Sep 17, 2012, 10:50 AM EDT
The Fighting Irish defense led the way in a 20-3 victory over Michigan State on Saturday night. The Spartans were held to only 237 total yards and only 50 yards on the ground. Notre Dame controlled field position throughout the game, forcing Michigan State to begin all but one drive from inside its own 30-yard line, and the Spartans never posed much of a scoring threat.
Michigan State’s second drive of the game sputtered at the ND 26-yard line, and they settled for a field goal attempt. In the second quarter, MSU crossed the ND 30-yard line before a sack by Sheldon Day forced another field goal attempt, this time successful for the Spartans only points on the night. Michigan State only ran one play in the second half across midfield, and a penalty knocked the Spartans back on that drive.
The second half shutout marked only the fifth time since 2002 that the Irish kept an opponent from finishing a single offensive possession across midfield for an entire half:
- 2002 2nd half vs. Boston College
- 2002 2nd half vs. Stanford
- 2008 1st half vs. Washington
- 2010 2nd half vs. Army
- 2012 2nd half vs. Michigan State
The 2002 opening game against Maryland (won by ND, 22-0) was the most recent occasion in which the Irish kept an opponent from entering the red zone. As illustrated in the chart above, the victory over Michigan State on Saturday was the first time in at least the last 128 games (2002 to present) in which the Irish held an opponent from crossing midfield for a entire half and kept the opponent out of the red zone for the entire game.
Brian Fremeau (’99) is a college football writer, stats analyst, and data visualization designer. His work regularly appears at ESPN Insider, ESPN the Magazine, Football Outsiders, and on his own site, BCF Toys. He develops and publishes numerous possession-based statistics including the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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