Notre Dame could be running into trouble with Michigan State
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media September 17, 2013 8:34PM
Notre Dame running back Amir Carlisle runs against Purdue during the first half of an NCAA college football game in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Updated: September 18, 2013 3:56PM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The numbers are imposing.
Michigan State limited Western Michigan to 11 rushing yards on Aug. 30. The next week, the Spartans held South Florida to 89 yards on the ground. Youngstown State rushed for only 51 yards Saturday.
No. 22 Notre Dame (2-1) knows that jump-starting its running game won’t be easy this Saturday against the Spartans (3-0).
‘‘They make it very difficult to run the football,’’ Irish coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. ‘‘You’ve got to find ways to manufacture runs.’’
Michigan State is fourth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 50.3 yards per game. Opponents are averaging 1.8 yards per carry. The Spartans lead the country in total defense, surrendering just 177 yards per game.
‘‘Our defensive football team does a great job of not taking anything for granted and adjusting to who they play every week,’’ Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. ‘‘I think that’s experience [the team has seven returning starters on defense]. That’s a level of confidence. That’s being in the same system. So all those things I think are very, very positive for us.’’
Notre Dame is 92nd in the country in rushing offense at 125 yards per game. The Irish had 188 rushing yards in the opener against Temple but haven’t cracked 100 yards the last two weeks.
Four running backs got carries Saturday against Purdue. The Irish finished with 91 rushing yards.
Notre Dame has had balance in carries by its more experienced backs. Amir Carlisle leads with 148 rushing yards on 30 attempts. Cam McDaniel is next with 125 yards on 29 carries. He had a team-high 56 yards and one touchdown against the Boilermakers. George Atkinson III has 98 yards on 18 carries.
‘‘They are all contributing. I think we’ll continue to see it week‑to‑week,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘Next week, maybe we’ll talk about somebody else. We just think we have got a lot of guys that can contribute, and they are all going to have roles.
‘‘I don’t know that we are going to have one guy that we put up there and say, ‘He’s the guy.’ I think they are all going to contribute in some fashion.’’
Note: Defensive lineman Sheldon Day sprained his ankle Saturday. He was in a walking boot Tuesday but is expected to have it off and practice today.