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Notre Dame Storms Back to Win

September 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Trailing by 17 points at halftime, Notre Dame faced a sobering reality: A season that began with so much promise was about to be derailed by a second straight defeat.

Coming off a blowout loss to Michigan, the Irish looked beaten again -- still down 16 going into the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Michigan State looked unstoppable in front of a fired-up crowd.

"I think that at halftime the guys realized the season was starting to fall away for us," Notre Dame Coach Charlie Weis said. "Everyone could feel the same thing. After the game we played last week, and now we're down big at halftime ... it was basically 'Hey fellas, what's it gonna be? Are we just going to be a bunch of also-rans or are we going to come out here and give it a chance to win the game?' "

In stunning fashion, the Irish stepped up.

Cornerback Terrail Lambert capped a furious rally by returning an interception 27 yards for a touchdown with 2:53 left to give the 12th-ranked Fighting Irish a 40-37 victory over the Spartans on Saturday night.

The loss shocked Michigan State (3-1) and its fans, who remained in the stands despite heavy rain in the second half, convinced they were going to see the Spartans beat the Irish (3-1) for the eighth time in 10 meetings.

But it wasn't to be.

Lambert made sure of that, following up his score by ending the Spartans' hopes moments later with a juggling interception of Drew Stanton's pass in the closing seconds.

"Late in the game, I made some stupid mistakes," Stanton said.

That the decisive plays came from the Irish defense, exposed in the loss to the Wolverines and for much of the game Saturday, may have been the biggest surprise.

But the Irish offense also clicked late, led by quarterback Brady Quinn.

Quinn started slowly, going two for eight for six yards in the first quarter as Michigan State jumped out to a 17-0 lead.

But he finished 20 of 36 for 319 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.

"Give all the credit to Notre Dame," Michigan State running back Javon Ringer said. "They stepped up when they had to."

The Irish trailed, 37-21, entering the fourth quarter. But Quinn threw touchdown passes to Jeff Samardzija (43 yards) and Rhema McKnight (14 yards) to cut the lead to 37-33 with 4:57 left.

"We just made too many mistakes when it counted," Michigan State Coach John L. Smith said. "We couldn't sustain drives."

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