Michigan State vs Notre Dame: Top Individual Performances from Saturday's Battle

Tim KeeneyContributor ISeptember 21, 2013

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 21: Corey Robinson #88 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish tries to catch a pass as Trae Waynes #15 of the Michigan State Spartans defends and is called for pass interference at Notre Dame Stadium on September 21, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana.(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Well, that was ugly. 

The lack of points and yards in No. 22 Notre Dame's 17-13 win over Michigan State on Saturday can partly be attributed to two stingy defenses and two gritty, grind-it-out, smack-you-in-the-mouth styles, but penalties (18 total for 200 yards), boneheaded mistakes and ineptitude in the throwing games were unfortunately some other common themes from Notre Dame Stadium.

Nevertheless, despite a game that was a long way from being aesthetically pleasing, there were still bright spots from each side. 

So, instead of focusing on the sloppy play, which would be quite easy, let's take a look at some of the best individual showings on Saturday. 


Corey Robinson, WR, Notre Dame

Another week, another new receiver stepping up for the Irish. 

Coming into the season, TJ Jones was the assumed No. 1 guy with Tyler Eifert gone to the NFL. That was apparent through the first two weeks, and he added another score on Saturday against the Spartans. But then last week, DaVaris Daniels exploded for eight catches, 167 yards and two scores against Purdue, giving him four touchdowns for the season. 

This week, Corey "yes, I'm David's son" Robinson was the new hero.

Using elite size just like his father did, Robinson pulled in three catches for 54 yards on Saturday.

Those numbers may not explode out of the box score, but all three catches were first-down conversions on third down, and he drew a crucial pass interference—although at that point, I had lost count of the players who hadn't drawn a pass interference—on the game-winning touchdown drive. 

Head coach Brian Kelly's wide receiver depth seems to grow by the week, and Robinson should continue to be a dangerous third-down and red-zone option in the future. 


Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 21: Jeremy Langford #33 of the Michigan State Spartans runs against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on September 21, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana.(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Not counting running back R.J. Shelton's interception toss, Michigan State (Connor Cook and Andrew Maxwell) threw for a whopping 3.9 yards per attempt. 

Junior Jeremy Langford, meanwhile, averaged an entire yard more every time he ran the ball. 

Yet, for some baffling reason, he received just 14 carries, while Nick Hill, who averaged 2.6 yards per tote, made it a near-perfect time-share, taking 13 rushes. 

Detroit radio host Rico Beard put it simply:

Nevertheless, while the running back rotation was seriously questionable, Langford was terrific, hitting the holes hard and racking up 68 rushing yards to go with a 12-yard reception against Notre Dame's talented front seven. 

Michigan State's offense (254 total yards on 71 plays) couldn't solve the Irish defense, but Langford certainly wasn't to blame for that problem. 


KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame

Sep 21, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Matthias Farley (41) intercepts a pass intended for Michigan State Spartans wide receiver Bennie Fowler (13) in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame won 17-13. Mandatory Cr
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, it was more of an all-around team effort from the Irish, so it's hard to pick just one individual. 

Stephon Tuitt came through with a timely sack in the fourth quarter. Prince Shembo seemingly made a living in the backfield. Matthias Farley had an interception. In a gritty defensive game, there were several standout performances on that side of the ball for the Irish. 

But I'll go with KeiVarae Russell here. 

The sophomore corner was terrific. He provided lockdown defense for the majority of the game, had perfect coverage during Farley's interception and eventually earned an integral pass breakup on 3rd-and-7 to force a punt late in the fourth quarter. 

After a terrific freshman season, Russell has been somewhat inconsistent so far this season. But Saturday's performance was multiple steps back in the right direction.