Notre Dame knows danger of Michigan State’s No. 1 defense
BY LAMOND POPE Sun-Times Media September 20, 2013 8:40PM
Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees throws a pass against the Temple during the first half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
MICHIGAN STATE AT
NO. 22 NOTRE DAME
T he facts: 2:30 p.m., Ch. 5, 890-AM.
The records: MSU 3-0, ND 2-1.
The line: Notre Dame by 5.
Updated: October 22, 2013 6:11AM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Tommy Rees didn’t need to look at the NCAA rankings to know the challenges Michigan State’s defense presents.
‘‘They’ve had success on defense since I’ve been here,” the Notre Dame quarterback said. ‘‘They do a great job of rallying to the football and really playing tough, hard-nosed defense.”
No. 22 Notre Dame (2-1) takes on the No. 1-ranked defense in the country Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. The Spartans (3-0) have allowed just 177 yards per game.
‘‘You don’t have to prepare differently,’’ Rees said. ‘‘Obviously, you are cognizant of the success they’ve had. But for us, it’s all about what we’re doing on offense. It’s about our execution and our expectation of our game plan.
‘‘You can’t dwell too much on what they’re ranked. You’ve just got to get their scheme down and understand what they’re trying to do and then go out and execute to the best of our ability.’’
For the first two weeks, defensive lineman Shilique Calhoun was Michigan State’s top scoring threat. He has three defensive touchdowns, returning two fumbles and one interception for scores.
‘‘They’ve had some good defensive ends that have always been good up front. He carries on that legacy,” Rees said.
Michigan State had two offensive touchdowns in the first two weeks. Connor Cook provided a spark in Week 3, throwing for 202 yards and four touchdowns against Youngstown State. Cook has 276 passing yards and 70 rushing yards this year.
‘‘He’s a big, strong kid,’’ Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ‘‘He’s got a live arm. We knew what they want to do with him.
‘‘As much as we talk about Connor Cook running, this game plan is not about Connor Cook winning the game running the football. This is about their defense. This is about them controlling the football and making some big plays. Connor Cook will do what he does within that system. But this is still about Michigan State football and this is playing great defense, running the football and the quarterback managing the game.’’