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Quinn, Lambert help Notre Dame stun Michigan State

Sep 24, 2006 - 4:02 AM EAST LANSING, Michigan (Ticker) -- Brady Quinn and Terrail Lambert helped Charlie Weis remain undefeated on the road in most improbable fashion.

Quinn threw five touchdown passes and Lambert made two late interceptions, returning the first for a go-ahead score with 2:53 left, as 12th-ranked Notre Dame stunned Michigan State, 40-37.

Amid steady rain, the Fighting Irish (3-1) appeared on the verge of their eighth defeat in 10 meetings with the Spartans (3-1), who jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, took a 31-14 advantage into the break and a 37-21 cushion into the final period.

"I think that at halftime that the guys realized that the season was starting to fall away for us," said Irish coach Weis, whose team was blown out at home by Michigan last week, 47-21. "Everyone could feel the same thing.

"After the game we played last week 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?'"

But Quinn brought the Irish back. His 43-yard TD pass to Jeff Samardzija made it 37-27 with 8:18 to play, and after safety Chinedum Ndukwe stripped Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton at the Michigan State 24, Quinn found Rhema McKnight in the back of the end zone for a 14-yard score with 4:57 to go. The touchdown pulled Notre Dame within 37-33, but Carl Gioia missed the extra point.

Just over two minutes later, Lambert - who was burned repeatedly by Michigan's Mario Manningham last week - picked off Stanton and ran 27 yards for a score, giving the Irish a shocking 40-37 lead.

With 24 seconds to play, Lambert ended the Spartans' last chance by intercepting a batted ball off the body of Michigan State receiver Kerry Reed.

"I'm proud of our kids," Spartans coach John L. Smith said. "They came out and played hard, they played with emotion and did a lot of good things but we mad too many mistakes when it counted to finish it up, and I have to take credit for that as a coach. We couldn't finish.

"I'm proud of our kids they played with heart and emotion, everything you ask. We just have to make better calls and better plays.

Weis, Notre Dame's second-year coach, improved to 7-0 on the road.

"Well, as low as they were last week at this time, that's how high they are right now," Weis said.

Last year, Michigan State beat Notre Dame in South Bend, 44-41 in overtime, then angered the Irish by planting a Spartan flag at midfield.

"This was a personal game," Notre Dame center John Sullivan said. "We prepared very physically during the week like we did last week for Michigan. We knew up front that we could stop them. The rain might have helped a little bit, but it also hurt us, too. We just knew if we came out and played our game with our front seven we'd get the job done."

Quinn completed 20-of-36 passes for 319 yards and an interception. Stanton went 10-of-22 for 114 yards, two TDs and two picks.

"I think we came out and did exactly what we wanted to in the first half," Stanton said. "We did a lot of good things offensively and we got help from our defense. Late in the game I made some stupid mistakes and you can't do that against a good football team. We were in a position to win it all the way until the end and I just didn't get it done.