The Top Notre Dame Moments of 2012: MICHIGAN STATE

Gregory Shamus

The OFD staff discusses two big moments from the early-season test on the road in East Lansing.

The top moments from 2012 marches on after a brief hiatus. Following the lackluster performance against Purdue in the home opener and facing a top 10 Michigan State team on the road, not many were excited about the chances of a 3-0 start to the season.

Oh, how naive we all were.

Here are two top moments from Notre Dame's 20-3 win over Michigan State.

MOMENT #1

Everett Golson 36-yard TD Pass to John Goodman

Down & Distance: 2nd & 9 from the State 36-yard line

Score: 0-0

The Situation: It wasn't a great start for both teams. Notre Dame cobbled together a few poor rushing attempts, a false start, and Golson going 1 for 3 passing before punting. Michigan State then went 3 & out beginning what would be an awful offensive performance by the Spartans.

On the second Irish drive Golson found Toma on 2nd down for a first down and that was followed up by a 1-yard run by Theo Riddick. On the next play Golson showed off his quick feet and strong arm, while we first witnessed Goodman in his 5th-year senior "I don't need two hands to catch touchdowns" mode.

Eric: You can't stop John Goodman, you can only hope to contain him. Especially on deep throws to the end zone back across the field. So money.

Pburns: I know it was said w.r.t. the purdue catch too, but the John Goodman touchdown/first down to catch ratio is one of the weirdest stats I think we will see in a long time. He was clutch, and only clutch.

Fish: I still can't decide which impossible touchdown catch of his I loved more in 2012 - the one-handed grab in MSU's endzone, or the Wake Forest TD he pulled down around the DB's arm.

Whiskey: This was the first Golson play that really made me start believing that he is going to be the real deal. He starts rolling to his right, avoids the pressure off the edge with a seemingly effortless side step, keeps rolling towards the sideline then plants his right foot on the 41 yard line and tosses a strike back across his body into the opposite corner of the endzone for six. You aren't supposed to attempt that throw much less pull it off. Needless to say this was also a money one handed grab by Goodman on the receiving end while being interfered with. Overall one of the best plays of the season.

alstein: I was at this game, and this play shut the crowd up for the entire remainder of the game. I mean, I have never been to a more quiet sporting event; it just stunned everyone. For the ridiculousness of the play itself and for their top 10 team going down early and never even putting up a fight. Looking back, it sucks that this win got devalued every week, but it was still really impressive and enormous for this team.

Pburns: I think the biggest reason this win kept getting devalued was the continual and repeated abuse of one Le'Veon Bell. MSU had no legs left at the end of the season, because the only pair of legs they trusted all year had gotten 40 carries a game.

Eric: So I was thinking we've beaten Michigan State twice in a row. We avenged Little Giants inside Spartan Stadium, so that's nice. I didn't realize this was our first back-to-back wins against MSU since Holtz won 8 straight from 1987 to 1994. We went from season 8 of Seinfeld to 6 months ago without beating Michigan State twice in a row.

Fish: That's pretty remarkable. Have we avenged Little Giants? I'd like to hope that that play would continue to fire the Irish up against Dantonio and the Spartans for another few years.

Jim: Is no one going to point out the irony of FC Goodman making a one handed catch? No one? Really?

I do enjoy the sandlot football aspect of what EG brings to the table, as evidenced by this play. Not a throw any QB should attempt, but it was pretty special. Goodman earned that 5th year after that catch. I think I said to the staff that he achieved Duval Kamara vs. Utah status in my eyes at that point--everything else he contributed was just gravy.

Eric: Goodman will always be somewhat of a curious case. I think his lack of toughness and grit really held him back. He was fast (for a white guy), had really good hands, and had the size to put it all together. Is he working out at Notre Dame's Pro Day? I'd be interested to see how he does with some of the speed drills.

Jim: He may be pretty fast, but the real question is this--is he pretty fly for a white guy? Did I just date myself? Yes. Yes I did.

Eric: Is the The Offspring's 1994 album "Smash" an underrated gem from that decade now? I listened to the crap out of that cassette---and yes I didn't buy many CD's back then. 4 years later when ‘Pretty Fly for a White Guy' came out that band was in a weird place.

I would posit that 1994 was a pretty nice year for music: Alice in Chain's ‘Jar of Flies', Green Day ‘Dookie', Beck ‘Mellow Gold', Nine Inch Nails ‘The Downward Spiral', Soundgarden ‘Superunknown', Pink Floyd ‘Division Bell', Nas ‘Illmatic', OutKast ‘Southernplayalisticaddilacmuzik', Live ‘Throwing Copper', Weezer ‘Weezer (The Blue Album)', Beastie Boys ‘Ill Communication', Stone Temple Pilots ‘Purple', Hootie & the Blowfish ‘Cracked Rear View', Barenaked Ladies ‘Maybe You Should Drive', Oasis ‘Definitely Maybe', Blues Traveler ‘four', Biggie ‘Ready to Die', Dave Matthews Band ‘Under the Table and Dreaming', Nirvana ‘MTV Unplugged in NYC', Pearl Jam ‘Vitalogy', Bush ‘Sixteen Stone.' 1994 brought it strong with the music.

