EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz liked the sum of his offense Saturday, but wasn't excited about all the parts.
Rick Mirer threw for three touchdowns and Lee Becton scored on a 4- yard run and a 78-yard kickoff return, leading No. 6 Notre Dame to a 52- 31 rout of Michigan State.
'Mirer was outstanding, we made good throws and catches, but we didn't run the ball as well as we can,' Holtz said despite scoring more points against Michigan State since UCLA took a 56-14 triumph in 1976.
Mirer's three TD passes, all coming in the first half, tied Joe Theismann's Notre Dame career record of 31. Mirer completed 12 of 24 passes for 253 yards before halftime, then threw one pass for seven yards in the third quarter before leaving the game.
'We threw the ball because we couldn't run consistently,' Holtz said. 'We take pride in our ability to run the football, but today we had too many third-and-long situations. That's because Michigan State played well up front.'
Mirer didn't have as many complaints about the offense as his coach did.
'I thought all parts of it were clicking today,' he said. 'We had a good week of preparation and we kept them off balance.'
The 52 points were the most ever allowed by Michigan State at home, breaking the previous Spartan Stadium record of 48 points by Ohio State in 1980.
Notre Dame has outscored Michigan State by a combined 101-41 in the last two seasons. The Fighting Irish have won 15 of the last 17 meetings and 11 of 12 at Spartan Stadium.
Michigan State quarterback Jim Miller also completed 12 passes in the first half, but the Spartans had only 92 yards through the air. Miller finished with 23 completions in 41 attempts for 231 yards.
Notre Dame, 2-0-1, had 509 yards in total offense to 483 for Michigan State. But the Fighting Irish had a 353-183 advantage in the first half, scoring on their first six possessions and built a 38-10 halftime lead.
'We tried to get into a shootout with them in the first half and we can't do that with a team like that,' Miller said.
Notre Dame took a 7-0 lead at 3:15 of the first quarter on a 4-yard pass from Mirer to Oscar McBride. The first play of the 65-yard march was a 43-yard pass to Lake Dawson.
The pass to Dawson, who was questionable right up to game time because of a hamstring pull, was put in shortly before the game.
'It was a 53-pass and we hadn't run it since the USC game last year, ' Holtz said. 'I asked Skip (Holtz, offensive coordinator) what play he was thinking about to start and he said 53-pass. So did Lake and Rick, so we decided to go for it.'
Michigan State Coach George Perles said the opening play was a crusher for his team.
'They're good enough to grind it out without giving up the big plays,' Perles said. 'You can't afford to fall asleep on the first play of the game or make mistakes on special teams. On that first play, one of our safeties got off his mark to force a reverse and that gave them the pass.'
Michigan State, 0-2, pulled within 7-3 on its first possession on a 44-yard field goal by Jim DelVerne, but Notre Dame came back with a 41- yard drive after Clint Johnson's 53-yard kickoff return. Mirer capped the seven-play march with a 7-yard pass to Dawson.
A 59-yard pass to Dawson and a 23-yarder to Johnson set up Becton's 4-yard touchdown run with 1:21 left in the first quarter to give Notre Dame a 21-3 lead.
Miller was intercepted by Tom Carter on Michigan State's next play from scrimmage and the Fighting Irish drove 74 yards in six plays, with Mirer firing a 39-yard scoring strike to Ray Griggs.
Notre Dame got a 26-yard field goal from Craig Hentrich with 6:59 left in the first half to lead 31-3.
Miller completed all four passes for 26 yards as Michigan State drove 74 yards in 10 plays for its only touchdown of the first half. Miller hit fullback Tony Rollin with a 1-yard pass for the score.
But Notre Dame's Becton returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown that gave the Fighting Irish a 38-10 halftime lead.
Reggie Brooks scored on a 6-yard run midway through the third quarter four plays after a short punt gave Notre Dame the ball on Michigan State's 39.
The Fighting Irish got their final touchdown on a 38-yard pass from backup quarterback Kevin McDougal to Derrick Mayes on the first play of the fourth quarter to stretch the lead to 52-10.
Michigan State scored three times in the final quarter. Craig Thomas, who finished with 146 yards in 21 carries, had touchdown runs of 16 and 3 yards, and Tico Duckett scored on a 15-yard burst.