With Notre Dame's rushing attack struggling during its first two games, Fighting Irish Coach Lou Holtz decided to mix things up a bit.
Freshman Randy Kinder gained 94 yards and freshmen Robert Farmer and Marc Edwards each scored on one-yard runs Saturday as No. 4 Notre Dame followed its emotional victory over Michigan with a 36-14 victory over Michigan State.
Holtz said during the week he had no choice but to use several backs. Notre Dame (3-0) shuffled eight backs against Michigan State (1-1) and gained 269 rushing yards, more than 100 more than its two-game average.
"Each back possesses a little different talent, so it's something different coming at you every time," said fullback Ray Zellars, who caught a four-yard touchdown pass.
Notre Dame's Kevin McDougal, a senior making only his third career start, passed for two touchdowns. Kevin Pendergast kicked three short field goals.
The Irish, who gained 471 yards, limited Michigan State to 58 yards rushing and 251 overall. After a 74-yard touchdown drive on their opening possession, the Spartans had only four first downs over the next 2 1/2 quarters as the Irish scored 36 unanswered points.
Notre Dame rushed for 199 yards in the second half and limited the Spartans to minus-10 yards in 10 carries. Michigan State tailback Craig Thomas, who gained 143 yards in a 31-14 victory over Kansas, was limited to 56 yards in 15 carries.
"They were doing some things defensively that we weren't used to," Michigan State quarterback Jim Miller said. "They've got some great athletes back there; they've got a lot of talent."
Kinder, who gained more than 4,700 yards in his last two seasons as a high school star not far from Michigan State's East Lansing campus, had the best day of the season by a Notre Dame back.
His 23-yard run set up Pendergast's second field goal for a 19-7 lead with 9:28 left in the third quarter. Kinder's 33-yard run in the fourth-quarter helped set up McDougal's 12-yard touchdown pass to Lee Becton for a 36-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Irish have not lost to Michigan State since 1986, Holtz's first season. Notre Dame has won 16 of the last 18. It leads the series--which began in 1897 and has been played every year since 1959--40-18-1.
Michigan State receiver Mill Coleman had seven receptions for 57 yards.
Notre Dame led, 16-7, at halftime and took control in the third quarter. Six Michigan State runs netted minus-18 yards while Notre Dame ran 15 times for 130 yards in the quarter.