After a two-year hiatus, the battle for the Megaphone is back on Saturday night. MSU will travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame in a ranked matchup that could tell us quite a bit about what path the Spartans’ season may take. While ND holds the series edge, 48-28-1, there have been numerous famous games since the start of the matchup all the way back in 1897. Here’s five of the best matchups in the series:
5. 2006, Spartan Stadium: No. 12 ND 40, MSU 37
As the game that sparked Detroit radio host Mike Valenti’s famous “Make Plays” rant, this game epitomized the John L. Smith era in East Lansing. Drew Stanton and company were up 17-0 after the first quarter, and led 31-17 at halftime. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Spartans were up 37-21 before Brady Quinn found tight end Jeff Samardzija for a touchdown with 8:28 left. After a Stanton fumble, Quinn threw a 14-yard TD pass to Rhema McKnight with five minutes left. In the next possession on 3rd and three at the MSU 19, Stanton threw a pick-six to Terrail Lambert to give the Irish a lead they would not relinquish.
4. 2000, Spartan Stadium: No. 23 MSU 27, No. 16 ND 21
After taking over for Nick Saban, Bobby Williams had to enjoy his third game in charge of the Spartans, a famous late win thanks to Jeff Smoker and Herb Haygood. After a freshman Smoker turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter, the second was converted into a two-yard touchdown by ND’s Julius Jones to put the Irish up 21-20 with eight minutes remaining. On a fourth and ten with two minutes left, Smoker threw over the middle to Haygood, who sprinted away from the secondary to score the game-winning 68-yard touchdown.
3. 1990, Spartan Stadium: No. 1 ND 20, No. 24 MSU 19
Notre Dame entered this game as the No.1 team in the nation, and they narrowly escaped thanks to perhaps one of the luckiest plays in Spartan Stadium history. Up 19-14 with a minute left, ND quarterback Rick Mirer threw a pass that was a surefire interception for MSU’s Todd Murray. Somehow, the ball bounced straight off Murray’s chest and into the hands of wideout Adrian Jarrell for a 24-yard gain. With 34 seconds remaining, ND running back Rodney Culver finished the game off for the Irish, who survived with their No. 1 ranking intact.
2. 2010, Spartan Stadium: MSU 34, ND 31 (OT)
Likely the most memorable game of the past few clashes with the Irish, Mark Dantonio could claim that this game was the start of the Spartans’ emergence as a player on the national level. MSU put their two best tailbacks to good use on the night, as Le’Veon Bell and Edwin Baker ran for 114 and 90 yards, respectively. Kirk Cousins’ touchdown pass to BJ Cunningham with 7:43 left tied the game at 28, and after a ND field goal in overtime, on fourth down, holder Aaron Bates found Charlie Gantt for the trick play touchdown to win the game.
1. 1966, Spartan Stadium: N0. 1 ND 10, No. 2 MSU 10
It’s hard not to put the “Game of the Century” at the top spot, even if the finish left something to be desired. Notre Dame was the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, and traveled to the second-ranked Spartans seeking to cement a national title on the penultimate week of the season for the Irish. MSU needed a win to keep themselves in the national title picture, as MSU had been to the Rose Bowl the year before and was not eligible to go to a bowl in ‘66. Rarely before or since has so much NFL talent been on the field in a college matchup, as defensive lineman Bubba Smith and wide receiver Gene Washington would turn into some of East Lansing’s most prolific professional players. Notre Dame head coach Ara Parseghian cemented his first national title by playing conservatively in the fourth quarter, as ND received the ball at their 30 with 1:24 left and decided to run out the clock. Either way, the tie allowed the Irish to beat USC the week after and win Parseghian’s first consensus title.