FIVE SENTENCES ON MICHIGAN STATE RESULT
1) Michigan State played a physical game that Iowa simply couldn’t keep up with.
2) There was no one player or scheme that would’ve unlocked the door for the Hawkeyes yesterday. Game was lost in roster build, having personnel to be able to run the defense you want. That’s where Michigan State won and kept winning during 26-14. It had better defensive personnel, much better. They fit the scheme and they executed the D.
3) While on the roster and recruiting, that reflects in special teams play. The more quality players you have, the stronger your special teams are. (That’s something I believe, but doesn’t it almost seem as though Iowa is tipping something on special teams? It can’t be a lack of self-scouting, I don’t think. It’s almost like something is known within the coaching community and the secret has quietly been shared. OK, tinfoil hat off now.)
4) I believe what Kirk Ferentz said about injuries, the sprains and strains and not tears and breaks. I ran into to a few of the players after the game, and they looked OK. That, of course, was just a few hours after being hurt. This fact alone means Iowa wins the bye week.
5) So, Iowa is back to receiving votes in Dan Wolken’s Misery Index. Iowa State is No. 5. Penn State is No. 3. Could be worse. With Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin ahead after an off week, it might get worse. You could argue those are the three best teams in the Big Ten and they’re coming Iowa’s way. Why don’t I do my own Misery Index? Well, I finished working about 6:45 Saturday night and walked to the elevator with Scott. Looked up and said, “Anything interesting happen in the Big Ten today?” I don’t see very far beyond Iowa. Hyper-knowledge comes at a cost.
1) MSU’s front 7 – Max Bullough is great. A linebacker’s linebacker. MSU’s DL traded punches and won a lot of the rounds. Redshirt frosh DE Shilique Calhoun is going to be great. He had four QB hurries yesterday. Iowa’s OTs are among the best in the B1G and he won a lot of battles on pure athleticism. Junior DE Marcus Rush didn’t get the start, but he was all over the field. MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi makes more than $500,000. That’s pretty good. There’s always talk on him becoming a head coach, but where? Can a MAC school afford him? This is a scheme (4-3 over, cover 4) that wins a lot of games in the Big Ten and will win a lot more.
2) QB Connor Cook — There is a weird recruiting story here involving KCRG sports director Scott Saville and Iowa. Scott has told it on “On Iowa Live,” our Monday night TV show. I think Scott, who’s originally from the Indianapolis area, knows his dad. When Cook was coming out of Ohio, Scott brought him to the attention of the Iowa staff, specifically Ken O’Keefe. Messages were left. Things never seemed to get off the ground. Anyway, I told you it was kind of weird. Don’t look at me, I don’t know any good prep football players. I do know a pretty good eighth grade basketball prospect at CR Prairie.
2) Freshman kicker Michael Geiger — He went into the game 2 of 2 for his career. He made 4 of 5, including a 49-yarder. On the road, as a true freshman, he didn’t bat an eye. I’m sure someone did something on special teams in the Ohio State-Northwestern game, but Geiger could win the Big Ten’s special teams player and freshman players of the week awards.
1) Special teams — What else is left to say? Hey Diddle Diddle, send Sadler up the middle. That’ll be a recruiting story that Dantonio and staff will use on Ferentz and friends on the recruiting trail from now and forever. I don’t know if it was the same return Lester Erb or whomever called against Wisconsin in ’10, but the technique was the same. Turn your hips and run with your block. Thus, the heads turn and, even more thus, the punter has the lawn of a historic society built in the ’20s in the middle of town to run. Redshirt frosh TE George Kittle, senior WR Jordan Cotton and redshirt freshman CB Maurice Fleming vacated their side of the field. The right side did the same. If LB Quinton Alston had contain, it was hard to tell. FB Macon Plewa was the other rusher. He came from the right. Mike Sadler ran left.
Again, special teams directly reflect the health of the roster. Former Iowa punter Eric Guthrie tweeted this to me, “Iowa ST will continue to be the barometer of the program. Thing is Kirk realizes this, but what to do?”
I think that stands. I couldn’t write it any better.
2) Pretty much any random offensive play for Iowa — This was a dominant performance, inside and out, top to bottom, skill to toe, for the Michigan State defense. Let’s check in on a third-and-8 at Iowa’s 14 with 4:37 and the Hawkeyes trailing 17-14 in the third quarter. MSU DE Shilique Calhoun lines up in a four-point stance (yes, four point) as one of three down linemen. He swims right through senior right tackle Brett Van Sloten. It was text book and thorough. He ripped by Van Sloten so quickly that Van Sloten’s help, guard Jordan Walsh, had no shot. His feet were flat and Calhoun’s were moving. No chance. Calhoun put his helmet right in the middle of QB Jake Rudock’s chest before form tackling him into middle earth. If it wasn’t going to be Calhoun, it was going to be linebacker Kyler Edwards, who had a free run.
