EAST LANSING, Mich. — Brandon Wimbush threw for a touchdown and ran for one, and Notre Dame routed turnover-prone Michigan State 38-18 on Saturday night.
The Spartans outgained the Irish but fell well behind thanks to three first-half turnovers. Julian Love returned an interception 59 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to put Notre Dame up 14-0, and Michigan State’s LJ Scott fumbled near the goal line, taking a likely touchdown away from the Spartans.
It was the first time Michigan State (2-1) went an entire regular-season game without leading in over five years.
Notre Dame’s Dexter Williams caught a touchdown pass and ran for a TD, and Deon McIntosh added a scoring run for the Irish (3-1).
Michigan State hadn’t allowed an offensive touchdown through its first two games, but Notre Dame put an end to that run by driving 78 yards in 1:55 on the game’s first possession. Wimbush opened the scoring with a 16-yard run, and then Love picked off Brian Lewerke’s pass and had open field in front of him, giving the Irish an early 14-point advantage.
“We got the pick-six and got up 14-0, then we were able to control the football a little bit,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Then when you get a lead on the road, I thought that Brandon Wimbush did a really good job of controlling the offense. And then again I think like everything else, if you take care of the football, which we did today, good things happen.”
Lewerke broke free for a 52-yard run on what looked like a simple quarterback sneak on third-and-1. That set up his 4-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Stewart. But in the second quarter, Lewerke fumbled while trying to scramble out of trouble on third down, giving Notre Dame the ball at the Michigan State 24. Wimbush threw an 8-yard TD pass to Williams to make it 21-7.
The Spartans were still very much in the game at that point, but they couldn’t overcome what happened on the next drive. Scott was about to score when Notre Dame defensive back Shaun Crawford forced a fumble and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
Williams scored on a 14-yard run to give Notre Dame a 28-7 halftime lead.
Crawford intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble in a win at Boston College last weekend.
The last time Michigan State went an entire regular-season game without leading was Sept. 15, 2012, in a 20-3 loss to Notre Dame.
Notre Dame: The Irish rushed for 515 yards in that win over Boston College. Michigan State provided more resistance, but Notre Dame still showcased a balanced running game and avoided mistakes. It was a poised performance on the road in a tough environment.
Michigan State: The Spartans didn’t look overmatched in this game, but they made crucial mistakes. The turnovers obviously hurt, and Michigan State was also penalized nine times for 97 yards.
“We had nine penalties. We had six in our first two games,” coach Mark Dantonio said. “But ultimately the turnovers are what crush you.”