Jim: Wow. Of course, I was 15 for the vast majority of 1994, but that is a pretty good list of albums. Is "Smash" under-rated? I don't know--is it rated at all? I remember when it came out, there wasn't really anything like it that I knew of. This was the heart (beginning of the end?) of the grunge era, and about the time that most people realized that not every act from the Seattle area sounded the same.

Whiskey: Only you guys could turn a conversation about an awesome touchdown pass into a discussion about music in 1994. Love it. I think that was actually the last year I bought more than 10 CD's.

Eric: We're very well-rounded, you know.

~~~

MOMENT #2

Cierre Wood's 26-yard 4th Quarter Run

Down & Distance: 2 & 1 from the Notre Dame 13-yard line

Score: 14-3 Irish

The Situation: There was 12:56 left in the 4th quarter when this drive started and the game was far from over. The Irish had been keeping Michigan State in check offensively (61 plays, 239 yards, 3.9 yards per play) but were backed up to their 4-yard line and in desperate need of a nice long drive to flip field position in a tight game.

In what would be the first of 3 great runs on this 6+ minute drive leading to a crucial field goal, Cierre Wood rushed for 9 yards on first down setting up one of the strongest runs of his Notre Dame career on second down.


Eric: You could have picked a couple other moments from this game (including a 4th and 1 conversion by Wood a little later than this one) but this moment was just a great run capped off by the season's best stiff arm that took the Irish out of the shadow of their own end zone.

Whiskey: This was a nice run and most importantly it was really the thing that kick started the drive that iced the game. And yeah, that was a pretty awesome stiff arm. I forget the name of Sparty's #5 but that kid got worked all night. He interfered with Goodman to no avail on his TD grab, failed to tackle Golson on his TD run, then got planted on this stiff arm by Cierre. That's a tough day at the office!

Eric: That was 5th year senior and 3-year starter Johnny Adams. He had a pretty good career but as you said struggled in this game.

Whiskey: This win got less street cred as the season wore on but at the time it really was a huge win for the program.

Pburns: This Michigan State game was the turning point for me this past season. I remember walking into a liquor store where the guy at the counter asked "Think you guys have a chance tonight?", and I replied with a "No, don't think we'll win, but hopefully we keep it close." Needless to say when Cierre broke this run off, the always-let-down ND fan in myself was waiting for the other shoe to drop -- a fumble, interception, something to make the booze I bought serve its purpose. But no, this team was different and put the game away like a for-real top 10 team should do.

Eric: Dang, you were that worried about Michigan State? Yup, I was too. Went back and looked at the preview and picked Sparty to win by 7 points.

alstein: For how long have we been desperate for a team that can just run out the clock in the 4th quarter? Just line up and run it right down their throats. This was the beginning of that, finally. I remember arguing with folks about o-line struggles against Purdue and for much of this game and the possibility that Hiestand may not be the right guy and all that. But they really answered the call in this 4th quarter, and the offensive line was excellent from this point forward.

Jim: This run was really the beginning of the end for MSU. They couldn't really move the ball offensively, but their defense was pretty solid up until this point. It is impressive when an offense can line up with everyone in the stadium knowing it will be a run and they break off a big one like this.

As Eric said, the 4th down conversion where Eifert seals the edge was another great run for Cierre in this game. It was a nice performance for a guy who had to miss the first two games of the season due to some off-field issues.

Eric: I'm saying it right now---not afraid of Michigan State's offense at all next year.

Patrick: Aaaaaaaaaaaand Eric locks in the shootout with Michigan State next year.

Eric: Maybe a 17-17 shootout. Also, this run is a perfect example of the type of footwork and moves that GA3 struggles with. Wood runs laterally and takes a quick jab step up field before a few more strides laterally. At that point, Atkinson would have kicked it outside and probably get tackled for a 2-yard gain by the crashing defensive back---or planting his foot, getting up field, and possibly getting a little more yardage on a play where the Irish linemen are doing some nice work up front. A couple hop-step cuts reversing field was a great move by Wood that allowed the Irish to have an explosive play in a critical situation.

4pointshooter: We were celebrating a friend's birthday and another's engagement that evening and we couldn't find a bar in the area that had enough room for our whole group to sit. We somehow ended up in a wine bar right around the middle of the third quarter and we couldn't celebrate as loudly as we wanted to when this play happened. The wine was good though- it tasted a lot better after this play. #DrunkOnThatVino

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