Iowa’s Record: 6-3, 3-2 Big Ten, 2-1 B1G Legends
AP: 4 votes
USA Today: 8 votes
2011 Iowa Football Schedule (times eastern)
9/03/11 Tennessee Tech WIN 34-7
9/10/11 @ Iowa State Loss 44-41 3OT
9/17/11 Pittsburgh WIN 31-27
9/24/11 Louisiana-Monroe WIN 45-17
10/01/11 Bye Week
10/08/11 @ Penn State Loss 13-3
10/15/11 Northwestern WIN 41-31
10/22/11 Indiana WIN 45-24
10/29/11 @ Minnesota Loss 22-21
11/05/11 Michigan WIN 24-16
11/12/11 Michigan State 12:01 pm, ESPN2
11/19/11 @ Purdue 12:00 pm, BTN
11/25/11 @ Nebraska 12:00 pm, ABC
November 12th, 2011: Iowa Hawkeyes v. #13 Michigan State Spartans, 7-2, 4-1 Big Ten
Prior Games: 42, Iowa leads 22-18-2
Last Game: 2010. Michigan State 6, Iowa 37
Hawkeye Stat Pack:
Turnover Margin: +5
Big Ten #3, NCAA #27
Scoring Defense 22.3, Pass Def 233.9 Rush Def 159.6, Picks 7, Total Def 393.4
Big Ten #7 #10 #7 #8 tie #8
NCAA #34 #70 #63 #74 tie #72
Scoring Offense 31.7, Pass Offense 235.4, Rush Offense 156.0, Total Off 391.4
Big Ten #4 #4 #10 #6
Depth Chart for this week:
Last Week – Michigan
Hello once again Hawkeye friends! Here we go, the stretch run is upon us!
And what a way to start – finally, the Iowa defense was able to put up a wall at the end of a close game and make it stand. So many times over the past two seasons that has been a problem – we’ll see if this win has given them the spark needed to play like the Iowa D we expect in these final 3 weeks.
And what a game it was up through the final 4 plays. As ESPN panned down into the stadium, something looked amiss from the start – that was Michigan, who had won the toss, opting for the ball first.
Soon enough, we saw that the Iowa players looked different as well. Instead of the twin Tiger Hawks on both sides of the helmet, one side had a new, US Flag Tiger, and the other side was left blank. Both were in honor of Veteran’s Day – the flag, the current ones, and the blank side, remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. A simple, yet powerful gesture, fitting for a team that calls Kinnick Stadium home.
Soon Meyer’s kick was flying through the air – it landed at the 4, and the Michigan return man got it out to the 31. Not one of the coverage team’s best days, as we would see.
But the defense was ready from the start – I think all Iowa fans were worried at the outset, at the prospect of Michigan marching down the field to score. It was not to be.
From the shotgun, Denard ran the option read, and kept the ball, but as he got to the line of scrimmage, he tripped and only gained a yard. On 2nd down, he was under center, and at the snap pitched the ball to his tailback Toussaint, who aimed for the far side, but the Hawks bottled him up before he could turn the corner, forcing a 3rd and 5. Denard was back in the gun, and tried throwing a far side pass into double coverage, but that ball was over everyone’s head and no good. 3 and out, that’s what we hoped for! Michigan’s punt landed at our 24, where Hyde made the fair catch.
James, as we had hoped, had apparently been working a lot on his pre-snap reads, as he ended up changing the very first play – into a Coker run. He got hit at the line, but fell forward for 3, and the Iowa offense was off and running.
Running, albeit not in the direction we hoped for, as Michigan sensed another Coker run, and they popped him in the backfield to lose a yard, and force the quick 3rd and 8.
James was under center this time, and he had Davis lined up on the far side. At the snap, James dropped back into the deep 7 step drop, but them immediately fired the ball over the middle, where Keenan had been running a crossing route – the pass hit him in stride, and, he got the corner turned! 40, 50, 40, finally caught and downed at the Michigan 30, 44 yards!
Sensing the Wolverines were stunned by this, KOK pulls out the play action, and James rises up and fires a bullet to Marvin, running an in route, and he makes the catch and turns upfield before being hit, 20 more yards, and here we were at the Michigan 10!
