FIVE SENTENCES ON MICHIGAN STATE RESULT
1) Keenan Davis has had six catches in each of the last three games, and you better get used to hearing that because he, as much as anyone, is Iowa’s pass offense.
2) “The ankle is fine, it’ll be alright,” Iowa RB Mark Weisman said, “I don’t know if I could play on it right now, but I think it’ll be perfectly fine.”
3) Iowa TEs caught four passes for 20 yards and only had two other targets, with C.J. Fiedorowicz getting one catch and two other targets.
4) We will continue to turnover rocks and try to find the Rosette Stone that deciphers the Iowa passing game, and so the next stop is James Vandenberg’s mechanics.
5) The emotion thing with Ferentz . . . the look on his face when he tore off his headphones at the end . . . the catch in his voice when individuals are mentioned in the postgame . . . the man burns hot.
THREE PLAYERS WHO PLAYED
1) K Mike Meyer — Iowa radio analyst Ed Podolak said before Iowa’s third-and-9 play in the second OT that if the play went nowhere, the Hawkeyes would face a 42-yard field goal. The play was an incomplete pass intended for junior Jordan Cotton. Meyer uncorked a kick that looked as though it was aligned by a road survey crew. Straight down the pipe for the winning points. Meyer is now 14 of 15 this season, tying his career high with six games left this season. All of Iowa’s points Saturday were scored by walk-ons (or former walk-ons in Meyer’s case).
2) CB Greg Castillo — The first time he stepped on a scale at the University of Iowa, it told Castillo he weighed 155 pounds. After his interception to end it Saturday, the scale didn’t matter, four seasons as a reserve who skidded out in his shot as a starter didn’t matter. It was just a kid and a tipped pass, running toward his teammates with the ball held high in the air. It was Castillo’s second pick in as many weeks. Couple this with the punt he downed inside the 1 against Northern Illinois, that’s, arguably, two game-winning plays. Not a bad senior year.
3) WR Keenan Davis — The senior has caught six passes in the last three games. He’s on pace for his best season, which is saying something with Iowa still trying to find its way in the passing game. Davis is the go-to receiver and he’s taking advantage of everything that’s thrown his way.
1) Passing game — Perhaps, it’s this: Iowa’s passing game is shaky because it just doesn’t convert third-and-long plays. It doesn’t give itself a chance to make the routine. Vandenberg made one play Saturday — a flip pass to Kevonte Martin-Manley — where he extended the action and pulled something out of cleats. Last season, Vandenberg made “makeable” plays. This year, he isn’t and, thus, the chains don’t move or don’t move easily. Passing remains a question. In week 7, Vandenberg still has just two TD passes. Receivers have to get open. The playcalls have to give them a chance. The longer this goes, the more Vandenberg is left to answer for it. The presnap reads, the decision making, the blitz reads, none of it has jelled.
2) That underneath stuff — Iowa’s defense has done a much better job with its match-up zone, especially with the linebackers. Saturday, Michigan State found mismatches when it motioned LB Christian Kirksey to one side of the field. The Spartans also ran clear pick plays. One came on an important third-and-6 in the second half. LB James Morris fought through a pick, but the ball still found MSU receiver. An excellent open-field tackle by FS Tanner Miller saved the first down. This remains a hole in LB Anthony Hitchens’ game.
3) Greg Garmon — This isn’t a knock. He went into Saturday’s game stone cold in the overtimes after Mark Weisman couldn’t go with a leg/ankle injury. And he played like a true freshman who didn’t want to make the big mistake that cost his team. He might have to loosen up this week. It’s too early to call Weisman’s injury. Could be something, could be nothing.
1) Outside zone left — It was the play that beat Northern Illinois and it was nearly the same situation. On third-and-long, OC Greg Davis called for an outside zone and RB Damon Bullock broke it 23 yards for the game-winning TD against Northern Illinois. Saturday, it was third-and-6 from MSU’s 45. Iowa was going four downs, and Davis called an outside zone. The Hawkeyes’ sealed off pursuit and Weisman was off for a good, first-down run. Then, guard Matt Tobin landed a late cut block on an MSU defender to help Weisman break it big. Thirty-seven yards later, it was first-and-goal at the 8.
