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Notre Dame a Late Bloomer

Nonconference: Battle's 60-yard touchdown with 1:15 left gives unbeaten Irish a 21-17 victory over Michigan State.

September 22, 2002|From Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Notre Dame doesn't prefer winning in such dramatic fashion. It's only working out that way.

Quarterback Pat Dillingham, playing for injured starter Carlyle Holiday, threw a short pass to Arnaz Battle, who turned it into a 60-yard touchdown with 1:15 left as the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish rallied to defeat 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.

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," said Battle, a senior wide receiver who has also played quarterback at Notre Dame. "Now we're finding a way to win games like this."

In defeating 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."

Michigan State had defeated the Irish the last five years and appeared to be headed for a sixth consecutive victory after receiver Charles Rogers scored his second touchdown, which came with 1:45 left on a fourth-and-11 play and capped a 97-yard drive. Rogers made the touchdown reception by leaping in the back of the end zone--with two defenders on him--and stabbing his left foot down just inside the end line.

On the ensuing possession, Dillingham--who came into the game late in the third quarter after Holiday suffered an injury to his left shoulder--threw a short pass on a crossing pattern to Battle. As defenders were running into each other, Battle raced to the sideline for the deciding score.

The last three times Michigan State had defeated Notre Dame, the Spartans needed fourth-quarter touchdown passes to win. 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 three.

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