Coker got the ball via pitch this time, and Marcus got the right edge to gain 6 and have the Hawks about 10 feet from the goal line. One more snap did it – Coker got the ball the usual way and headed into the left side of the line – where a weak arm tackle was quickly brushed aside, and Marcus kept his feet moving and stepped across the goal line – touchdown Iowa! 3 minutes, 6 plays, 76 yards – and 7-0 Hawks. A great start boys!
Michigan threw in the second 3 and out, thanks to Binns knocking down the 2nd down pass, and Michigan wideout Hemingway dropping the wide open 3rd down pass. Their punt was short (34 yards), and Hyde had a lot of momentum as he ran up to catch the ball at the Iowa 38 – and Michigan could not get him down until he was on their side of the field, at the 48. Come on Hawks, make this game 14-0!
James tries, but his pass to Marvin is really just a dump off, and it only gains 4. Coker tried the right side and got 3 more, but then on the 3rd and 3, he could only gain 2. Finally, our QB sneak was stopped, as James made the mistake of trying to go right up the middle, instead of diving off to the side, where he had the clear 1st down. Just like that, the Hawks had turned the ball over on downs.
Denard starts this drive under center, and he drops back and looks pass, and hits Hemingway on the near side for 9 yards. Then, Michigan put in the backup QB Gardener – and they split Denard out as the wideout on the near side. He went in motion, but only as a decoy, as the handoff went to the other tailback Smith – it should have gone to Denard, as the Hawks blew up that play and stuffed Smith for no gain.
3rd and 1, Denard gave the ball back to Toussaint, and he was able to squeeze through a tackle and pick up 3, 1st down Michigan.
And they went back to him – 8 yards up the middle, 5 yards to the left. Denard then tried a quick pass to Hemingway, and this one was also dropped. Having enough of this, Denard dumps the next ball off to his tight end, and he makes the catch and gets 9. Kinnick raised the noise level as Michigan faced the 3rd and 1.
More Toussaint. 6 yards, right up the middle. Then, he tried to go left but was stonewalled, so he cut it back up the middle, and that got all the way to the Iowa 10 before we could get him down. 1st and goal, Wolverines.
Once more, to the left side, he gets 3, but then gets 3 more when Morris is flagged for a face mask. 1st and goal from the 3, Denard tries to keep the ball after the read/option, but Binns is not fooled and he drills Denard for a yard loss. 2nd down, he drops back, and has way too much time to survey the field, and then come back to Toussaint on the near side of the end zone – the pass, caught, touchdown Michigan, soon to be tied at 7.
No, wait; the Michigan holder has bobbled the snap! And now, he is running for his life! But not for long, as Prater chased him down and dropped him outside the 5. Attempt, no good! 7-6 Hawkeyes.
The Iowa drive started with Marcus cutting the ball outside to gain 10 on 1st down, from the 24. But from there, a bad pass, and then a false start, doomed the drive, and we had to punt from the Iowa 40 – the ball landed inside the 25 and was downed at the 21, and the 1st quarter had come to an end.
Michigan would get one 1st down, but this drive died when Binns swatted away Denard’s 3rd down dump off attempt and Michigan gave the ball back to Iowa at our 22, after Hyde gained 14 yards on his return.
After the timeout, James handed the ball to Marcus, and he got the far corner turned, and was in the clear! A Wolverine caught him from behind, but Marcus gained 5 more yards, finally going down after 27, Iowa ball at the 49!
More play action – James rolls to the near side and fires for Marvin, it’s caught, he cuts it back inside, 12 yards, 1st down Iowa!
Coker only gets 3 yards on 2 more carries, and the Hawks faced a 3rd and 7. James has time, and he has Marvin open at the 1st down marker, but McNutt is human, and he is looking ahead of the catch, and drops it. 4th and 7, ball at the Michigan 34, Kirk decides to forgo the long field goal and attack.
James drops back, and is aiming for Marvin the entire time, but Michigan guessed that is what he would do, so James fired for KMM running the out route on the far side of the field – that is a long, dangerous pass, but James threw a rope in there and Kevonte made the catch, 8 yards, 1st down Iowa at the Michigan 26!
