East Lansing, MI – Everett Golson passed for a touchdown and ran one in as 20th-ranked Notre Dame took a 20-3 win over No. 10 Michigan State.
Golson went 14-of-32 for 178 yards, while Cierre Wood added 10 carries for 56 yards for the Fighting Irish (3-0), who lost their first two games last season before beating Michigan State in the third week.
"Very, very difficult opponent in Michigan State; physical on both sides of the ball," said Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. "Our challenge was going to be to find some big chunk plays. We were able to get a couple. We missed a few that we're going to regret when we watch the film, but I think the most important thing is that our defense continues to be the group that we had committed to in building when we started this process, and they're starting to get to that level that can play against anybody."
Andrew Maxwell was 23-of-45 for 187 yards and Le'Veon Bell carried the ball 19 times for 77 yards for the Spartans (2-1), who were coming off a 41-7 blowout of Central Michigan last Saturday.
"Tough day at the office I guess you could say," said Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. "Without watching the film you don't really have a great idea about the breakdowns but we didn't run the football, we didn't protect the quarterback very well and we had some drops. We need to have more explosive plays on offense. We didn't get in the red zone and missed a field goal."
The second half started with the Irish holding an 11-point lead, and it stayed that way through the third quarter as both sides had trouble mounting any offense.
After each team punted twice, the Spartans briefly got the ball past midfield, but a holding call pushed them back over and they had to punt.
Notre Dame made it to midfield after getting the ball back, but stalled there and again had to punt.
Starting with the ball at its own 4-yard line and under 13 minutes to play, Notre Dame went on a long drive to kill the clock and pad its lead.
Wood got the team out of the shadow of its own end zone with runs of nine and 26 yards on the first two plays. Facing a 4th-and-1 several plays later, Notre Dame called a timeout and converted when Wood took the ball around the right side for eight yards.
The drive stopped at the Michigan State 12, but Kyle Brindza hit a 29-yard field goal to cap the 6 1/2 minute drive for a 17-3 lead with 6:21 to play.
Notre Dame recovered a Michigan State fumble on the ensuing drive and turned that into a 47-yard field goal from Brindza to put the game away.
Each team punted on its first possession, but Notre Dame wound up with excellent field position on its second touch as the team started with the ball close to midfield.
On the fourth play of the drive at the Michigan State 36, Golson heaved the ball into the end zone where John Goodman made a leaping one-handed catch for a 7-0 lead with 10:34 to play in the first.
The Spartans got into scoring position on their next drive and lined up for a 44-yard field goal, but Dan Conroy missed it and his team stayed off the scoreboard.
On their first touch of the second quarter, the Irish made it a two-score game. Again starting at midfield, George Atkinson busted a 32-yard run on the first play to get the ball to the Michigan State 19. Four plays later, Golson ran down the left side and just got into the end zone inside the pylon for a 6-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 10:50 left in the second quarter.
The Spartans put together a scoring drive after the kickoff. The team held the ball for over seven minutes and ran 14 plays, but only moved the ball 37 yards and Conroy hit a 50-yard field goal to make it a 14-3 game with under four minutes to play in the half.
Notre Dame holds a 47-28-1 advantage in the series and has won 16 of the last 21 games at Spartan Stadium ... T.J. Jones led the Notre Dame receivers with four catches for 59 yards while Keith Mumphery paced Michigan State with six catches for 71 yards ... The teams combined for 16 punts in the game ... Notre Dame hosts Michigan next Saturday ... Michigan State hosts Eastern Michigan next week.