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    Following Flynt - Big Play Blanton

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    44.jpg Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame football program ...

    Senior cornerback Robert Blanton seems to have a knack for making big plays. On Saturday, Blanton intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass late in the fourth quarter to help seal the Irish victory over 15th-ranked Michigan State.

    After a fumbled punt, many fans began to expect another heart-stopping finish. In victory and in defeat, it is a trend that has seemed to become commonplace in recent years for the Irish.

    With a first-and-goal from the three-yard line, it appeared that the Spartans were destined to score and move within one possession of tying the game. Blanton however, had other ideas.

    He stepped in front, juggled and picked off a pass intended for Keshawn Martin before carrying it 82 yards to the Michigan State 12. His eighth career interception set up a David Ruffer field goal, putting the game away and dashing Michigan State's hopes of keeping its undefeated season alive.

    Blanton's ability to make important plays in an Irish uniform dates back a few years. As a freshman in 2008, Blanton's breakout performance came in a 38-21 victory over Purdue. In addition to five tackles, he intercepted a Curtis Painter pass and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown, getting the Irish on the board and tying the game at 7-7.

    Last season, Blanton came through with what many people consider the turning point of Notre Dame's season. Following a difficult loss to Tulsa, the Irish entered their meeting against No. 15 Utah with a 4-5 record and in danger of falling out of bowl contention.

    With 2:09 remaining in the first quarter, Blanton blocked Utah's punt and returned it for a touchdown. It was the first of four unanswered touchdowns, as the Irish rolled to a 28-3 victory, their first over a ranked opponent since 2006.

    Following the Utah game, the Irish went on to beat Army in Yankee Stadium, USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum and Miami in the Sun Bowl.

    Nothing is to say that Michigan State would have forced overtime or won the game if Blanton had not intercepted Cousins' pass, but the game certainly had the makings of another down-to-the-wire finish if not for the cornerback's pick.

    Only time will tell if Saturday's victory over Michigan State will be the catalyst that drives the rest of the 2011 season. Regardless, if he stays healthy, we can probably expect to see #12 making several more key contributions to Irish victories.

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