James, feeling it, he tried for Davis at the 10, but Michigan knocks it away, 2nd down Iowa.
No problem – Coker gets the handoff and heads straight up the middle, and he explodes through the line and picked up 13! On the play, he surpassed 1,000 yards on the season!
He got 3 more on the next play, despite being hit at the line. That had Iowa at the 10. James went back to the play action, and he bootlegged to the near side, where he had multiple options, but he fired for CJF, and he made the catch inside the 5, and reached to hold the ball across the goal line as he was going down. But, he was ruled down at the 1, so the wait for his 1st Iowa td goes on a bit longer.
Expecting Coker to smash this ball in, Michigan sells out to stop the run, and they allow James to play action them to sleep as Herman slipped out into the clear, and James tossed him the ball, touchdown Iowa!!! No problems with our extra point – 14-6 Hawkeyes!
Michigan took the next kick out to the 31. Toussaint started with a 5 yard run, but then Nielsen drilled Denard on a QB keeper, and that play lost 2. But then the Michigan QB rolled to the far side, and he threw a strike to Hemingway that netted 13 yards, and Michigan was out to the 47.
From here, Denard tried a deep pass down the far side of the field – Prater had the coverage and the pass was knocked down. One flag flew, but the officials got together and ruled that it was not pass interference. 2nd and 10, Wolverines.
Denard handed the ball to Smith this time, but he ran into one of his own blockers and got nothing. 3rd and 10, Kinnick again came alive, as the Iowa fans willed the defense to make the stop.
At the snap, Denard dropped back – and the Hawks blitzed. At first, things seemed ok for Denard, but then, out of the pile of bodies at the line, Nielsen exploded into the Michigan backfield, and popped the surprised quarterback, but he didn’t go all the way down – he is stumbling, he puts his right hand down to steady himself, but that hand has the ball…and he loses it!!! Fumble! And Nielsen leaps to his feed and throws himself across the ball, turnover Michigan! Iowa ball at the Wolverine 31!!!
KOK goes for the kill shot, he runs an end around to Marvin (the ex QB), and he is looking deep for Davis, credit Michigan for not allowing him to be wide open, so Marvin pulled it down and got 7 by getting to the far corner. But then Coker was hit in the backfield and lost 2, so it brought up a 3rd and 5.
James tries a wideout screen to Marvin – he makes the catch, but can’t get on track, and the play only goes for 3 when we needed 5. Meyer came on the field, but Kirk needed to talk about it, so he called timeout. But, he didn’t change his mind, so Meyer booted the 42 yard field goal – and the kick is good! 17-6 Hawkeyes, one more possession to kill before halftime – do it defense!
Didn’t realize this at the time, but it wasn’t Meyer, it was Mossbrucker who tried to squib kick the ball, only to kick a duck, which Michigan returned to midfield. A near disaster.
Denard drops back, and fires near side to Hemingway, who leaps and makes a great catch with Bernstine plowing into him – 16 yards.
But Michigan put Gardner back in at QB. Denard was again in motion, but the backup QB fumbled the snap, and it looked like the Hawks had it – only to not have it, +3 Michigan on the exchange.
Denard had enough of that, he kept the ball himself, and got the near corner turned, and he picked off 19 yards before the Hawks knocked him out of bounds at the 13.
Once again, the backup came in – he faked the handoff to Denard, and then turned and threw the ball back across the field to his tight end – it looked like it could be a big play, but Hyde made a diving stop to kill it after 2 yards. Michigan called timeout with 1:13 left in the half.
After the break, Denard was in the gun – he is looking right, but then he comes back left and fires the ball toward the 5 – where Hyde again dove to get his mitt on it, and the pop up soon settled into the arms of Iowa safety Kirksey, picked off at the goal line!!! A huge stop for the Iowa defense right before halftime!
A Coker run and James kneel down brought the half to an end. Hawk fans were feeling very good so far – but ESPN reminded us about 3 times that the Hawks had blown an 11 point lead the week before.
Your scribe spent the halftime selling some t-shirts and chatting with visiting Hawkeye fans, and then the 2nd half began with the very rare sight of Iowa receiving the kickoff.
