7:00 PM ET, September 18, 2004
Spartan Stadium, EAST LANSING, MI
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Notre Dame used an opportunistic defense to beat Michigan State.
Tom Zbikowski returned a fumble 75 yards for a touchdown, set up another score with an interception and the Fighting Irish forced six turnovers in their 31-24 victory over the Spartans on Saturday night.
The Irish (2-1) got three interceptions and recovered three fumbles in their second straight victory, bouncing back from a season-opening loss to Brigham Young.
Freshman Darius Walker, the hero last week in a 28-20 win over Michigan, had 98 yards on 26 carries.
Zbikowski's two big plays in the first quarter got Notre Dame rolling against the Spartans (1-2).
His interception of Stephen Reaves' pass led to a 13-yard scoring drive, capped by a fourth-down, 1-yard bootleg by quarterback Brady Quinn to tie the game at 7.
Zbikowski said he noticed on film that Reaves tended to lock in on his receivers.
"I just read the quarterback and made a play on it," Zbikowski said of the interception.
Zbikowski struck again on the next possession. He read an option play and stripped running back Jason Teague of the ball, then rambled down the sideline for a 14-7 lead.
It fulfilled a prophecy by Notre Dame secondary coach Steven Wilks.
"(He) had been talking all week I was going to get a strip and do something with it," Zbikowski said. "I kind of made him proud on that play. I just felt I could get it, went after it hard, and took off."
Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham, a 1977 Michigan State graduate, is 2-1 against his alma mater as Notre Dame's. He is 3-1 overall against the Spartans, including a win while at Stanford.
He said turnovers were the difference.
"It is something we talk about and work on every week," Willingham said. "It's just modern-day, defensive football. You have to create turnovers."
Michigan State had dominated the recent series against the Irish, winning six of the previous seven games -- including all five when Notre Dame was coached by Bob Davie.
Michigan State scored early in the first quarter on a blocked punt by Marshall Campbell. The punt was recovered in the end zone by Jerramy Scott to give Michigan State a 7-0 lead.
But the Spartans couldn't keep the momentum, committing four first-half turnovers. Reaves, a freshman, was benched at halftime after throwing three interceptions. He was 7-for-20 for 66 yards.
Michigan State lost out on a scoring opportunity late in the fourth quarter when running back Jehuu Caulcrick -- his team trailing 28-17 -- fumbled going over the goal line. It was recovered in the end zone by Notre Dame safety Quentin Burrell for a touchback.
"When we come into the team meeting and look at the film, we're going to be very ill," Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. "We're going to be sick when we look at it. The opportunities were there."
Reaves' replacement, sophomore Drew Stanton, led the Spartans to their only offensive touchdown with 9 seconds left in the game. Stanton ran in from 4 yards out.
Stanton finished 8-of-12 passing for 110 yards. He also rushed for 49 yards on eight carries.
Caulcrick was Michigan State's leading rusher with 85 yards on 15 carries.
The Irish had enough on offense to secure the victory, running for 173 yards. Ryan Grant had 66 yards on 11 carries, including a 6-yard touchdown. Quinn was 11-of-24, passing for 215 yards, including a 35-yard TD pass to Matt Shelton.
DeAndra Cobb scored on an 89-yard kickoff return for the Spartans in the third quarter.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-16||4-14|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||0-0|
|TD||12:18||JERRAMY SCOTT 0 YD BLOCKED PUNT RETURN (DAVE RAYNER KICK)||0||7|
|TD||4:42||BRADY QUINN 1 YD RUN (D.J. FITZPATRICK KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 13 yards.
|TD||0:07||TOM ZBIKOWSKI 75 YD DEFENSIVE FUMBLE RETURN (D.J. FITZPATRICK KICK)||14||7|
|TD||8:52||MATT SHELTON 35 YD PASS FROM BRADY QUINN (D.J. FITZPATRICK KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 59 yards.
|TD||5:39||RYAN GRANT 6 YD RUN (D.J. FITZPATRICK KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 75 yards.
|TD||5:28||DEANDRA COBB 89 YD KICK RETURN (DAVE RAYNER KICK)||28||14|
|FG||14:55||DAVE RAYNER 46 YD FG|
Drive info: 8 plays, 31 yards.
|FG||0:57||D.J. FITZPATRICK 23 YD FG|
Drive info: 7 plays, 40 yards.
|TD||0:09||DREW STANTON 4 YD RUN (DAVE RAYNER KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 63 yards.