COMMENTARY | Notre Dame will take another win, but it was far from convincing.
Yes, Michigan State had the No. 1 defense coming into the game. But, yes, the Irish offense left little to be desired in the 17-13 win over the Spartans. This is not the same Notre Dame team as yesteryear. Then again, Notre Dame has traditionally been a team that doesn't necessarily win pretty. The Fighting Irish routinely find ways to keep fans on the edge of their seats.
Saturday was more of the same.
In a game where the Spartans' offense sputtered, the Irish were worse. Especially at the end of the game when everyone in Notre Dame Stadium knew over the final four possessions the ball was going to be put in running back Cam McDaniel's hands. Everyone, including Michigan State's nation-best defense.
After the Irish offense became the beneficiary of three Spartans' penalties on the go-ahead scoring drive that gave Notre Dame its largest lead of the game to start the fourth quarter, the offense became brackish. Three straight three-and-outs with plenty of time left on the clock was far from ideal. Listless and calculable the Notre Dame's offense mollified into. In fact, the play calling was so predictable and conservative, it was like watching the sun rise in the Arizona desert. Everybody knew what was going to happen.
"We have a lot of work to do," Irish quarterback Tommy Rees said in the post-game press conference after going 14 of 34 for 142 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. "We need to be more efficient. We've had moments where we're not taking advantage of things."
Notre Dame will need a lot more than efficiency with No. 11/14 Oklahoma coming to South Bend following a bye week. Granted, this was the best defense the Fighting Irish has seen this year, but it wouldn't have taken Nostradamus to predict what Notre Dame was going to do with the ball with the game in the balance.
The Irish blew the Michigan game because they couldn't tackle -- the same Achilles heel that haunted them in the three-year, late-game dramatics of their now-ending rivalry with the Wolverines that made a faux pas out of a quarterback who was simply just an athlete, and now somewhat forgotten in a Jacksonville Jaguars uniform.
Saturday, the Fighting Irish could've blown the game if Michigan State had any sort of offensive semblance. Running the ball has been Notre Dame's focal point for improvement all season, but it wasn't going to work against the Spartans' defense. Especially when they knew it was coming.
If the Irish are to become a factor again this year, they'll need a lot of help. Not only in climbing the polls, but on an internal level. The Irish need a swagger about themselves. They need to make better decisions. They need a makeover, and they need it in a hurry.
College football seasons are defined by perfection, and Notre Dame is far from it right now.
Jim McCurdy covered Notre Dame football while living in the Michiana area. He has written for major publications around the country. Follow him on Twitter at @irishcurds.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football