Penalties costly in Spartans' 17-13 loss to ND
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)
The Spartans (3-1) were called for 10 penalties for 115 yards, including four pass interference calls - two of which were questionable - and threw an interception on a trick play that shifted momentum Notre Dame's way in a 17-13 loss on Saturday.
Despite all that, though, the Spartans had a chance to tie the game when Connor Cook threw a 19-yard pass to Bennie Fowler as they drove to the Notre Dame 14-yard-line. But the fourth-quarter drive stalled, and Michigan State had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Michael Geiger. The Spartans managed just one touchdown in four attempts inside the Notre Dame red zone.
''You've got to score touchdowns in those situations,'' he said.
Dantonio said he couldn't ever recall so many defensive pass interference calls in one game.
''I've been coaching 30-plus years, no. Never,'' he said. ''I guess that's where we should stop.''
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he wasn't surprised by the calls because of the number of long passes the Irish (3-1) attempted.
''When you know the quarterback is going to throw it back shoulder, and the defensive back doesn't know where it is, you have an advantage in that situation,'' he said. ''You're going to get some pass interference calls when you put the ball in a good position.''
The costliest mistake, though, likely was the interception thrown by receiver R.J. Shelton as the Spartans tried to catch the Irish defense sleeping. But Shelton threw into double coverage and safety Matthias Farley picked it off.
Dantonio said the play call was his.
''I felt,'' he said, ''like we needed a big play.''
Michigan State receiver Macgarrett Kings, who had a 7-yard TD catch, said the Spartans didn't make the plays they needed.
''No matter who's in,'' he said, ''we just don't make plays on the ball.''
The Spartans were called for two pass interference calls on the ensuing drive, allowing Notre Dame to maintain possession. The Irish, who continually passed - even on short running situations - scored moments later when Notre Dame appeared to surprise the Spartans with a call. Cam McDaniel raced into the end zone to take the 17-10 lead with 14:44 left to play.
The Irish also took advantage of another questionable pass interference in the first half that set up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Rees to TJ Jones, and a holding penalty that kept a drive alive led to a 41-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza. The Spartans had 10 penalties for 115 yards by the Big Ten officials.
''We've got to be able to handle those things,'' Dantonio said, ''and play through the adversity.''
Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard said the Spartans couldn't let the penalties affect them.
''In the end, we've just got to make more plays to help the offense out,'' he said. ''The refs call what they had to call. They thought it was pass interference. We've got to continue to play.''
The Spartans entered with the nation's No. 1 defense, allowing 50 yards a game rushing, and 127 passing. Michigan State's defense had also scored four touchdowns, which is also how many it had allowed. They stopped the Irish on the ground, holding them to 82 yards, and limited Rees to a season-low 142 yards passing. But it wasn't enough, as the rivalry was decided by a touchdown or less for the ninth time in the past 14 meetings.
Rees, who opened the season with three 300-yard passing games, was 14-of-34 passing.
''He just missed open receivers,'' Kelly said. ''I mean, we had guys open. He just didn't hit them.''
Rees said the Irish needed to attempt some long passes because of what the Michigan State defense was giving them.
''We want to hit those, and we hit a few of the early, but we missed a couple big ones,'' he said. ''We found a way to get the ball in the end zone in the end, but we need to find a way to be more efficient.''
Despite the offensive struggles, the Irish have now won 10 straight at home for the first time since 1999, when Bob Davie was coach. Notre Dame won 19 straight under Lou Holtz 1987-90.
Kelly was pleased with the overall defensive effort.
''Both defenses,'' he said, ''really carried the day here today.''
His was better.