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September 23, 2006
When Irish Eyes Are Blinking In Disbelief

After the drubbing Notre Dame took from Michigan at home last week, we wondered how the Irish would respond on the road against Michigan State tonight. For the first half, the answer was: more of the same. The Irish could not move the ball and the smaller defense could not stop the Spartan offense. Michigan State put up 17 in the first quarter while the Irish stalled repeatedly, and had the same lead at halftime when Brady Quinn began to find his rhythm again, 31-14.

However, Charlie Weis sent his troops back onto the field with something ringing in their ears, and from the way the Irish played in the second half, I doubt it was Have A Nice Day. Notre Dame suddenly started playing ferocious defense and Quinn's offense gained real traction. After trading touchdowns in the third quarter, the Irish scored 19 unanswered points in the fourth, one off of the first of two interceptions, to stun the Spartans, 40-37.

This comes a year after the Spartans spiked their flag into Notre Dame's field after a tough win in South Bend. Today, the Irish ruined the remembrance of the '66 Spartans victory tie with ND and the retirement of Bubba Smith's jersey. The emotional boost for the Spartans didn't outlast the halftime break.

The Irish refused to panic, even if I started reaching for my remote after Quinn threw one interception for an easy TD. Quinn wound up throwing 5 touchdowns and going 20-for-37 for 319 yards, with only the one pick. They only rushed for an anemic 44 yards, although some of that came from the need to pass in the second half. The defense may have come of age in the second half, stiffening against a Spartan rushing attack that gained 247 yards, almost all of it in the first two quarters.

The Irish made the adjustments they needed and shook off the embarrassing loss from last week. They didn't quit, not even when the Spartans answered their first TD in the third quarter with one of their own. Notre Dame remembered who they are in the second half, trouncing the Spartans 26-7 in the final 30 minutes. They are now 3-1 and looking at a schedule that they can run, at least until they play the #3 Prophylactics in their final outing at USC. They have an excellent chance to win a BCS bid, especially if they start playing up to their potential. The comeback win in East Lansing should give them the confidence they need to mow through the rest of their opponents this year.

UPDATE: Yes, that '66 game was a tie. Sorry -- don't know what I was thinking; I must have been giddy from the comeback. As pointed out in the comments, this was the notorious tie that Ara Parseghian took rather than try one more drive to win the game. His strategy was rewarded with a national championship, but Ara took a lot of flack for that decision. And it's East Lansing, not Battle Creek. Yeesh. Should have finished my victory Guiness before posting!

UPDATE II: Tyrone Willingham has quietly turned Washington around, starting 3-1 with a victory over UCLA tonight. I like Ty, and I hope he can make the Huskies tough in the Pac-10. Looks like he's well on the way.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 23, 2006 10:49 PM

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