Bernstine brought the kick out to the 25, and the Iowa offense took the field. A score on this possession would have been huge, but sadly it was not to be. The Hawks gained a 1st down on a James scramble and Coker run, but then on a play action pass James held the ball for too long and was sacked, and two plays later he had to run again, and only got as far as the line of scrimmage. The punt landed at the Michigan 39 and rolled out of bounds.
Michigan started with two handoffs to Toussaint, the first got 7 yards, the 2nd, only 1, so the Wolverines faced a 3rd and 2, and the fans in Kinnick cranked the noise up once again. Out of the gun, Denard headed left, and it sure looked like the Hawks had him bottled up, but he got out, and picked off 22 yards before being knocked down. Toussaint got the ball again to gain 3, and when Denard gave him the ball one more time, the Iowa defense was ready – Alvis was in the backfield and dropped the tailback for a yard loss. This forced a 3rd and 8, but the Hawks were unable to stop Denard from completing a pass to the near side that got the 8 yards he needed. Michigan was at the Iowa 20 after that pass.
From here, the Iowa defense finally stiffened. Michigan tried a sweep left with Toussaint, but Prater blew it up and they only got 3 feet out of it. On 2nd down, Denard had nothing downfield, but his attempt to dump the ball off was once again swatted away by Binns, forcing the Michigan 3rd and 9.
This time, Norm unleashed the blitz, and Denard was not ready for it – Miller plowed into him just as he was trying to release the pass, and the ball flew up into the air – it looked like it would be picked off, but Michigan came down with it for positive yards, though only 4 of the 9 they needed. In came their kicker, and he nailed the 32 yarder to make the score 17-9.
The Hawks needed to respond, and Michigan played right into our hands by booting the kickoff out of bounds – Iowa ball at the 40.
In retrospect, KOK should have attacked downfield from here. But Coker got the ball to get 4 yards, and on 2nd down, Michigan knew he was coming, and they caught him in the backfield to lose all 4 he had gained on 1st down. 3rd and 10, James tried to hit Marvin on a square in, but the Wolverines had that covered all the way, and we were lucky the ball fell harmlessly to the turf. Guthrie booted the ball to the 17, and the Iowa coverage team got the return stopped at the 24.
When the Michigan offense took the field, Denard was on the sideline, apparently nursing a bit of a sting from the near sack the series before. Gardner tried a play action pass, but the pressure caused him to roll and keep the ball, getting 3 yards. He then gave it Toussaint, which the Hawks had dead to red, Nielsen was in the hole and it went for nothing. 3rd and 7, the Haws should have had the drive killed when the pass sailed way over the target’s head. But, Alvis was jumpy on the snap, and he was unable to get back, so the flag flew, offsides Iowa, now 3rd and 2.
This time, Gardner kept the ball, and he got 5 yards rolling to the near side, 1st down Michigan. From here, the Iowa line said ‘enough’.
On 1st down, Toussaint tried the near side, but the Hawk strung it out and popped him for only about 2 feet. Then Gardner tried to run after finding no passing options, and the Hawks had that covered, only 1 yard. 3rd and 8+ for the Wolverines, and you could see the fear in the QBs eyes before he snapped the ball.
At the snap, he rolled to his right to get away from the pressure – but he had nowhere to go with the ball, and he forgot to check and see where Binns was – his mistake – as Broderick lunged at Gardner and wrapped him up. This caused Gardner to spin around, and as he was going down, he tried throwing the ball away – it went about 4 yards before going out of bounds, and the flags fell, intentional grounding, ball dead at the spot to lose 12 yards, and the loss of down made it 4th and 20. Michigan’s kick landed at the Iowa 38, where Hyde made the fair catch.
James started with a quick strike to Davis on the far side - caught, 8 yards. Coker now, up the middle, he is hit at the line, but still gets 3, and an Iowa 1st down. The ball is now at the 49 as the 3rd quarter came to a close.
The 4th opened with Coker stumbling at the line, but he fell forward for 4 yards. On 2nd down, the Hawks were confused on who was supposed to line up where, but James got the play off, and then the pass to Marvin, but it was rushed and no good. 3rd and 6, this time, Iowa is settled at the line, and James has time to throw a rope to Marvin on the far sideline – the ball was almost to him when Marvin turned around – he calmly stuck out his hands, snagged it, and spun out of a tackle to gain 15 and a critical Hawkeye 1st down at the Michigan 32.
