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Notre Dame Defense Silences Spartans

Sept. 18, 2004

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Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Tom Zbikowski returned a fumble 75 yards for a touchdown and had an interception that set up another score for Notre Dame, which forced six turnovers and beat Michigan State 31-24 on Saturday night.

The Fighting Irish (2-1) got three interceptions and recovered three fumble in their second straight victory, bouncing back from a season-opening loss to Brigham Young.

Freshman Darius Walker, the hero of last week’s 28-20 win over Michigan, had 98 yards on 26 carries for Notre Dame.

Zbikowski’s two big plays in the first quarter got Notre Dame rolling against the Spartans (1-2).

His interception of Stephen Reaves’ pass led to a 13-yard scoring drive for the Irish that was capped by a fourth-down, 1-yard bootleg by quarterback Brady Quinn to tie the game at 7.

Zbikowksi struck again on the next possession. He read a Michigan State option play and stripped running back Jason Teague of the ball, then rambled down the sideline for a 14-7 lead.

Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham, a 1977 Michigan State graduate, is 2-1 against his alma mater as Irish coach. He is 3-1 all-time against the Spartans, including a win while at Stanford.

Michigan State had dominated the recent series against the Irish, winning six of the previous seven games – including all five when Notre Dame was coached by Bob Davie.

Michigan State scored early in the first quarter on a blocked punt by Marshall Campbell. The punt was recovered in the end zone by Jerramy Scott to give Michigan State a 7-0 lead.

But the Spartans couldn’t keep the momentum, committing four first-half turnovers. Reaves, a freshman, was benched at halftime after throwing three interceptions. He was 7-for-20 for 66 yards.

Reaves’ replacement, sophomore Drew Stanton, led the Spartans to their only offensive touchdown with 9 seconds left in the game. Stanton ran in from 4 yards out.

The Irish had enough on offense to secure the victory, running for 173 yards. Ryan Grant had 66 yards on 11 carries, including a 6-yard touchdown. Quinn was 11-of-24 passing for 215 yards, including a 35-yard TD pass to Matt Shelton.

DeAndra Cobb scored on an 89-yard kickoff return for the Spartans in the third quarter.