DETROIT - Tuneup time is over for Michigan State.
The Spartans were good enough to beat Florida Atlantic and Western Michigan by a combined score of 68-31, but they know repeat performances probably won't be good enough to earn a victory against Notre Dame at home on Saturday night.
"Obviously, we have not played our best football although we've flirted with it at times," coach Mark Dantonio said.
Although their third game is likely to be nothing like their first two, Dantonio is confident his team will be ready.
"It's one of the reasons you come to Michigan State," he said. "There's a history there and there's a lot of tradition there and we're a part of that. A night game at Spartan Stadium is always special."
The Fighting Irish are coming off a loss to Michigan in the final seconds after beating Purdue in their opener.
Michigan State has found out a few things from its first two games against inferior opponents in lackluster atmospheres. The Spartans can count on their running and kicking game, but their pass defense has met expectations with poor performances.
Edwin Baker and Le'Veon Bell have run for six touchdowns and nearly 500 yards. When they haven't scored, kicker Dan Conroy usually has, taking advantage of all four of his chances to make field goals.
They led Florida Atlantic 27-7 in the third quarter Saturday at Ford Field, but couldn't stay with receivers or running backs on pass routes with a chance to turn the game into a rout.
"Defensively, you have to be able to put them away," Dantonio said. "We've got to get off the field."
Freshman William Gholston has showed glimpses of how he can help on defense, rushing the passer as a defensive end on one play and dropping back into coverage as a linebacker on the next snap.
The Detroiter, though, knows he hasn't matched up with the talent he'll face against Notre Dame or played in a charged atmosphere like he'll experience under the lights at Spartan Stadium.
"It'll be a big difference," Gholston said. "It's a rivalry game, a real big rivalry game."
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