Marcus again, 2 yards to the right. A quick pass to Marvin, far side, caught, 6 yards – 3rd and 2. Marvin now on the near side, he runs a quick out route and James lays the ball right where it needs to be, caught, 4 yards, 1st down Hawkeyes at the 20!
Now Marcus is feeling it – he starts right, but cuts it back to the middle, hops over one tackler, and then plows into a safety, who gets Coker down, but goes flying backwards himself – 7 yards. James now drops back, has time, and fires over the middle, but the pass is too high for the 6’8 CJF – a tough thing to do.
On 3rd down, the Hawks were again messed up, namely Rodgers, who lined up in the wrong spot, and James had to call timeout, as we were not set with the play clock at 2.
But, the young fullback would soon redeem himself. After the break, Coker got the ball and headed to the right side - where Rodgers was knocking the corner flat on his back to seal the edge, and Marcus blew through the hole and into the end zone, touchdown Iowa!!! 13 yards, untouched! 24-9 Hawkeyes, with just under 11 minutes to play!
But Michigan found life from another mistake by the coverage team – first, Meyer’s kick only went to the 15, and the return man got out to the 43 before the Hawks got him down.
Michigan starts with a quick pass to Hemingway, it goes for 7, but we just see him being tackled, as ESPN has been in a promo and doesn’t come back in time to see the play start. Denard tried for Hemingway again, but this time it was flung about as far as Denard could toss it, but Hyde was right there, and the pass actually sailed over both their heads. Denard then tried a QB keeper, but the Hawks bottled him up after 2, so Michigan faced a 4th and 1.
As expected, Denard kept the ball on the option roll, and he was able to get 4 and a 1st down. He then fired a pass down the near hash to gain 9, and he again kept the ball, this time more of a classic sweep, and he got the corner turned and 14 yards before the Hawks could push him out of bounds. Michigan was at the Iowa 20.
From the gun, Denard fired a quick pass to the near side – its caught after about 5 yards, but a diving Hyde misses the tackle, and the Hawks have to scramble to get the receiver down at the Iowa 7. From here, one more pass does it – Morris is caught when the tight end faked out and cut in, James grabs him, but even the holding call can’t stop the catch from being made, touchdown Michigan, 24-16 at 7:53 of the 4th.
The Hawks had their return team right at the 10 yard mark, but Michigan kicked it deep, and Canzeri make the catch at the 4, and gained 20 yards before being tripped up.
The drive started with a bang – James had time, and he fired a strike to Marvin running an in route, the catch made, 24 yards! After that, James dropped back and fired a quick strike to Keenan running the slant pattern on the far side – the pass hits him right in the hands, and then falls to the turf. The replay clearly shows – had the catch been made, he was by the corner, and gone. Opportunity missed.
But Coker picked up 9 on 2nd down, the final 4 yards coming via a spin and bulldozing of a Michigan safety. 3rd and 1, Marcus got the ball again, but this time the Wolverines had sold out to stop him, and he was hit right at the line for no gain. 4th and 1 from the Michigan 43, James is doing the hard count, and it works, the Wolverines jump, and it sure looked like at least one of them made contact with Ferentz. They were trying to get back when he snapped the ball, and James easily stepped across the line for a 1st down. But flags flew, and instead of nailing Michigan for offsides or encroachment, the hit Ferentz for an illegal snap – he slightly moved before snapping the ball – which you always see, and especially when multiple defensive linemen are clearly in the neutral zone. He is, as you might expect, clearly pissed as he comes of the field, the 5 yard penalty brings on the Iowa punt team.
Michigan called timeout to prevent the punt team from draining the play clock, and when the kick finally came, it was a beauty – high, and falling down inside the 10, where Prater flies in to half catch, half heave the ball backwards, killing it at the 3! The Iowa fans roar in approval.
But Michigan starts with a slant of their own, to Hemingway, it’s caught, 20 yards. But 3 plays later Denard’s pass over the middle sails way over his target’s head, and is nearly picked off the turf by Miller. 4th down, the Michigan punt is caught by Hyde at the 36 – a fair catch, and a Michigan gunner then bumps into him. No flags, and the Iowa fans boo as the game goes into a commercial break.
