Hawkeyes don’t execute enough against stout Michigan State defense
By Matt Cabel
Iowa’s matchup against Michigan State came down to one facet of the game: execution.
Executing tackles on defense. Executing the offense over a Michigan State defense that came into Kinnick Stadium touted as the best overall defense and second against the rush in the NCAA. Executing on special teams.
Iowa didn’t execute, and it led to a 26-14 homecoming loss that brought their 2013 record to 4-2, 1-1 Big Ten.
“It’s execution,” Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock said about the loss. “Michigan State’s defense has proven they’re going to do what they’re going to do, and they’re going to do it well.”
The Spartans held Iowa to a slim 23 yards rushing, 241 yards passing and only 264 yards of total offense. Michigan State, meanwhile, almost doubled the Hawkeyes output with 412 total yards on offense.
“We knew they would be a tough team to run the ball against, they’ve been that way for quite some time,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “To try and move the ball on them effectively, you have to be mixed and balanced.”
But in the second quarter, the Iowa offense looked unstoppable.
Down 10-0, Jake Rudock became Peyton Manning, completing 11 passes in a row over the course of two drives to give his team a 14-10 lead going into halftime. He completed passes to running back Damon Bullock and receiver Tevaun Smith for touchdowns of 47 and 36 yards, respectively.
“It was a little double move,” Rudock said about his pass to Smith. “He did a good job running the route. The offensive line gave me enough time to get the ball out. He made a good play when I gave him a shot.”
But Michigan State’s offense came alive, and its defense remained stout in the second half. They opened the half with a seven play touchdown scoring drive to give them a 17-14 lead, one that they never relinquished. Michigan State then began the fourth quarter with a fake punt that went for a gain of 25 yards, becoming the sixth successful fake punt against the Hawkeyes since 2010.
“We may never try to return one again,” Ferentz said. “It was our thinking trying to get the return, and to their credit, they had a good call and it cost us a field goal.”
When Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio was asked about the play he credited to “timing and execution.”
“We just felt like we had the time and that it was the right moment to do it,” Dantonio said of the play. “I just wanted our players to know that they’re aggressive on the football field and sometimes coaches need to take a risk too.”
The Hawkeyes saw injury to numerous players throughout the game: wideout Kevonte Martin Manley, offensive tackle Brandon Scherff, defensive linemen Dominc Alvis and Carl Davis, linebacker Christian Kirksey and running back Mark Weisman.
Despite the injuries and the final score, this was a game that was close in the first half. The game opened up to multiple 3-and-outs from both teams and strong defense, leading to a scoreless first quarter.
Michigan State earned a field goal early in the second quarter that felt like a touchdown, and quarterback Connor Cook soon came alive. He made numerous big plays through the air on third down that kept drives alive and set up scoring drives.
In short, the Spartans executed where the Hawkeyes couldn’t.
“Every play out there was contested on both sides,” linebacker James Morris said. “I don’t think that we gave them too many plays, but the plays that we did, hurt us big time … They executed the hard to do things better than us.”