I had to take a couple of days to seperate myself from the emotions of the game, a heartbreaking loss to say the least, so that I could give my post-game analysis the level of detachment it deserves.
First of all, I'm going to state off the bat that Notre Dame should not have lost that game. They had numerous opportunities to put the game away, and were unable to execute when it mattered. This is also a testament to Michigan State's determination in the face of adversity, as they had coughed up a twenty-one point lead late in the game, and they were able to turn things around and get it done during overtime (with a little help from the officials, but not so much that I'm going to put this on the officials like I would have last year's Pitt game).
SPORTSMANSHIP RANT: I don't want you to confuse the determination of Michigan State with heart, however, as the players on Michigan State have no heart. They, collectively, are classless, arrogant, and a blemish on the integrity of an otherwise decent university. To be excited about a win over a top ten opponent at their field is understandable. Blatant grandstanding and taunting of an opponent and their fans is inexcusable, and looked even worse for them in comparison to the ND students salute of their fellow students after a heartbreaking loss. If I were a member of the Notre Dame administration, I would demand that the Michigan State suspend every player involved in the grandstanding for one game, to make a statement in favor of sportsmanship. Absent Michigan State suspending the players, I would petition the NCAA to do so. However, the NCAA is a spineless yes-man with Myles Brand at the helm, and will never take such a risk. They even backed down on their PC-BS attempt to eliminate "offensive" native american nicknames and mascots from the game. I would also refuse to play MSU again until their coaches, administration, and players provide the University with a public apology. Notre Dame doesn't owe Michigan State anything, and Michigan State would suffer greatly from no longer being able to count on that nationally-televised game each year. I could care less what kind of grandstanding they choose to do in their own stadium, but they should not be permitted to act like such ass-clowns in The House That Rock Built. END RANT
Michigan State's offense blew me away. I didn't expect them to overwhelm our defense the way they did late in the second quarter and early in the second half. They have more talent than I thought they did, and Coach Smith's offensive system is more explosive than Michigan State has seen. I can tell you right now that Michigan State will beat Michigan this year.
Notre Dame's offense was even more impressive, after a relatively slow start. They showed the world that no lead is safe aginst this team, as they overcame a 21-point deficit with only 20 minutes left to play. If a team wants to beat Notre Dame, they cannot let up on the pressure for even a moment, as Michigan State did. Once Notre Dame got their momentum, they were able to completely turn the game aroound. Michigan State benefitted at the end of the game from lazy refs that didn't feel like making the MSU cheaters get up off their butts with 40 seconds left on the clock and force them to run another play from their 1-yard line, a classic Big Ten ref move. If college had a timed overtime, and not a possession-based one, Notre Dame would have won that game. Period. Michigan State hadn't been able to get field position anytime in the fourth quarter, and the Irish had moving the ball at will. I am a fan of college's overtime system, (except that I would have teams start from the 50) and am not going to use that as an excuse as to why we lost - we lost because we couldn't execute when we needed to. However, MSU got lucky in the end.
Hats off to Brady Quinn, who showed his toughness, and threw five touchdown passes (a school record) and the second-most yards in school history. He put this team on his back at a time when the crowd was no longer in the game and the opponent had all of the momentum, and single-handedly dragged his team back into the game. If Notre Dame had won the game, and not lost, this game would have launched Brady into serious Heisman consideration. As it is, he fell short, and will have to wait until next year to make a case for the Heisman.
Ultimately, it was a couple of mistakes by the Irish that led to their undoing. Asaph Schwapp fumbled the ball on the one yard-line in a contrvoersial call by the officials (upon review, I would argue that it wasn't a touchdown, but that forward progress should have been granted at the one-foot line). Brady threw a costly interception touchdown. Late in the game, our confidence in the offense led to a call that in retrospect was wrong, going for it on 4th and 1 instead of taking a field goal, and turning over the ball on downs. The refs granted MSU forward progress to the one-foot line on a play at the end of the game that, had it been called the same way as the Asaph Schwapp fumble, should have been a safety. The refs (in the biggest mistake I have seen by officials) turned a blind eye to a blatant holding penalty on Third Down in overtime where a MSU defender grabbed Fasano by the shoulderpads and threw him to the ground. On that same play, Stovall was interfered with in the end zone, forcing the Irish to kick a field goal. Two big penalties that the refs didn't call on the same play. Any of these situations would have given the Irish a win, whereas MSU had everything go their way, with the lone exception of a missed 50+ yard field goal. (The Irish missed a 38-yarder, too)
In what (for anyone that knows me) is a complete turnaround, I am actuall not pissed off after this loss. I am disappointed, for sure, but I saw a game that was well-coached, hard-fought, and showed a never-say-die attitude. I have nobody to be pissed at (except maybe the refs, but even then, they called a relatively fair game, if an inconsistent one). I spent the bulk of the last 8 years being pissed off at the coaches for the losses, when they made amateurish mistakes that cost us the game. This game, however was different. Where there mistakes? Yes. But they were mistakes that were a result of risks taken in desperate situations in an effort to win the game. Mistakes in the last few years were more to stop the bleeding or not to lose.
The Irish are back.