And then Mcgarrett Kings returned a punt 30 yards and Ferentz said this, “Not only the fake punt, we really didn’t get anything out of our special teams in terms of an advantage, so that makes it tough.”
3) Nickel D — Iowa’s nickel package isn’t hugely elaborate and it’s not something the Hawkeyes are leaning on much this year. DE Nate Meier goes in for DE Drew Ott for a little quicker step on the pass rush. Cornerback Sean Draper goes in for LB Anthony Hitchens. This blew up twice on the same series Saturday. Iowa’s corner depth took a hit when Kevin Buford left last spring. Torrey Campbell left, too, but he was never seriously in the conversation for playing time. Maurice Fleming has been injured, so Iowa basically has four corners — B.J. Lowery, Desmond King, Jordan Lomax (hasn’t played since the opener with a hamstring injury) and Draper. No safety has seen time in nickel.
3) Mcgarrett from Cook for 46 yards — Iowa is playing a lot more cover 1 this year. DC Phil Parker trusts the corners, but Iowa also has to blitz. It just has to. There’s no Roth, Clayborn, there’s no automatic home run hitter on the pass rush. For this defense to work, it has to get pressure on the QB. The Hawkeyes were ground to a nub last season without a pass rush. Remember the 11-seconds of protection at Michigan? Everyone does. Iowa didn’t blitz a ton Saturday, but it did on this third-and-8 from Iowa’s 46. Middle linebacker James Morris blitzed the A gap. Free safety Tanner Miller blitzed the A gap. Cook read the play. Running back Nick Langford saw Miller fake the blitz once presnap and then stay in that position. He knew it was coming and he knew he had to pick up Miller or the play was dead. Strong safety John Lowdermilk also was in blitz position on the right edge. He showed early and was picked up by the right tackle. Right guard Jack Allen blocked DT Louis Trinca-Pasat and Meier long enough. Meier broke free late and got the best pressure. Center Travis Jackson picked up Morris. Langford stalemated Miller. The gate was open.
Cook didn’t get off a strong throw, but Kings was wide open on Draper. The route combo looked like a post-flag or “scissor.” From TV angle, I couldn’t tell who the slot receiver was, but he ran a flag and Kings ran a post. When they crossed, Draper lost a step. He didn’t recognize the route and lost position. That left Cook a comfortable place to throw the ball, in the middle of the field with no traffic underneath. Draper didn’t make a physical effort after the catch. He also missed a tackle on a third-and-6 at MSU’s 29 earlier in the drive, allowing WR Bennie Fowler gain 12 yards a first down.
Dantonio talked about risk with the fake punt. This was Iowa taking a risk and it just not working. It was MSU’s first play of the season of more than 40 yards.
2) Bullock wheel route for 6 — This play got Iowa off the ground just when the crowd was hitting a grumbly note. Simple wheel route. It’s Bullock’s specialty pass play. Everyone knows it’s coming. Iowa was in 11 personnel (one RB, one TE) and Rudock was in shotgun. It was an easy completion for about 2 yards into a corner blitz. Bullock made SAM LB Denicos Allen miss and raced 47 yards untouched for his first TD of the season. I had a ton of tweets come my way on where sophomore RB Jordan Canzeri is. I don’t know, but I’m really looking for the knock against Bullock. He had nine touches for 77 yards Saturday. He was Iowa’s most productive offensive player outside of Rudock. OK, that’s not saying much after Saturday’s output, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t see the knock on Bullock. This season is half over. RB clearly is Mark Weisman 1, Bullock 2, Canzeri 3 and LeShun Daniels learning how to pass protect. What is Canzeri’s deficit? I don’t know. The question has been asked and KF talks about the pecking order.
NEXT — OHIO STATE (6-0, 2-0)
– Iowa’s last victory in Columbus came in 1991. Iowa’s next trip to Ohio Stadium is presumably 2018, though that’s not yet scheduled.
– You probably saw the Buckeyes’ 40-30 struggle over Northwestern on ABC last night. Great, great game. OSU got a clutch performance out of running back Carlos Hyde (168 yards and three TDs). Freshman DL Joey Bosa was a constant disruptive force. Rudock and Bosa are St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) grads. Rudock will be the one who’s the QB; Bosa will be the one who’s 6-6, 275 pounds.
– I really liked this irreverent “Scarlet & Gray Matter” column on the Columbus Dispatch site. It’s written by Todd Jones and Rob Oller. Iowa papers are getting closer to adding fun digital experiences, but nowhere near this. (First thing I would do is hire PSD, BTW.)
– Of course, Iowa is off this week. So is Ohio State. The Oct. 19 game is 2:30 on either ABC/ESPN/ESPN2.
