Michigan State was tapping out. The Spartans wanted the half to end after Iowa punched and kicked the Spartans around and had the fifth-ranked team in the country ready to submit.
Yet Kirk Ferentz burned a pair of timeouts in the last seven seconds of the first half in a failed attempt to get the football back and land another blow. It was an inconsequential but symbolic moment during Iowa’s 37-6 drubbing of Michigan State.
The Spartans were doing everything they could to regroup. The Hawkeyes were going to great lengths to make the beating last in front of 70,585 at Kinnick Stadium.
The end result was the fifth-most lopsided loss for a top-five opponent in the last 10 years – a defeat that shattered Michigan State’s bid for a national title and kept Iowa’s Big Ten championship hopes intact.
The Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) turned the conference race into a four-team, four-week fight for the title, forging a tie in the loss column with Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
“If we play the way we’re supposed to be playing,” Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn said, “it’s hard to beat us.”
This was Iowa at its best. This was Iowa with an explosive offense, an opportunistic defense and a set of special teams that was more of a weapon than a weakness Saturday.
“This was a team win in every sense,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We put it together in all three phases.”
Ricky Stanzi completed 11-of-15 passing for 190 yards and three touchdowns, Adam Robinson scored twice and the Hawkeyes regained their footing on defense by intercepting Kirk Cousins three times and holding Michigan State to 31 yards rushing.
Iowa’s defense had been reeling after giving up 59 points in the previous two weeks – a win against Michigan and a 31-30 loss to Wisconsin.
“Giving up 59 points in two games really doesn’t sit well in our stomachs,” Clayborn said. “We knew we had to come out and play better.”
The difference Saturday?
“Just our intensity level, the level of focus we had before the game and during the week of practice,” defensive tackle Christian Ballard said. “It was nothing like it was last week and the week before that. … We weren’t really playing to our capacity the last two games, and that was something we needed to change and something we need to keep going for the last four weeks.”
The Spartans (8-1, 4-1) barely had a chance get their bearings before they were on the mat Saturday. Michigan State was tapping out after four crushing blows.
— The Hawkeyes ran 12 plays and drove 80 yards on the opening possession, establishing the tone of the game with offensive balance and taking the lead on a 3-yard pass from Stanzi to receiver Colin Sandeman.
— Michigan State was starting to move the football on its second drive when the Spartans reached the Iowa 41. But Michigan State ran a play that safety Tyler Sash recognized on film and dropped into coverage on the right side of the defensive formation for an easy interception.
Sash took a couple steps and dangerously tossed the ball over Michigan State receiver B.J. Cunningham and into the hands of Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde.
“That’s probably like the point guard that pulls up from 40 feet and shoots a 3-pointer,” Sash said. “If he makes it, it’s all right. If he misses it, it’s like, ‘What are you doing?’”
Hyde started up the field with and saw a wave of blockers, cut back and ran 66 yards for a touchdown, diving the last three with the ball in his outstretched right arm as he reached for the pylon.
“The coaches told (Sash) all week if he didn’t get any pressure to sit underneath the curl,” Hyde said. “That’s what he did and it came right to him. I was running up to block the receiver for him and he pitched it. I’m sure my eyes got real big.”
— The Spartans were deep in Iowa territory on their next possession when cornerback Shaun Prater intercepted Cousins pass and returned it 42 yards. Three plays later, Stanzi faked a hand-off to Robinson, who kept running down the left side and beat the coverage of linebacker Greg Jones for a 32-yard touchdown catch off a play Iowa rarely runs.
“That’s why it worked,” Stanzi said. “The route is something you don’t see Adam doing often, and that’s why it works and we use it off something we do a lot – the naked fake. The play opened up nice and he ran a great route and made a tremendous catch.”
Robinson pushed his season touchdown total to 11 on the next Iowa possession when he scored on a 2-yard run that gave the Hawkeyes a 30-0 halftime lead.
“You can’t win if you can’t sack the quarterback,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “You can’t win if you can’t stop the run. There were just too many of those things. Did we come unprepared? I don’t think so. Did things snowball on us? I guess they did.”
— Matters got worse for the Spartans midway through the third quarter. Michigan State failed to move the chains on its first two drives of the second half and Iowa increased the lead to 37-0 when Stanzi threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt.
“You never see that coming, not against a very good team like this,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I never see those coming against anybody. It happened fast.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football