Notre Dame vs. Michigan State: Postgame Grades from the Spartan Loss vs Irish
Notre Dame dominated this one from start to finish on both sides of the ball in a 20-3 win.
Michigan State sputtered offensively all night and the Irish mixed it up on the ground and in the air enough to take the win. The game wasn't pretty for either side statistically, but Notre Dame made enough plays on both offense and defense to emerge the victors.
It all stared up front for UND, as the Irish improved to 3-0 and the Spartans fell to 2-1.
Andrew Maxwell was very average in this game. He didn't make any serious mistakes or take any unnecessary chances, but MSU also never made any serious plays on offense, and it showed on the scoreboard.
The junior was pressured throughout, but the bottom line was that MSU didn't make any big plays on offense.
He finished 23-of-44 for 187 yards, averaging just 4.2 yards per completion.
Maxwell is certainly not completely at fault for this loss, but he did little carry the Spartans to victory. He made a few nice third down conversions—some in the face of heavy pressure—but it just wasn't enough.
Running Backs: B-
Le'Veon Bell was decent, running for 77 yards, including pulling out his signature hurdle move. He wasn't great—certainly not like the 200-yard performance against Boise State, but his offensive line wasn't great either.
MSU ended up with just 50 rushing yards once Maxwell's sacks were factored in.
Bell ran hard, but the Notre Dame offense stacked the box and forced the Spartans to win it through the air—which didn't happen.
Wide Receivers: D
As previously noted, Maxwell didn't receive a lot of help from his receivers.
Michigan State only had two plays for more than 20 yards, both passes, one going for 22 and the other for 23 yards.
Keith Mumphery was the only MSU receiver to even have a decent day, as he had six catches for 71 yards.
Sophomore Tony Lippett also had three catches for 21 yards.
Tight Ends: B
Junior Dion Sims may have had the best day of any Spartan.
He had six catches for 52 yards and was one of only two reliable receivers for MSU, as he served as Maxwell's security blanket for most of the game.
He also was responsible for Michigan State's longest play—a 23-yard reception.
Offensive Line: D
Notre Dame's win and Michigan State's loss all started up front, where MSU was handled all game.
Maxwell was sacked four times for a loss of 30 yards and faced heavy pressure all game long.
Meanwhile, Bell averaged just 4.1 yards per carry and was overall ineffective. He had very few holes to run through and most of his yards he had to battle for.
It was a rough day for the Spartans, thanks to an uninspired performance up front.
Defensive Line: B-
Michigan State stayed aggressive up front throughout the game defensively, as the Spartans were able to pressure Everett Golson pretty well.
However, he did manage to escape the pocket and make a few plays.
MSU had just one sack (made by defensive back Johnny Adams), as Notre Dame had the slight edge up front on this side of the ball.
The common theme for MSU was that it just wasn't enough on this night. The Spartans looked really good at times up front, but other times were overly aggressive and were gouged on misdirection plays as a result.
Max Bullough put in the best performance on defense for Michigan State. He had some nice plays and big hits throughout the game and nearly had a huge interception.
However, MSU's entire defensive front was embarrassed by misdirection plays numerous times in the game.
Just when the Spartans had the opportunity to deliver a defensive stop, they faltered. Notre Dame started a drive in the fourth quarter inside its own five yard line, but the Irish were able to march all the way down field for three points—all but putting the game away.
We saw flashes of this great MSU defense, but with virtually no offensive help, it mattered little.
Defensive Backs: D+
Johnny Adams had the only sack for the Spartans and also made a couple of other nice plays, but was also involved on UND's touchdown reception, pictured there.
He was flagged twice for pass interference, which—in the life of a defensive back—will completely negate just about any positive play.
The Spartans struggled tackling in the secondary and also left numerous Notre Dame receivers open in the game, including some big third down conversions.
Like in the front seven, we saw some nice plays and flashes of strong play, but we also saw too many grave mistakes.
Special Teams: C+
Mike Sadler punted pretty well including dropping one inside the five yard line.
The kick coverage was pretty solid and Conroy had a booming 50-yard field goal. However, he also missed one from 40 yards.
The biggest mistake from the MSU special teams unit came on a roughing the punter call.
However, nothing that the special teams did had much bearing in this game, as MSU didn't put together a strong enough overall performance to win this one.
Michigan State could have tried to stretch the field on offense and take more shots down field to try to create some plays.
Defensively, MSU stayed aggressive, but perhaps was also perhaps a overly aggressive at times, a mistake Notre Dame was able to expose.
It started and ended up front for the Spartans. Michigan State tried to stick to its guns, especially early on offensively, running the ball and hitting the play-action pass.
However, as noted all game, MSU just didn't execute on the field.
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