Notre Dame Football Throwback Thursday: Michigan State, 2006

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Darius Walker #3 takes the handoff from Brady Quinn #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the game with the Michigan State Spartans on September 17, 2005 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. The Spartans defeated the Irish 44-41 in overtime. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Darius Walker #3 takes the handoff from Brady Quinn #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the game with the Michigan State Spartans on September 17, 2005 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. The Spartans defeated the Irish 44-41 in overtime. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit one of the most exciting comeback wins for Notre Dame football in recent history.

The Notre Dame football vs. Michigan State rivalry dates all the way back to 1897, when at the time Michigan State was still called Michigan Agricultural College. The early history of the rivalry was about as boring and lopsided as it could be.

The Irish won 15 of the first 17 meetings, including the first eight. The losing team was shut out 13 times in the first 15 meetings, including Michigan State not scoring a single point on Notre Dame in their seven meetings from 1898 through 1909.

In 1949, the teams began competing for the Megaphone Trophy, a trophy introduced by the Alumni Clubs of Notre Dame and Michigan State to be presented to the winner of the game. The Irish are the current owners of the Megaphone Trophy after their 38-18 victory over the Spartans in 2017. The two won’t play for the rights to the trophy again until 2026.

Notre Dame leads the Megaphone Trophy series 33–27–1 and the all-time series 47-29-1.

Okay, the history lesson is over. This rivalry has featured some incredible games: the 1966 game that ended in a tie, the 2005 double overtime, flag-planting heart-breaker, and the 2010 fake field goal overtime victory for Michigan State.

While these are no doubt classics of the series, they don’t compare to the historic comeback in the 2006 matchup in East Lansing.

The Irish came into the game 2-1 and ranked No. 12 fresh off a 41-27 loss to Michigan, while the Spartans were 3-0 and looking to continue their early season momentum.

I vividly remember this game with my dad and the excitement surrounding it. A primetime rivalry on a Saturday night had the Michigan State crowd going absolutely wild.

The Irish looked like they forgot to get off the bus in the first quarter as they fell behind 17-0 right off the bat. Brady Quinn started slow, going just 2-of-8 for six yards while the Spartans rolled up 260 total yards in the opening quarter.

Michigan State forced an Irish punt and marched down the field on a three-play, 73-yard drive
capped by a 34-yard touchdown pass from Drew Stanton to Kerry Reed. A Tom Zbikowski fumble on a punt return led to a trick play where receiver Matt Trannon threw a 26-yard TD pass
to a wide-open Javon Ringer.

At this point I was furious. At the time I was 10 years old and just starting to fall in love with Notre Dame football and follow the team, watch the games, etc. Why was Brady Quinn playing so bad? Can our defense stop anything? It was looking like the TV was going to be turned off early that night.

Notre Dame showed some life in the second quarter, scoring twice on Brady Quinn touchdown passes. However, Michigan State answered each punch with one of their own and entered halftime with a 31-14 lead. Call it old age or frustration, but my dad went to bed then and I honestly couldn’t blame him.

Halftime proved to be the turning point in the game and ultimately the season for the Notre Dame. After the game, head coach Charlie Weis said this:

"I think that at halftime the guys realized the season was starting to fall away for us. Everyone could feel the same thing. After the game we played last week (Michigan), and now we’re down big at halftime … it was basically ‘Hey fellas, what’s it gonna be? Are we just going to be a bunch of also-rans or are we going to come out here and give it a chance to win the game?"

The third quarter saw some energy from the defense, who held the Spartans to just six points while the Irish offense put up seven of their own thanks to a Quinn to Carlson 62-yard score.

At this point, the rain was coming down hard, the crowd was as energized as ever, and the Irish faced the fourth quarter trailing 37-21 with their backs against the wall.

Enter Brady Quinn and the offense.

Quinn threw touchdown passes to Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight to cut the lead to 37-33 with 4:57 remaining.

It wasn’t all offense, as the defense stepped up huge in the second half. McKnight’s score was set up by safety Chinedum Ndukwe stripping the ball from Stanton and recovering it at the Michigan State 24 with roughly six minutes remaining.

I was so excited. I didn’t know what to think or do. We were still trailing, but we might actually win this thing! The momentum was fully in Notre Dame’s court. You could see and feel it. I was watching a completely different team from that which started the game a few hours before.

The following Spartan possession, I could hardly believe my eyes as cornerback Terrail Lambert capped the historic rally by returning an interception 27 yards for a touchdown with 2:53 remaining. The score gave Notre Dame a 40-37 lead that they would not let go of.

At this point I couldn’t scream because my family was asleep, so I did the next logical step and ran through the house in excitement — waking up my parents in the process.

The game couldn’t have ended any better. A 19-0 run to help steal a win from a rival that had planted their flag at the 50-yard line of Notre Dame Stadium one year prior. Talk about some sweet revenge.

Following the win, Notre Dame would go on to win eight straight before dropping their final two games to USC and LSU, finishing the season 10-3.

Next. The Irish will welcome Bob Davie in Week 2. dark

Regardless of how the season ended, that comeback victory was a highlight of Weis’ career and one that I and many other Irish fans have certainly not forgotten.