Michigan State had a lot of problems offensively against Notre Dame on Saturday, but that wasn't what cost it the Megaphone matchup.
Instead, a series of questionable calls by officials kept Notre Dame drives going and a bevy of penalties overall gave Notre Dame a huge advantage in pulling out a 17-13 victory at home.
Michigan State was called for 10 penalties that totaled 115 yards on the day, four of which were brutal pass interference calls.
With Michigan State up 7-3 and Notre Dame facing a 4th-and-1 situation, Trae Waynes was called for a tough pass interference call that extended the Irish drive.
Instead of turning the ball over to Michigan State, Notre Dame had a new set of downs and made the penalty count on a two-yard pass from Tommy Rees to TJ Jones for a touchdown.
That made it 10-7 Notre Dame, thanks to a rather "interesting" call.
After Michigan State tied the game up at 10-10 in the third quarter, the phantom pass interference penalty reared its ugly head once again.
This time it was a 3rd-and-10 situation from the MSU 22-yard line; and once again it was Waynes getting some harsh treatment from the officials on a jump-ball situation.
Of course, as you would expect, Notre Dame would capitalize on the gift given to it, as Cam McDaniel would punch it in from seven yards out and the lead became 17-10.
That was all Notre Dame would need for the win. However, those two calls gave the Irish 14 points that Michigan State could easily argue never belonged on the board to begin with.
It wasn't just the defense that contributed to the penalty-fest either, though.
Offensively, nothing called throughout the game would be bigger than a series of back-to-back penalties on the Spartans' final opportunity with the ball.
On 3rd-and-10 the team was called for a delay of game, backing MSU up to its own 28-yard line. Then, on the following play, the Spartans were called for a false start, backing them up to a 3rd-and-20 at their own 23-yard line.
It led Michigan State to an impossible situation—especially given its quarterback play previous to the final possession. Andrew Maxwell was forced to scramble on 4th-and-20 and never got a throw off to effectively end the game.
To be sure, there was more to the Michigan State loss than bad calls or boneheaded penalties by Spartan players, but that bad play was only exasperated by those calls.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook finished the game just 16-of-32 passing for 135 yards and a touchdown.
Clearly that wasn't going to be enough—especially given a running game that was held in check to the tune of just 119 yards on the day.
While the numbers weren't terrible, he continued to have issues getting in sync with wide receivers and said wide receivers also had their share of issues hanging on to the ball once again.
Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio also continued to make head-scratching decisions with his quarterbacks, pulling Cook for the final Michigan State drive of the game in favor of senior Andrew Maxwell (who hadn't seen action all game long).
The results were more of the same, with bad passes by Maxwell and bad play-calling all the way around leading to a series that went nowhere fast.
Overall, the last game in the rivalry with Notre Dame for a few years left a taste of what could've been in the mouths of many Spartan faithful and rightfully so—questionable calls along with questionable quarterback play doomed Michigan State's chances to win in South Bend on Saturday afternoon.
*Gif Courtesy of SBNation
*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten Lead Writer. Follow him on Twitter for more Big Ten coverage on a daily basis.
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