SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Notre Dame's offense got into the end zone -- twice, in fact. It wasn't nearly enough to end the misery for the Fighting Irish.
For the first time in 119 seasons of Notre Dame football, the Irish are 0-4.
Michigan State, which blew a big lead to Notre Dame a year ago in a loss that sent its season in a tailspin, got a measure of revenge against the floundering Fighting Irish with a 31-14 victory Saturday.
Now it's Notre Dame's season that's spinning out of control. The Irish have lost six in a row, the second longest losing streak in school history, and allowed at least 30 points in each game.
|Third Time Not A Charm|
Ty Willingham might have been fired after a 6-6 season in his third season as Irish coach, but he was doing way better than Charlie Weis is now.
Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said he wasn't focusing on the worst start ever.
"Records to me is not the critical factor," he said. "I'll critically evaluate this game and get ready for Purdue."
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who became the first Spartans coach to win his first four games, called the victory a statement. He said the painful 40-37 loss last year in East Lansing had taken a toll on the players and the program.
"Our guys have been mocked, and our guys have been made fun of, and we lost coaches; there was a coaching change, and a lot of things happened," he said. "So we internalized this and turned it to our favor today."
Brian Hoyer threw four touchdown passes -- two to Kellen Davis and one each to Devin Thomas and Mark Dell -- and Javon Ringer rushed for 144 yards on 26 carries and Jehuu Caulcrick ran for 83 yards on 20 carries to pace the Spartans.
"It was an emotional win for us," Davis said. "Getting this victory here was kind of like vindication or redemption for us, especially for those who started last year."
Michigan State also became the first opponent to win six in a row at Notre Dame Stadium.
Last season, Brady Quinn led the Irish back from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter. This season it was the Michigan State quarterback who was the star.
Hoyer was 11-of-24 passing for 135 yards as the Spartans amassed 354 yards total offense.
"Anytime you throw four touchdown passes you have to be pretty pleased," Hoyer said. "It's something I'll remember for the rest of my life."
The most memorable play was the final touchdown. On fourth-and-2 from the 30-yard line, Hoyer fumbled the snap -- on purpose, as it turns out -- picked it up and threw a TD pass to Davis.
"We've practiced that thing since the spring," Dantonio said.
Hoyer said he was worried doing it on fourth down, but said the Irish fell for it.
"I guess it helped that I fumbled on the second play of the game," he said.
Notre Dame finally found some offense, scoring two TDs and finishing in the black in yards rushing for the first time this season, but the Irish defense was woeful.
Notre Dame scored its first offensive touchdown of the season on a 1-yard run by Travis Thomas to cap a 9-yard drive in the first quarter. The score was set up by a Michigan State fumble.
Notre Dame later added an 80-yard scoring drive highlighted by a 43-yard run by James Aldridge, who ran for 104 yards on 18 carries. The Irish ran for 117 yards; Michigan State 219 yards.
Freshman Jimmy Clausen was 7 of 13 passing for 53 yards for Notre Dame. Evan Sharpley, who played the fourth quarter, was 4-of-7 passing for 33 yards. The Irish, who had given up 23 sacks through their first three games, were sacked four times by the Spartans. MSU defensive end Jonal Saint-Dic sacked Clausen for a 17-yard loss and stripped the ball from the quarterback.
The Irish played their best game of the season but couldn't keep up. They have now scored 27 points through four games -- the third fewest ever in school history. The 1933 team managed just 12 points and the 1928 team coached by Knute Rockne scored 25.
Notre Dame scored both of its touchdowns in the first half and trailed 17-14 at halftime. The first came on a short drive after Hoyer fumbled the snap and Irish defensive end Trevor Laws recovered. The second touchdown came on a 3-yard run by Robert Hughes.
The Irish have only had 12 losing seasons in the history of the program -- though three have come in the past nine years. With Purdue, UCLA, Boston College and USC up next for the Irish, losing season No. 13 will be tough to avoid.
"You keep going until there's a payoff," Weis said. "Hopefully it's against Purdue."