Spartans Crack USA/Today Top 25

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Michigan State finally put last year in the past -- and made a statement about the present.
A year after a second-half collapse against Notre Dame sent the Spartans' season spinning out of control, Michigan State outscored the winless Fighting Irish 14-0 in the third quarter Saturday to remain unbeaten with a 31-14 victory.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said the Spartans had spent the past year dealing with last year's loss and wanted to make a statement against the winless Irish.
"We knew it would be an emotional time down here and we talked about it all week that we would have to weather the storm and push through that storm and our guys did that," said Dantonio, who became the first Spartans coach to win his first four games.
The storm came in the form of Notre Dame mounting its first long scoring drive of the season to close to 17-14 early in the second quarter. The Irish, who had been held to -14 yards rushing in their first three games, had runs of 43 and 17 yards during the drive.
Then when the Spartans threatened again later in the quarter, a pass by Brian Hoyer was intercepted in the end zone. But the Spartans didn't get down. Instead Devin Thomas returned the kickoff after halftime 52 yards to spark Michigan State.
The Spartans came up with two clutch plays to keep the ensuing drive alive. First Hoyer completed an 11-yard pass to Javon Ringer on third-and-9. Then Hoyer completed a 19-yard pass on fourth-and-17. That led to a 16-yard TD pass to Mark Dell that gave the Spartans a 24-14 lead.
Hoyer later threw his career-high fourth TD pass of the game, a 30-yard pass to Kellen Davis on fourth-and-2.
The Spartans became the first opposing team to ever win six straight at Notre Dame Stadium.
"We just made history," said Ringer, who rushed for 144 yards on 26 carries.
Spartan players said it was an emotional victory, but said they will be ready to get back to work this week. Michigan State started 3-0 last season and finished 4-8. They started 4-0 a season earlier and finished 5-6.
"We are going to stay humble through the victories," Hoyer said. "Coach Dantonio always says we will judge this team at the end of the season and not right now."
Dantonio, though, was happy to see his team enjoying the victory.
"We are very, very happy, and I can't tell you how proud I am of our football team. It's special. It's a special time in that locker room right now," Dantonio said.


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