Rodney Culver scored on a 1-yard run with 34 seconds remaining Saturday, giving top-ranked Notre Dame to a 20-19 victory over co-No. 23 Michigan State.
It was the second straight week that Notre Dame, 2-0, rallied for a close victory. Last week, the Fighting Irish beat Michigan 28-24 on a touchdown with 1:40 left.Michigan State, 0-1-1, had taken a 19-7 lead on its first possession of the third quarter. The Spartans drove 88 yards on 12 plays, with Tico Duckett scoring on a 1-yard dive off left tackle at 9:00.
Dan Enos highlighted the series - which started after Notre Dame was held on fourth-and-inches at the Michigan State 12 - with passes of 33 yards to Courtney Hawkins and 20 yards to Hyland Hickson.
The Fighting Irish pulled within 19-14 1:47 into of the fourth quarter on Ricky Watters' 2-yard run off right end. Rick Mirer engineered the Notre Dame drive from its own 34, running for 32 yards and passing for another 26. His 12-yard run on a keeper advanced the ball to the Michigan State 3.
Mirer - who completed 14 of 21 passes for 155 yards - led Notre Dame on the winning drive by marching the team 81 yards in 12 plays.
The luck of the Irish prevailed when Mirer's pass intended for Adrian Jarrell bounced off Michigan State safety Todd Murray's chest and into the hands of Jarrell, who stepped out of bounds at the Spartan 2. Three plays later, Culver ran in off right tackle.
Notre Dame opened the scoring at 12:17 of the first quarter when Watters scored on a 5-yard run. The seven-play drive started at the Michigan State 41 following Raghib Ismail's 21-yard punt return.
Ismail added 20 yards on a reverse and a 10-yard catch on third-and-9 to keep the drive alive. Watters scored when he ran up the middle untouched.
Michigan State's John Langeloh kicked a 43-yard field goal at 4:34 of the second quarter to cut the deficit to 7-3. Notre Dame's Tom Carter intercepted an Enos pass, but the play was negated on a roughing-the-passer penalty. The Spartans drove to the Fighting Irish 26, where the march stalled.
On Notre Dame's following possession, Michigan State's defense picked up, holding the Fighting Irish to minus-12 yards offense. Murray capped the effort by blocking Craig Hentrich's punt, which bounced out of the end zone and closed the score to 7-5.
Hickson put the Spartans ahead 12-7 with a 1-yard TD run following Hentrich's free kick. Hickson set up his own score by scampering 32 yards to the Fighting Irish 1. Three plays later, Hickson bulled in for the touchdown at 10:54.