The game plan is simple for Iowa and Michigan State on Saturday:
Stop La’Veon Bell!
Stop Mark Weisman!
“I think that’s definitely the key to their offense, giving the ball to Bell and letting him run,” Iowa senior cornerback Micah Hyde said. “I think that if we could stop him, make them move to something else, it’d be a better for us.”
“They have a big back back there; they have confidence in him,” Michigan State fullback Lawrence Thomas said. “He’s going to pound it down our throats. But we have a good run-stopping defense.”
Thomas ain’t lying. Michigan State is ranked first in the Big Ten and 10th nationally in rush defense (86.0 yards per game).
It could be a bit of an adjustment for Weisman, who has rolled up 515 yards in three games.
The 6-foot, 225-pound fullback turned running back has enjoyed a lot of big holes and green spaces in which to trample defensive backs.
“We’ll see,” Weisman said of the physical Spartans. “I’ll have to see it on the game field.
“You definitely like a challenge like that.”
Iowa sophomore left tackle Brandon Scherff likes the way Weisman has chewed up the turf (7.0 yards per run).
“He says open the hole for me, I’ll get to the second level and take care of that,” Scherff said. “I really appreciate that.”
Michigan State (4-2, 1-1) has 31 tackles for loss defensively. The Spartans are led by 6-foot-7, 278-pound defensive end William Gholston with 5 TFL, and junior linebacker Max Bullough with 4.5.
“Iowa does what Iowa does,” Bullough said. “We know what they are doing; they know what they are doing.
“Stop the run, obviously. That’s the first thing with a team like Iowa. Stop the run.”
That sounds like something the Hawkeyes might want to try, too. Iowa is ranked third in the Big Ten and 21st nationally in rushing defense (111.0 yards per game).
“They are going to go out there and try to run the ball on you,” Iowa senior defensive tackle Steve Bigach said. “That’s Michigan State.”
Bell has been the offensive leader all season for Michigan State. He has 776 rushing yards and seven touchdown and he also is second on the team with 23 receptions.
The big 6-foot-2, 244-pound workhorse can run you over, or hurdle over you, as he famously did against Boise State earlier this year.
“I’m guessing more than one body,” Iowa junior linebacker Anthony Hitchens said about taking Bell down. “If it’s one-on-one, just get him to the ground.”
The Hawkeyes (3-2, 1-0) have seen it before. Bell ran for 112 yards on 20 carries as Michigan State beat Iowa 37-21 last season.
“He’s a big dude, but we can bring him down,” junior defensive end Dominic Alvis said. “It shouldn’t be anything we haven’t seen.”
The passing game for both Michigan State and Iowa has been hot and cold this fall.
Spartan junior Andrew Maxwell has a passing efficiency of 115.89, and Hawkeye senior James Vandenberg checks in at 113.96
That ranks them 95th and 100th nationally.
“Try to stop the run on defense, then you force them into being one-dimensional and doing things they don’t want to do,” Bigach said. “It’s also a pride thing to stop the run.”
Sounds like a pretty good plan, eh Sparty?
“Match and overmatch their physicality, which I feel we’re set up to do,” Bullough said. “If you make them one-dimensional, a team like Iowa, you’re on the right track.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football