Notre Dame escapes from Michigan St.
McCarthy's interception at the 4-yard line with 57 seconds sealed Notre Dame's 33-30 win after Jimmy Clausen threw for 300 yards, including the game-winning score on a 33-yard touchdown to Golden Tate with 5:18 left.
"I think this is a huge step for our guys. Not necessarily for the program, but for the guys in the locker room," said McCarthy, who has an interception in each game this season. "We deserve this win."
It was the second straight week the Spartans gave an opponent a second chance and paid for it.
Michigan State's Larry Caper slipped through the Irish defense and was all alone in the back of the end zone. Caper got his hands on it, but it was high and he couldn't pull it down.
The play was reminiscent of Tate Forcier's game-winning TD pass with 11 seconds left the week before at Michigan.
"After last week, how bad everybody felt in a very similar situation in the ending of the game, to make a play to change the outcome in favor of us, I'm really, really happy for those kids in there," said coach Charlie Weis, 31-22 in his fifth season. "It's nice to see how genuinely excited they are. They feel great."
Instead, the unforced error evoked memories of Michigan State's offside penalty against Central Michigan that gave the Chippewas a second chance at the winning field goal.
"It was a little tougher than Central Michigan because it was such a big win for us," said, Michigan State receiver Keshawn Martin, who threw a 30-yard TD pass to Blair White.
The Irish held on to beat the Spartans in Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since 1993, but lost star wide receiver Michael Floyd to what may be a broken collarbone.
Floyd was hurt in the first half and Weis said the training staff told him "clavicle" and he assumes they meant that it's broken. Second in the nation with 160 yards receiving per game, Floyd finished with two catches for 38 yards.
Cousins was 23 of 35 passing for 302 yards for Michigan State, which was held to 105 yards rushing.
"He played well with the exception of the last throw," Dantonio said.
Cousins was under pressure from linebacker Darius Fleming when he threw the interception.
"I needed to throw the ball away or take a sack, anything to throw the ball away," he said.
Armando Allen ran for 115 yards and a touchdown and threw for another out of a wildcat formation, and Nick Tausch kicked field goals of 22 and 46 yards for the Irish (2-1), though missed an early extra point. It was the third 100-yard game of Allen's career and his second straight.
White caught a pair of touchdown passes and Caper ran for two more as the Spartans (1-2) lost for the second straight week. It was the second time in the past nine meetings that the home team won.
"We left plays on the field. We can't do that against a good football team," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "We can't do that in an away game."
Clausen was 22 of 31 and injured his right foot when he was sacked in the second quarter, but only missed two plays in the game. He wouldn't elaborate on exactly what the injury is, but said he will undergo X-rays Sunday.
Tate finished with 127 yards on seven catches.
Late in the third quarter, Irish defensive tackle Ethan Johnson blocked an extra point after Caper scored from 7 yards out to cut Notre Dame's lead to 26-23.
"Probably the play of the game. If everything else unfolds as is we're kicking the field goal to win," Dantonio said.
Weis said he believes the Irish showed a resilience they haven't had the past two seasons.
"In the past, what might have happened is when we went down in the second half, it might have been deflating," he said. "But not this team. This team just expects they're going to come back and make a play and win."