IOWA CITY — The Kinnick Stadium crowd clearly didn’t buy the number of Spartans who ended up on the deck late in Saturday’s game.
Trailing 34-14, the Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3 Big Ten) started moving the ball with some efficiency late in the third quarter. During a stretch from 1:44 of the third quarter to 4:18 of the fourth, there were five incidents were an official’s timeout was issued while Michigan State players were helped off the field.
The Kinnick crowd understood when safety Trenton Robinson left the game after being shaken up after a tackle inside MSU’s 10. On the next play, Kurtis Drummond, Robinson’s replacement, ended up crawling out of a tackle after taking a shot to the head.
The boos started when Robinson re-entered the game after sitting out one play.
“I can address that they were severe,” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said. “I saw pain when I walked out there.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked if the number of injuries disrupted Iowa’s offense.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, it was a high number, seemed like a high number, but I wasn’t counting. Don’t know if it disrupts us or not. No way to measure that one.”
With 10:43 left in the fourth quarter, MSU defensive tackle Jerel Worthy trucked over Iowa guard Matt Tobin, falling down on top of Tobin and appearing to take a knee to the crotch. Worthy finished the play, ending up with his arms wrapped around quarterback James Vandenberg’s ankle, but then he ended up face down on the FieldTurf.
Worthy came off the field again in the fourth quarter. Worthy probably didn’t do Michigan State any favors with his explanation.
“When an offense is moving like that the smart move is to just go down and just take your time and don’t kind of rush through it, but that’s what we went out, that’s what we went out there and did,” Worthy said. “But at the same time, regardless of the injuries, we played our best ball this week and regardless of the injuries, we still went out there and dominated.”
Two plays after Worthy stayed on the turf for a few minutes, MSU D-lineman Johnathan stayed down with what looked to be an upper-body injury. This prompted a response from ESPN2 analyst Mike Bellotti, former Oregon coach, during the telecast.
“I don’t know if these are true injuries. You hope not, certainly,” he said. “It’s also a convenient time to slow down the game and take away some of the momentum.”
With 4:18 left in the fourth, Strayhorn hopped off the field with what appeared to be a knee injury. This drew the loudest round of boos from the crowd. Also, ESPN2 play-by-play Beth Mowins weighed in.
“They’re showing some frustration with some of the Michigan State players,” she said. “It’s the same guys for the Spartans who are coming and going off the field.”
With 3:22 left and Iowa deep in MSU territory and trailing 37-21, MSU defensive end William Gholston got up slow after rushing the passer and stumbled back to the line of scrimmage for the next play.
“Gholston is still limping around, still playing,” Bellotti said. “I’m not sure if he’s hurt, tired, upset stomach . . . not sure what.”
Iowa players measured their thoughts on the topic. The Hawkeyes travel to Purdue (5-5, 3-3) on Saturday.
“That has nothing to do with anything that happened in the game,” cornerback Micah Hyde said. “We shouldn’t have been in the situation of trying to fight from behind. We could’ve played tough at the beginning.”
Scott Chipman, Big Ten assistant commissioner for communications, said in an e-mail response Sunday night that the league isn’t looking into this matter and would have no comment.