Notre Dame’s Defense Loses Slaughter For The Year
LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Notre Dame’s defense had a lot of hits in a dominating win over Michigan State.
The Fighting Irish, though, had a setback on that side of the ball during their first victory over a top-10 team since 2005.
Starting safety Jamoris Slaughter will miss the rest of the season after tearing his left Achilles tendon in a 20-3 win over the Spartans on Saturday night. The senior started the first three games this year and 19 in his career in which he also played cornerback and linebacker.
Sophomore Matthias Farley is expected to start in Slaughter’s place when No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0) hosts No. 18 Michigan (2-1) on Saturday night.
“You lose a Jamoris Slaughter, you’re losing an A player,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. “Matthias is certainly not at the level yet of a Jamoris Slaughter. He’s got to continue to develop, but we have a lot of confidence and trust in him. He’ll be getting a lot of work back there.”
Kelly said plans are being made for linebacker Manti Te’o to go home to Hawaii during the team’s bye week after playing the Wolverines. Just days after the loss his grandmother and girlfriend, who had a long battle with leukemia, Te’o had another sensational game.
“At Notre Dame, you get a chance to coach a kid like this,” Kelly said. “It might be once in a lifetime. That’s the kind of kid he is.”
Te’o made a game-high 12 tackles, including one for a loss, and had two of the team’s eight pass breakups against Michigan State while he was mourning.
“It was hard, I lost two women that I truly love,” Te’o said. “But I have my family around me. I had my football family around me and my girlfriend’s family around me. At the end of the day, families are forever. I’m going to see them again and it’s going to be a very happy day when I do.”
Even though Te’o thought about his grandmother and girlfriend during the game, he said it provided an escape.
“Football allows me to just be in the little realm, where I can just honor them by the way I play and honor my family by the way I play,” he said.
The top task for Te’o on the field this week will be preparing to slow down Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Two years ago at Notre Dame, Robinson accounted for a school-record 502 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning run with 27 seconds left, in a 28-24 victory. He had 446 yards of offense and five scores to help the Wolverines rally from a 17-point deficit early in the fourth quarter and win 35-31 on his TD pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds left.
Robinson might not have the same kind of success behind an offensive line that doesn’t seem as strong as the last two he’s had and against Notre Dame’s best front seven in years.
Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said Robinson, running backs and receivers will have a much better chance at having success if the offensive line figures out a way to improve quickly.
“We have players who could be playmakers at running back, receiver and tight end,” Hoke said. “But it is hard for offensive players that don’t have Denard’s skills to make plays when we can’t block for them.”
The Spartans (2-1) provided poor protection for quarterback Andrew Maxwell and didn’t open holes for Le’Veon Bell against Notre Dame. Maxwell was sacked four times after not getting sacked once in his first two starts. Bell ran for 77 yards on 19 carries, struggling to get loose for a run longer than 15 yards.
No. 21 Michigan State might get a chance to get its confidence back against winless Eastern Michigan on Saturday at home before hosting No. 16 Ohio State the following week in a Big Ten opener.
In the meantime, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio suggested a lot of jobs will be up for grabs during practice this week.
“We’re going to have to make some tough decisions,” Dantonio said. “But those decisions have to be made.”
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