Clock at 3:59, a couple 1st downs here should do it. Come on Hawks!
As one would guess, Coker, right side, 4 yards. Again, the middle, 5 yards. 3rd and 1, the Hawks are in the Power I, but the Wolverines again sell out to stop it, and they hit Marcus in the backfield and he loses 2. Michigan again calls timeout before our punt, which lands at the 18, fair catch. On the play, Alvis is hurt - he hobbles off after the timeout, and a day later, the bad news. ACL tear – out until 2012. Clock, at 2:15.
The Iowa players, and fans, summed their last bit of energy and noise as the Michigan offense took the field.
The drive starts with a handoff to Smith – he heads right and is hit after 10 yards – he seems to think he wasn’t down, and gets up and runs the remaining 72 yards for what appears to be a touchdown. But the replay clearly shows, the elbow/arm holding the ball is on the ground, play dead, ball at the Michigan 29.
That would be the only Michigan run in the entire drive.
Denard tries another deep throw, but it’s on the far sideline and no good. 2nd down, Denard again tries going deep – this time down the middle, but this pass is too far. And it’s a good thing, as the replay shows that Prater fell down on the initial jam – and was behind the Michigan wideout. The clock at 1:48.
3rd and 10, Denard rolls to the near side, and completed a short pass that should have been stopped, but Kirksey missed the tackle and it goes for 13 and a Michigan 1st down.
Denard once again fires a deep ball to Hemingway, but the pass is again overshot, and out of bounds. Michigan is then called for a false start, 2nd and 15, clock at 1:33.
But Michigan is able to get another pass underneath the Iowa coverage, it goes for 18 and a 1st down at the Iowa 45.
A quick pass to the far hash was dropped by the wide open wideout, and the clock was at 1:09.
Denard is looking deep, but the Hawks are not letting anything get behind them, so he comes back underneath and gets 13 yards for another Michigan 1st down.
Another drop back, and the Iowa line is keeping Denard contained, but not under pressure. He tries a pass to the near sideline that is no good, but Hyde appears a bit dinged up on the play. The Hawks call timeout with 38 seconds left.
After the break, another pass underneath, it’s caught, and flags fly, Morris is again called for holding. The ball is now at the Iowa 22, with 28 seconds left.
Denard makes a quick toss to the near side – the ball is caught at the 8, and Hyde again missed the diving tackle, and the Hawks don’t get the receiver down until he is at the Iowa 3. Clock, 16 seconds, and Michigan uses their final timeout.
Figuring that a run was too risky, Norm unleashes a blitz, and the pressure causes Denard to toss the ball well out of the end zone. 2nd down, he is again under pressure when he floats a fade pass to the back of the end zone – Hemingway makes a great effort to change direction while the ball was in the air, but as he comes down with it, he gets one leg in bounds, and then falls out of bounds with the ball. Michigan players jump up and down, but the side judge and back judge both agree – incomplete. The play is reviewed –it appears like the ball is slipping out of his hands as he comes down, and that the ball was shoved back into his arms by the landing – all this occurred out of bounds. The call is upheld, 3rd down Michigan, clock at 7 seconds.
Norm again sends in the blitz, but Denard escapes the initial pressure, and rolls to the near side – he finally throws the ball into the end zone, where a group of about 4 players dive at it, it falls to the turf. 4th down, 2 seconds to go.
Kinnick is a frenzy of noise, and so is every Iowa bar across America. Hyde is not in there, and Michigan tries a quick slant on Lowry – but he gets his hand in there as the ball arrives, and the ball is knocked down, and the Iowa players and fans erupt in celebration as the coaches took the field to the 24-16 final!!! Three straight, and the road to the Big Ten title game is still there for the taking!
Soon after the game ended, the studio guys were saying that Lowry probably should have been called for pass interference. But the play was from the 3, and you get 5 yards to jam a wideout – besides, Michigan had been chipping at Marvin all day long, well after the allotted yardage. It all evens out in the end.
