Michigan State and Iowa entered the game with bruising reputations and most felt this game would be decided by the defenses and which offenses stayed out of the way the most.
In the end, the Spartans lived up to their defensive billing, the Iowa offense looked like it did in 2012 and the Hawkeyes lost the game in convincing fashion 26-14.
The Iowa offense looked lost for 55 of the 60 minutes. It didn’t gain a first down until there were less than six minutes left in the first half and then the Hawks went on back to back scoring drives, primarily via the air and led 14-10 at the break.
MSU came out and scored a touchdown to start the second half and the Iowa offense didn’t make it out of the locker room. Well, they did literally make it out of the locker room, but had they not, they would have scored the same number of second half points; zero. Iowa had 161 yards in the first half thanks to those two late drives and when they got the ball back with under five minutes to play in the game, they had gained just 210.
The defense struggled on this day, allowing Michigan State QB Connor Cook to get off for nearly 300 yards, but the Hawks were still within shouting distance when the game moved into the fourth quarter. The Spartans were just past the Iowa 40 yard line and were lined up to punt. They snapped it and took off with the fake; nothing fancy, just the punter running for the longest rush of the day for either team. You know, the stuff that happens to Iowa a lot. How many fake punt conversions is that against Iowa in recent years?
@marcmorehouse Yeah I just went through and confirmed them by hand. 6/6 have succeed. EIU '10, WISC '10, PSU '11, MSU '11, NIU '13, MSU '13
— Hawkeye Gamefilm (@hawkeyegamefilm) October 5, 2013
Today’s fake punt conversion would be the 7th attempt and 7th successful conversion on Iowa since the start of the 2010 season. Repeat: Seven attempted fake punts, seven successful fake punts on Iowa in the last three and a half seasons. I would hazard a guess that many coaches don’t have seven successful fake punt conversions against them in a career, much less three and a half years.
That fake was as backbreaker as it led to a field goal, which extended Michigan State’s lead to two possessions. Iowa’s offense didn’t have any answers and that was your ball game.
Here are some quick takeaways from this one:
THE OFFENSE: Not as good as we thought it was but I am not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. They played against one of the Top Ten defenses in the nation and the defense that came into this game number one in the country against the run AND pass. Jake Rudock threw the ball 46 times, which will likely be his career high. This happened because Iowa could not run the ball; they managed 23 yards on 16 attempts. Michigan State will make a lot of teams look silly this year so I am not yet ready to give up on this offense.
THE DEFENSE: They were on the field a lot in this game as the offense didn’t gain a first down until nearly halftime. That said, they didn’t get any real pass rush with just the front four. They had to dial up blitzes and those didn’t get home and Cook looked great, which he had yet to look in his career. This group is going to be stout against the run, which you have to have. However their troubles against the pass could help to contribute to a bowl-less 2013 season, too.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Just a fail on the fake punt. Seven fake punt attempts that have been converted in three and a half years is squarely on the shoulders of Kirk Ferentz. Something is broken and he doesn’t know how to fix it. If he did, he would have done it by now. Iowa’s scheme appears broken; it’s a failure.
HEALTH: At some point in this game Iowa had lost Brandon Scherff, Mark Weisman, Carl Davis, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Dominic Alvis to injury. Weisman barely played, KMM never saw the field in the second half and Alvis disappeared, too. Christian Kirksey also limped off the field late in garbage time. Iowa needs the bye week as this was a physical contest. Their games against Michigan State have exacted a heavy physical toll dating back to 2009 when Colin Sandeman and Dace Richardson were knocked out, among others. Ferentz said in the post game that he feels they dodged a bullet with Kirksey.
There will be plenty of time this bye week for midseason report cards and we’ll do that with every positional grouping. We learned a lot about this team on Saturday and most of it is concerning; they are not out of the woods yet and the second half of the season sees Iowa play four of six games against teams who are currently ranked. Michigan State was not a ranked team and neither is Wisconsin, who is also on Iowa’s schedule.
Here we go again? I’m not ready to write that yet but with a bye week and Iowa’s next game looking at The Shoe, it’s tough to find shreds of optimism.
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