1. Nov. 19, 1966: Notre Dame 10, Michigan State 10
The epic 1 vs. 2 clash in East Lansing yields an unfulfilling result at the time, but it helps secure head coach Ara Parseghian’s first consensus national title.
Brady Quinn threw five TD passes while helping rally the Irish to a 40-37 victory at Michigan State in 2006.
Seldom in football history was there as much NFL talent on a college field, from difference-making defensive linemen such as Alan Page (Notre Dame) or Bubba Smith (Michigan State) to game-breaking receivers such as Gene Washington (MSU) or Jim Seymour (Notre Dame).
Early in the first quarter, quarterback Terry Hanratty was sidelined with a shoulder injury administered by Smith, and running back Nick Eddy (third in the Heisman) already had been shelved prior to the game with an injury. Seymour, center George Goeddeke and running back Bob Gladieux also were lost during the course of the game … yet the Irish were able to rally from a 10-0 hole on the road to knot the game, and only a missed field goal midway through the fourth quarter prevented victory.
With diabetic sophomore QB Coley O’Brien in the lineup, a 34-yard scoring pass to reserve Gladieux right before the half provides new life, and a valiant defensive effort blocks all exit paths for the Spartans. Critics pile on Parseghian for playing not to lose at the end, but vindication comes the next week with a 51-0 victory at Pac-8 champ USC to clinch No. 1.
2. Sept. 21, 2002: Notre Dame 21, Michigan State 17
The amazing first season of head coach Tyrone Willingham continues when the No. 12 Irish rally to defeat Michigan State in East Lansing, 21-17. It also snaps a five-year losing streak to the Spartans from 1997-2001.
After falling behind 17-14 with 1:45 remaining, walk-on Irish quarterback Pat Dillingham, in place of the injured Carlyle Holiday, connects on a short sight adjustment route with Arnaz Battle. The former quarterback then uses a downfield block of another ex-quarterback, tight end Gary Godsey, and turns it into a 60-yard touchdown with 1:15 remaining.
A year after a 5-6 finish that leads to the ouster of head coach Bob Davie, the 4-0 Irish move up to No. 9, and Willingham’s debut elicits comparison to Ara Parseghian’s Camelot-like first-year campaign at Notre Dame in 1964.
Sports Illustrated features Notre Dame freshman receiver Maurice Stovall on the cover catching a touchdown pass from Holiday. Included on the front cover is the headline, “What A Difference A Coach Makes!”
3. Sept. 22, 1990: Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 19
For the first time in 24 years, the Irish enter Spartan Stadium ranked No. 1, and once again fall behind by double digits, 19-7.
After reducing the deficit to 19-14, Notre Dame is at the Spartan 26 with less than a minute left when sophomore quarterback Rick Mirer rolls out and fires a bullet toward the goal line — where Michigan State’s Todd Murray is waiting for it.
The ball bounces off the chest of Murray, ricochets straight up, and falls into the hands of a diving Irish wideout Adrian Jarrell for a 24-yard gain. "The Immaculate Deflection" sets up Rodney Culver’s game-winning run with only 34 seconds remaining.
4. Sept, 19, 1987: Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 8
This was the ultimate “two-minute drill — or 2:01 to be exact. In that span during the first quarter, senior flanker Tim Brown returns Michigan State punts for 71- and 66-yard touchdowns for a 19-0 lead en route to a 31-8 victory over that year’s Rose Bowl champions. It marks the first time in 14 years and 157 games an Irish player returned a punt for a score.
Notre Dame had the quickest score in its history — one never to be broken — when Michigan State’s Blake Ezor fielded the opening kickoff at his one, and then stepped back to the goal line to down the ball. It was a safety for the Irish before a second even ticked away. Following a Ted Gradel field goal, Brown then fielded consecutive punts from future Pro Bowl performer Greg Montgomery that resulted in the two scores. From there on, the Heisman Trophy was his to lose, and he went on to win it.
5. Sept. 23, 2006: Notre Dame 40, Michigan State 37
In a downpour at East Lansing, Notre Dame is still reeling from a 47-21 loss at home the previous week to Michigan and quickly falls behind 17-0 to Michigan State.
The Irish still trail 37-21 midway through the fourth quarter, but within a span of six minutes quarterback Brady Quinn finds Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight for 43- and 14-yard scores, and cornerback Terrail Lambert returns a Drew Stanton interception toss for a 27-yard tally. Another interception by Lambert on MSU’s final drive seals the victory, which begins an 8-game Irish winning streak.
It is the largest margin the Irish rally from in the fourth quarter since trailing by an almost similar 37-20 score at USC in 1986 before winning 38-37.