Not that the chipping did much good – Marvin, a career high 9 catches for 101 yards. James, 14-21 for 171 and the td to Herman, and Marcus, 29 for 132 and 2 more tds – thanks for making my call of 130 look good!
No turnovers for the Hawkeyes, (well, the failed 4th down is sort of one), and the Iowa defense held Michigan to about 120 yards below their rushing average. Most importantly, the Hawkeyes proved they could put the Minnesota debacle behind them, and serve notice for the remaining opponents that you’ll be getting our best effort. It begins again this Saturday.
THIS WEEK: Michigan State
Sparty is off to a 7-2 start, but like the Hawks, things on the road have not been so smooth. Their two losses have come out of the 3 road games they have played. After easy wins to open the season against Youngstown State and Florida Atlantic, State went on the road to South Bend and lost to the Irish 31-13. Then a home victory over Central Michigan followed by the one road win, 10-7 over Ohio State. Not exactly an inspiring game, considering the players the Buckeyes had suspended.
Then, the fourth straight win over Michigan, followed by the Hail Mary pass to stun Wisconsin, 37-31. But they had to come off that high and go on the road to Nebraska, and there they fell 24-3 – in a game where Martinez, the Nebraska QB, completed 7 of 13 passes for 80 yards.
Then last week, a back and forth game against the Rodents, which the Spartans finally put away in the 4th, 31-24. So, not exactly on a roll coming into Iowa City, a place where they have not won since 1989.
What’s this, a matchup against another pro style offense? Yes, it had to happen sooner or later!
State was expecting a rather explosive offense before the season started – with a now senior QB Cousins, and the twin rushing attack of Baker and Bell. But while Cousins has been playing well, his tailbacks have far underachieved – combined, they have 81 fewer yards than Coker does by himself. That lands them at 12th in the conference and 85th nationally in rushing yards.
So we know the Iowa game plan will be to take away the run and make Cousins beat us through the air. Yes, our run defense has not been up to par for most of the season, but then again, we haven’t been facing pro style rushing attacks. Without having to worry about containing a running QB, the Iowa front 7 can put their energy into closing down those running lanes. Cousins is susceptible to some major mistakes – if he has to carry the load, some of them should appear.
On paper, the Spartans appear to have the 2nd best defense in all the land. 103 yards on the ground, 146 in the air, combined 249, #2 in the NCAA. But they also haven’t faced a passing combination like James, Marvin, Keenan, and our tight ends yet. And the Hawks have shown that they are fully capable of using the pass to set up the run. Then once the running game is going, the play action can begin.
And you probably didn’t realize this, but Coker’s 1102 yards leads the Big Ten, and is 5th, nationally. He is getting stronger and more confident as the season goes on, and we have our stable of capable tailbacks we can put in should Marcus get worn down. You know the Iowa tailbacks, and offensive line, we be all fired up to establish the rushing attack against a team that was supposed to have a great one.
Then, the special teams. Sparty has a decent kicker, but here is another team that only averages about 33 yards net on their punts – bottom 20 in the country. Micah has seemed to be gaining confidence over the past couple weeks back there – I’ll keep asking for it, here is another chance to return, or block one of these kicks.
Of course, it’s also Senior Day at Kinnick Stadium. The last home game of 2011 – the last chance for the players to thank the fans for filling the place up, to walk out there with mom and dad, to don the Black and Gold inside Kinnick one more time.
But it’s not the end of the season; there are still two weeks to go after this one – and a whole lot to play for. Namely, if the Lions can somehow hold things together now that JoePa is gone – a big if – and the Hawks can win out, that’s another matchup in Indy.
But for now, Sparty is in the crosshairs. Aside from any gimmick plays, the Hawks know what they are going to get from Michigan State. And Norm is good at stopping this type of offense. We know the Hawks are in every game these days - Michigan State has a habit of slipping up and then losing a game by 3 touchdowns. In East Lansing, they are doing all they can to put last year’s game where it belongs – in the past. But a quick Iowa strike, a quick Spartan turnover – those feelings will come rushing back. McNutt will score an early td, and Marcus (with help this week) will top 120 again, and finally CJF will score on a red zone pass from James. Sparty might have a few fleeting successes, but it will be another long day in Kinnick – State 17, Iowa 34.