Closing the deal (Red zone TDs/possessions)
Iowa — 1 of 2 (NIU: 2-for-3; MSU: 4 of 6; ISU 2 of 5; WMU 2 of 5; Minn 1 of 4)
MSU — 0-for-3 (NIU: 0-for-2; MSU: 0-for-1; ISU 1 of 1; WMU 0 of 2; Minn 0 of 0)
As good as it gets for the defense. In fact, the defensive effort Saturday was outstanding. It never caved. The O went 50-50, but the overall lack of chances (lowest this season) shows that MSU’s defense headlocked this deal.
Setting the tone (defensive three-and-outs)
Iowa 4 — Two of these came in the second quarter, when Iowa had it going. The second quarter, when anything was possible. (NIU 6, MSU 6, ISU 5, WMU 9, Minn 3)
MSU 9 — That’s a big number. The Spartans opened the game with five straight. Great defense, you saw it. It really set the tone. Start fast, finish strong. Iowa did neither. (NIU: 3, MSU: 3, ISU 4, WMU 3, Minn 1)
After adjustments (second-half yards and avg. yards per play)
Iowa — 104-2.97 (35 plays) (NIU: 156-4.7, 33 plays; MSU: 285-6.47, 44 plays; ISU: 192-4.92, 39 plays; WMU 287-6.37, 45 plays, Minn 235-6.02, 39 plays)
MSU — 210-4.8 (39 plays) (NIU: 234-4.77, 49 plays; MSU: 130-5.2, 25 plays; ISU: 258-7.58, 34 plays; WMU: 89-4.68, 19 plays; Minn: 85-3.54, 19 plays)
Worst second half of the season, but you already had that notion cornered. I thought MSU backed off the blitz in the second half and just kept Iowa in front of it. MSU’s O took care of the rest.
Game-changers (offensive plays of 20-plus yards)
Iowa 2 — There was the 47-yard TD that Bullock converted from a short wheel route to a big play. There was the beautiful sideline completion to WR Tevaun Smith. I think it was the closest Iowa has come to a back-shoulder or underthrown completion in the last two seasons. Iowa’s longest play in the second half, when it really needed stuff, was a 14-yard completion to freshman WR Matt VandeBerg when it was essentially an exercise in 7-on-7. (vs NIU: 3, MSU: 4; ISU 3; WMU 4; Minn 4)
MSU 5 — The Spartans had three boom plays before Iowa had any, including the 46-yard TD to Kings. There also was the 37-yarder from Cook to Bennie Fowler for a 17-14 lead in the third quarter. And, yes, the 25-yard rush by punter Mike Sadler counts. (NIU: 5. MSU: 4; ISU 4; WMU 1; Minn 2)
Two-minute magic (points, final two minutes of half)
Iowa 7 — What was different about the second quarter? MSU blitzed a few times and Iowa caught them in it, sure. Also, Iowa made plays in the passing game. It worked for a stretch in the second quarter. Rudock completed 11 straight passes at one point, with No. 11 going to TE C.J. Fiedorowicz for a 10-yard TD with 1:10 left before halftime. That was it. Iowa had been an offense that made a living on its rush game until Saturday. It can’t live off the passing game. It really couldn’t Saturday with MSU being MSU and top WR Kevonte Martin-Manley on the sidelines with a leg injury. (vs NIU: 7, vs MSU: 0; vs ISU 6; vs. WMU 14; vs. Minn 0)
MSU 0 — The beauty of this for Dantonio was it didn’t need any magic. It was a constant release of magic and rainbows and unicorns. That pretty for Dantonio and MSU. Hey Diddle Diddle. (NIU: 3, vs MSU: 0; ISU 0, vs. WMU 0; Minn 0)
Iowa big plays (going by OC Greg Davis’ definition of 12-plus yard run and 16-plus pass)
2 — Last week, Iowa had six rushes of 12-plus yards. Mark Weisman had four (19, 18, 15, 14). Against a defense with teeth and claws and other mean stuff, Weisman had seven carries before bowing out with a sprained left ankle. (He also had his right biceps wrapped. Maybe something, maybe nothing. He’s tough and said he would be available for OSU.) Rudock was Iowa’s leading rusher with 11 yards. OK, last year Iowa had a dead-weight clunker against Penn State. It lost two O-linemen for the season and there air went out of everything. Iowa finished with six straight defeats. This didn’t feel like that, but it does match the pattern — PSU did similar damage to Iowa’s run game (Weisman was basically out with an ankle sprain). Iowa’s next three games after PSU last year were Northwestern, Indiana and Purdue. You know who’s coming up. We’ll definitely find out if Iowa is improved. (vs NIU: 5; vs MSU: 6; vs ISU 7; vs WMU 10; Minn