highlight-reel worthy. O’Connor lobbed what looked like was going to be another interception on consecutive passes. The ball fell into Cole Luke’s hands in front of Corley, but the rookie receiver ripped it away from the veteran cornerback for his first college touchdown. It evoked memories of Corley’s catch to give Detroit King High the last-second win over Lowell in the Division 2 state championship game last November.
Corley had four catches for 88 yards, while Shelton had eight grabs for 80 yards and a score.
Kizer was 20 of 37 for 344 yards, two TDs and an interception for Notre Dame.
MSU will host Wisconsin next Saturday, kickoff time still to be determined.