5 Greatest games in the Michigan State-Notre Dame rivalry

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Saturday’s latest chapter in the rivalry between Notre Dame and Michigan State could be the final one for the foreseeable future, as both teams are not slated to meet each other through at least the 2020 season.

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The Spartans dominated for much of the contest between these two rivals a season ago in South Bend before leaving town with a 36-28 victory. The Irish have not paid a visit to East Lansing since 2012 when they earned a 20-3 win, eventually going on to play in the national championship game that season.

With the two schools renewing their rivalry on Saturday, we at DSN thought it would be fitting to present our list of greatest moments in the Michigan State-Notre Dame rivalry.


Heading into the 2000 match-up, Michigan State was seeking its fourth straight victory over Notre Dame, a feat that hadn’t been done since the late-1950’s. A battle of top-25 squads did not disappoint as the Spartans and Irish went back and forth in a tight battle.

The game’s climax came with 1:58 remaining as MSU found themselves trailing 21-20 with the ball at their own 32-yard line, facing a 4th-and-10. Down to quite possibly their last chance, Michigan State quarterback Jeff Smoker connected with wide out Herb Haygood who unbelievably sprinted past the entire Notre Dame defense for a touchdown and a 27-21 Spartan victory.


With a 31-24 defeat to Notre Dame at Spartan Stadium the year before, Michigan State was looking to extend its winning streak in South Bend to five straight victories as well as a record 12th victory all-time at Notre Dame Stadium. After consecutive road wins over Pittsburgh and Michigan to open the 2005 season, the No. 10 Fighting Irish welcomed a Michigan State squad looking to make a name for themselves under head coach John L. Smith.

The Spartans jumped out to a 24-17 halftime lead, and later on led by two touchdowns heading into the 4th quarter. However Notre Dame, led by All-American QB Brady Quinn, fought back to force overtime. With MSU winning the toss and electing to play defense first, the Irish could not get past the Michigan State defense and settled for a field goal. MSU QB Drew Stanton, who had an outstanding game with four total touchdowns, ran an option play and pitched to halfback Jason Teague who broke a tackle and high-stepped for six down the sideline in a 44-41 Michigan State victory.

What might be remembered more so than the actual game is what took place after when a group of MSU players planted a Spartan “S” flag into the sacred turf of Notre Dame Stadium, a controversial move to say the least. However, Notre Dame would get their revenge the very next season at Spartan Stadium in our next greatest moment.


After starting the season 3-0 in 2006, the Spartans had a chance to prove themselves on the national stage with a primetime game against rival Notre Dame at Spartan Stadium.

Feeding off the energy of a sold-out crowd, Michigan State jumped on the visiting Irish and went up 17-0 in the 1st quarter and led 31-14 heading into halftime. In a game that many Spartan fans coin as the beginning of the end of John L. Smith’s tumultuous tenure as head coach, Michigan State collapsed in the 4th quarter, coughing up a 10-point lead with back-to-back turnovers including an interception returned for a touchdown by Notre Dame’s Terrail Lambert with 2:53 left. The defensive touchdown proved to be the difference as the Fighting Irish prevailed 40-37.

The Spartans went on to lose five of their next six games, leading to the firing of Smith on November 1, 2006. While MSU fans surely would like to forget this moment, just think if not for this loss maybe that season turns out alright and Smith keeps his job. Which would have been terrible in the long-run considering Michigan State wound up hiring Mark Dantonio the next season.


After losing a tightly-contested 33-30 game in South Bend of 2009, Michigan State welcomed Notre Dame into Spartan Stadium seeking their fourth win in six tries against the Irish. This edition of the rivalry was the first match-up between current head coaches Brian Kelly and Mark Dantonio.

In what looked like a defensive slugfest, MSU and Notre Dame were tied 7-7 at the half. However the offenses would show up in the second half as the two squads scored two touchdowns each in the 3rd quarter and another each in the 4th quarter.The Spartans attack was spearheaded by the dynamic rushing duo of Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker, who totaled over 200 yards on the ground. While the Irish were led by QB Dayne Christ and current Detroit Lions tailback Theo Riddick who was featured as wide out in college.

With the game tied 28-28 after 60 minutes, the Fighting Irish had first possession of overtime and were able to score a field goal to take a 31-28 lead. Michigan State took over and proceeded to go three and out as the field goal team took the field for what most likely everyone thought was the potential game-tying field goal. What happened next shocked everyone as holder Aaron Bates received the snap and dropped back to pass and threw the ball to a wide open Charlie Gantt who practically walked into the end zone for the unbelievable 34-31 victory.

This victory by the Spartans has a rightful place among the greatest games in the Mark Dantonio era at Michigan State.



On November 19th, 1966, two of the greatest teams in college football history met at Spartan Stadium as undefeated and No. 2 Michigan State hosted also undefeated and No. 1 Notre Dame.

While the game ultimately  and infamously ended in a 10-10 tie, the result of the game had far-reaching effects on the sport of college football itself. Many historians point to this game as one of the main reasons for the sport’s ever-growing popularity today. Both head coaches, Notre Dame’s Ara Parseghian and MSU’s Duffy Daugherty, are in the College Football Hall of Fame. The game also featured a grand total of 14 All-Americans, eight of which were Fighting Irish. In fact, a whopping 25 of 44 starters in the game received some sort of All-American recognition. It’s also worth mentioning that there were seven first-round picks as part of the 1967 NFL Draft class.

As for the rest of that season, both teams finished 9-0-1 and ranked above defending national champion and 11-0 Alabama. While neither team played in a bowl game that season, Notre Dame refused to play in them during that period and the Spartans fell victim to the Big Ten’s no back-t0-back Rose Bowl visit rule, both schools finished as national champions with Notre Dame receiving the top-vote in the AP poll and Michigan State in the Coaches poll. They also split the National Football Foundation title.

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Posted by Zach Fanko
I am a recent graduate of Michigan State University where I studied Sports Journalism. Naturally I grew up an MSU and Detroit sports fan. Football and hockey are my two favorite sports, but I also enjoy college basketball. My dream is to do play-by-play for football. Originally from the small town of Morrice, MI and now residing in Grand Rapids.