Notre Dame seeks revenge against Spartans
By BILL HART
At the start of this season, many Irish supporters saw the Michigan State game as a chance to exact some revenge.
Now, however, most fans see it as an opportunity for the team to get back on track.
After two close losses to Michigan and Purdue, the 24th-ranked Irish return to home turf to begin a five-game home stand — an advantage apparent to head coach Bob Davie.
"I know for our football team it is good to have a chance to be back home and playing Notre Dame Stadium," he said. "When you start this season or prior to this season when you look at our schedule, you knew that [the Big Ten stretch] was going to be a grind."
Davie knows the challenge before him is daunting. The Michigan State squad is off to a 2-0 start, fresh off a 51-7 rout of Eastern Michigan.
"Coming back and playing Michigan State is not an easy task," Davie said. "Without a doubt, they are the most talented football team we have played so far this season. That is a pretty strong statement, but I have no doubt about that."
The Spartans certainly seem to have all their pieces in working order.
In last week's game, quarterback Bill Burke led his offense to 492 total yards, while the defense allowed just seven Eagle first downs.
"You just look at the athleticism they have." Davie said about the Spartans. "Really, just about at every position; the size they have, but the combination of a lot of skilled players that can run and a lot of big strong bodies, they are a very talented football team, in my opinion."
Much of that talent was put on display the last time these teams met. The result was a 45-23 Michigan State win in East Lansing, Mich.
Many Irish players still remember that loss, and look to this as an opportunity for some payback.
"There is a revenge factor in this," quarterback Arnaz Battle said. "We're coming off two close losses, which puts us in the same position that they were in going into last year's game."
Still, the Irish have many factors in their favor, most notably a 10-game winning streak at home, the longest in almost 10 years.
In addition, a solid passing game led by quarterback Jarious Jackson has kept the team within striking distance. Jackson's combined 569 passing yards during the last two games ranks third on the Irish all-time list since 1970.
"He's been making some great plays," Battle said about Jackson's performances. "He's made some key third-down conversions in the past two games. He's made big plays, and that's just part of his being a team leader."
With its 1-2 record, this game could determine how the rest of the season progresses. With that in mind, Davie said he realizes the game's importance.
"To think you are going to win and then have it snatched away from you, you don't envision that happening," he said. "Because of that, it makes this Michigan State game that much more important; even that much more of a challenge."
All Sports Stories for Friday, September 17, 1999