Kyle McCarthy saved Notre Dame from another last-minute loss, one play after Michigan State cut the Fighting Irish a break.
Jimmy Clausen threw for 300 yards and a 33-yard touchdown to Golden Tate with 5:18 left and McCarthy's interception sealed Notre Dame's 33-30 victory over the Spartans on Saturday.
One play before McCarthy picked off Kirk Cousins' pass at the 4 with 57 seconds left, Michigan State's Larry Caper slipped through the Irish defense and was all alone in the back of the end zone. But Cousins overthrew what would have been a go-ahead touchdown, 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," coach Charlie Weis said. "It's nice to see how genuinely excited they are. They feel great."
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.
"It's a big win for Notre Dame, it's not a big win for Charlie Weis," said the Notre Dame coach, who is 31-22 in his fifth season in South Bend. "These kids fought their butts off and I'm happy for them."
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.
The Spartans, too, lost in the final minute the week before, giving Central Michigan a second chance at a field goal on an off-side penalty.
Cousins said he simply made a bad decision on 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.
McCarthy has an interception in each Notre Dame game this season.
Blair 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 missed two plays in the first half after apparently injuring his right foot when he was sacked, but it didn't appear to slow him.
After catching the go-ahead score, Tate kept running and leapt into the Michigan State band. He 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.
Clausen completed his first 10 passes as the Irish jumped to a 13-3 lead. His first miss came when Mike Ragone dropped the ball early in the second quarter.
Michigan State used both quarterbacks. Cousins started and played the majority of snaps, but Keith Nichol guided the Spartans to their first touchdown. Cousins led the other four scoring drives, including a 57-yard pass to Mark Dell that set up a 17-yard TD pass to White.
The Irish scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and appeared ready to blow the game open when they got untracked by a series of penalties. It started on a second-and-11 from the Michigan State 44 when tackle Sam Young was called for a false start. Guard Trevor Robinson was called for a hold on the next play, leading to a second-and-25. Then Clausen was sacked for the first time this season and was shaken up, missing the next play.
Then when the Spartans got the ball on the 20, Notre Dame cornerback Robert Blanton was called for a personal foul for a late hit on quarterback Nichol. Two plays later, Nichol kept the ball again for a 9-yard gain when safety Harrison Smith was called for a late hit.
The Spartans scored on the next play on a 30-yard pass from wide receiver Keshawn Martin to White to cut the lead to 13-10. The Spartans recovered an onside kick by Brett Swenson, but couldn't take advantage, though when Caulton Ray caught a 14-yard pass but fumbled at the 40-yard line.