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Irish Rally To Stop Spartans, 21-17

Sept 21, 2002

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By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Notre Dame doesn’t prefer winning in such dramatic fashion. It’s just working out that way.

Quarterback Pat Dillingham, playing for injured starter Carlyle Holiday, threw a short pass to Arnaz Battle, who ran 60 yards for a touchdown with 1:15 remaining as the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish rallied to beat Michigan State 21-17 Saturday.

“If we win every game like this, I know it creates a little more heartache for a lot of people, but I’ll take 13 like that,” Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said.

The Irish began the fourth quarter with a 14-3 lead, then trailed 17-14 with 1:45 left. The Spartans went ahead when Charles Rogers caught his second TD by leaping in the back of the end zone – with two defenders on him – and stabbing his left foot down for a spectacular 21-yard score.

Notre Dame (4-0) is off to its best start since 1993, the last time it seriously challenged for the national championship.

“The difference is, we used to lose games like this,” Battle said. “Now we’re finding a way to win games like this.”

In beating the Spartans (2-2) for the first time since 1994, the Irish gave Willingham a sweet victory against his alma mater.

“Michigan State is a huge part of me, but I’m the coach of Notre Dame,” Willingham said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings for Michigan State. I just didn’t for 60 minutes.”



The difference is, we used to lose games like this. Now we’re finding a way to win.Arnaz Battle

Michigan State had beaten the Irish the past five years and appeared to be headed for a sixth straight victory after Rogers scored his second TD, which came on a fourth-and-11 play and capped a 97-yard drive.

On the ensuing possession, Dillingham threw a short crossing pass to Battle. As defenders were running into each other, Battle raced to the sideline for the deciding score.

“My heart was just broke,” Michigan State safety Thomas Wright said.

The last three times Michigan State had beaten the Irish, the Spartans needed fourth-quarter TD passes to win.

“It was a nice to do the same thing against them,” Battle said.

Michigan State got the ball back with 1:09 left, but its comeback hopes ended when quarterback Jeff Smoker scrambled and threw a 43-yard pass that was intercepted by Gerome Sapp at the Notre Dame 3. It was Sapp’s second interception of the game.

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Arnaz Battle’s late score leads the Irish to victory over the Spartans.
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Tyrone Willingham tells ABC’s Jack Arute he is proud of the way Notre Dame played.
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“We wanted to take this (team) back to how it used to be and how it should be,” Sapp said. “This is a no-excuse program now. In the past, we made excuses.”

Rogers had seven catches for 175 yards, and he tied an NCAA record by catching a touchdown pass in his 12th straight regular-season game. The mark is shared by Marshall’s Randy Moss, Michigan’s Desmond Howard and Pacific’s Aaron Turner. Including last year’s Silicon Valley Bowl, Rogers has caught TD passes in 13 consecutive games, tying the Big Ten mark set by Howard. NCAA records do not count postseason games.

Rogers’ first TD catch from Smoker, from 38 yards out early in the fourth quarter, got Michigan State to 14-10.

“He truly showcased himself as a great player,” Willingham said of Rogers. “He is fantastic.”

Holiday left with a left shoulder injury late in the third quarter and watched the rest of the game from the sideline, with his arm and shoulder secured by a brace and a bandage. Notre Dame has next week off, and Holiday said he will play in the the next game, vs. Stanford – where Willingham coached the previous seven seasons.

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Carlyle Holiday makes a diving catch on a 30-yard pass from Arnaz Battle.

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Holiday was 5-of-17 for 84 yards and threw Notre Dame’s first touchdown pass of the season. Ryan Grant ran for 90 yards on 17 carries, and Battle caught three passes for 78 yards.

Smoker was 19-of-34 for 281 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions

“This is not the time to pack it in,” Smoker said. “We still have a lot of goals to achieve and we have to remember that.”

On the game’s opening possession, Notre Dame scored a TD that was set up by two third-down conversions and a trick play, a 30-yard pass from Battle to a diving Holiday. Ryan Grant ran 7 yards through a huge hole three plays later to put the Irish ahead 7-0.

Michigan State’s Dave Rayner made a 35-yard field goal late in the first quarter to make it 7-3.

After both teams struggled to move the ball in the second quarter, Notre Dame’s defense provided a spark once again.

Shane Walton deflected a pass thrown behind Rogers and Sapp returned an interception 13 yards to Michigan State’s 28 a couple minutes before the half.

Holiday lobbed a perfect 15-yard pass to Maurice Stovall in the end zone to put the Irish ahead 14-3 with 11 seconds left in the half.