Sept. 18, 1999
By JR ROSS
Associated Press Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame didn’t lose this one in the last minute. The Irish never got the chance.
Bill Burke hit Gari Scott for an 80-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown as Michigan State beat 24th-ranked Notre Dame 23-13 on Saturday, dropping the Irish to their second 1-3 start in the last three seasons.
“It just took the wind out of you right there because you felt like you have some momentum,” Notre Dame coach Bob Davie said. “You felt like it was going to come down to the last play of the game.”
The Irish lost to Purdue last week after being stopped from inside the 1-yard line on two straight plays in the final seconds. Two weeks ago, they lost to Michigan when a last-minute drive ended on the 10-yard line as time ran out. And they seemed poised for yet another last-minute finish after entering the final period tied 7-7.
But Burke ended any hope of last-minute heroics.
Following Jim Sanson’s field goal that tied the game at 13-13 with 5:44 left, Burke took over at the Michigan State 20. He almost handed the game to Notre Dame when his first pass was batted into the air, but Irish linebacker Anthony Denman couldn’t hold onto the ball. Burke hit Scott two plays later for the winning score.
Scott pulled in the pass near the first-down marker on the left sideline, broke away from free safety Deke Cooper and raced down the sideline as the crowd fell deafeningly silent.
“They brought a blitz off the slot and Gary ran a corner route,” Burke said. “They kind of forgot about him back there. He got behind the defense, and I saw him right away, put some air under the ball and Gary took care of the rest.”
Burke finished 21-of-37 for 292 yards with two touchdowns and one interception as Michigan State beat the Irish for the third year in a row, its longest winning streak in the series since winning eight straight from 1955-63.
Jackson tried to rally Notre Dame for one last shot at the end zone, driving the Irish to midfield. But Amp Campbell broke up Jackson’s third-down pass, and Davie elected to kick with 3:16 left rather than go for it.
Davie said he figured a punt would give the Irish another shot to score rather than putting the entire game on one play. But Lloyd Clemons ripped off a 42-yard run to the Irish 15, setting up Paul Edinger’s third field goal of the quarter.
“There were a lot of things that could happen,” Davie said. “I didn’t want to get it all down to making it on fourth down.”
The loss dropped Notre Dame to 0-3 vs. the Big Ten this season after the school spurned the conference’s offer to join in February. Davie is 2-7 against the conference in his three seasons.
“This is probably one of the hardest experiences that not only myself but my teammates have experienced,” Notre Dame defensive end Grant Irons said. “The only thing we can do is just fight through it.
“We didn’t expect this at all.”
Coach Nick Saban has a 3-0 record against the Irish and the Spartans have their second 3-0 start since 1979. It also marks just the second time since 1987 that a team has won three in a row against the Irish, who started a season 1-3 or worse for just the seventh time in 111 years. Two of those have come under Davie’s watch.
“We don’t play for two weeks, and a lot of things can happen in two weeks,” Davie said. “We’re either going to get better or fade off into the sunset.”