2) Going through the window — I don’t know what the play was, but it was close to going nowhere. The Hawkeyes looked at second-and-26 from their 16. MSU DE Will Gholston got under Brett Van Sloten’s pads and started driving straight back into Vandenberg. Vandenberg launched the bomb to Davis, who had Darqueze Dennard beat by a step. The ball dropped into the chimney for a 35-yard gain and life for the Hawkeyes. Davis described it as a small window, but one they had to go through. Maybe this triggers something for Iowa’s struggling pass offense.
NEXT — PENN STATE (4-2, 2-0)
– The wonder story that is Penn State comes into Kinnick Stadium for a 7 p.m. Big Ten Network kickoff. After everything this program has gone through, the Nittany Lions are doing their school proud.
– Penn State QB Matt McGloin leads the Big Ten in passing with 249.8 yards a game. He has 12 TD passes to two interceptions. No, the Big Ten doesn’t have a comeback player of the year, but if it did, yes, McGloin would see a lot of votes.
CLOSER LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
Closing the deal (Red zone TDs/possessions)
Michigan State 1-for-3
Field goals can win, too. The Spartans only got inside the Hawkeyes’ 30 three times.
Setting the tone (defensive three-and-outs)
Iowa 5 — Three of Iowa’s five came in the second half. Iowa’s D also held MSU to a FG after the Spartans reached Iowa’s 5 in the fourth quarter. Iowa’s defense was fantastic.
Michigan State 7 — That’s a winning number for the Spartans. Except they didn’t. Seriously, on the third-and-longs, Iowa passed short of the sticks because this game was all about ball security and field position. In the Iowa (Ferentz) against Michigan State (Dantonio) game, a punt is as good as a first down. Here have been the scores since Dantonio arrived in ’07 — 34-27 Iowa (2 OT), 16-13 MSU, 15-13 Iowa (Stanzi-McNutt on the last play), 37-6 Iowa, 37-21 Michigan State and now 19-16 Iowa (2 OT).
After adjustments (second-half yards and avg. yards per play)
Michigan State 159-4.18
The Hawkeyes picked off 72 of those yards on two plays in the final drive. Behold, the power of clutch playmaking. It wasn’t SEC magical athleticism, it was the grunt of the grind. The Weisman 37-yard run was the Big Ten’s way of clutch. Eleven players doing what they needed to do. It’s not SportsCenter sexy, but it won at East Lansing. Iowa is a decidedly Big Ten football team.
Game-changers (offensive plays of 20-plus yards)
Iowa 3 — Weisman put up another two Saturday with runs of 31 and 37. He’s had five explosive runs in Iowa’s first two Big Ten games. He’s kind of a big deal to the Hawkeyes.
Michigan State 4 — WR Aaron Burbridge is only a freshman. He’s very fast and gets his head up. That allows him to see where to run and go where defenders aren’t.
Two-minute magic (points, final two minutes of half)
Iowa 7 — Weisman’s 5-yard TD came with 55 seconds left. It capped a nine-play, 68-yard drive that started with a first-and-24 and needed a 35-yard pass on a second-and-26 to keep it from bursting into flames. The power of the clutch play.
Michigan State 0 — The Spartans got the ball to Iowa’s 32 with six seconds left before halftime, but then they found themselves in a fire drill after everything already was on fire. An assistant coach ran out to the hash mark to pull a member of the field goal unit off the field. RB Le’Veon Bell ended up playing QB. Dantonio laughed it off with “You know what they say about best laid plans . . .” in a BTN interview before halftime. Dan Conroy could’ve handled a 49-yard field goal, but the Spartans could stop the clock and it might’ve cost them three points and, maybe, the game.