Spartans Spoil Senior Day
Nov. 12, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- No. 13 Michigan State jumped on the University of Iowa football team early and held off a second half rally by the Hawkeyes to claim a 37-21 victory on a Blackout Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium.
The Spartans' victory was the first in Iowa City since the 1989 season, and improved the team's record to 8-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big Ten Conference.
It was an 11-minute stretch in the first half that gave the Michigan State all the points it would need. The Spartans put 14 points on the scoreboard in the first eight minutes and 14 more points in the final three minutes of the first half.
"Obviously we're disappointed to lose the ballgame today," said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. "Our congratulations go to Michigan State. They were a lot more ready to play than we were. They certainly did a great job in that first half; made it a real challenge for us.
"Outside of our touchdown drive, there wasn't much we did in the first 30 minutes that was encouraging. When you're playing a good team like Michigan State, it's not realistic to think you're going to have a chance to compete against them if you're not playing well."
The Hawkeyes didn't fold, putting two touchdowns on the board in the third quarter. The Iowa defense limited the Spartans to 174 yards and two field goals in the second half, but the 24 point halftime deficit was too large to overcome.
The Spartans outgained the Hawkeyes, 443-349, in the game. The MSU defense limited Iowa's rushing attack to 87 yards on 30 carries and forced three turnovers (one interception, two fumbles), which led to 14 points.
Senior Marvin McNutt, Jr., led the Hawkeyes through the air with eight catches for 130 yards and a score. He became Iowa's all-time leader in career and single season receiving yards with 2,635 and 1,089 yards, respectively.
"He's playing well," said Ferentz. "He's improving each week, practicing and making strides. That's what good players do, they work to get better. It showed up again on the field today."
Michigan State brought out all the tricks in its playbook early in the third quarter looking to put the dagger in the Hawkeyes. The Spartans gained 28 yards on a double reverse pass, and ran for a first down on a fake field goal on fourth and 2. The Hawkeyes played through the trickery, eventually holding the Spartans to a Dan Conroy 31-yard field goal.
Senior Jordan Bernstine jump started the ensuing Iowa drive with a 61 yard kickoff return to the Michigan State 28 yard line. Nine plays later, Vandenberg found McNutt for a 3-yard touchdown reception on fourth and goal, making the score 34-14.
After forcing a three and out, the Iowa offense went back to work, going 80 yards over seven plays. McNutt had a 48 yard completion -- a catch that gave the senior the career yardage record -- on first down, moving the ball to the MSU 32. Seven plays later, Coker bulled his way into the end zone on a 1 yard touchdown run to make the score 34-21.
After Conroy hit a 48-yard field goal with five minutes left, Iowa tried to make things interesting, driving 57 yards late in the fourth quarter into the MSU red zone. Vandenberg completed a 7 yard pass to Zach Derby to the 8, but Jairus Jones forced a fumble, and the Spartans recovered to end Iowa's hopes.
Michigan State stunned the Hawkeyes early, putting 14 points on the board, while holding Iowa to two first downs over the first eight minutes of the game. On their first possession, the Spartans drove 64 yards on eight plays to take a 7-0 lead. Quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with B.J. Cunningham on a 6-yard touchdown pass on a quick slant to put the game's first points on the board.
The Spartans forced a Hawkeye turnover to set up their second score. Vandenberg tried hooking up with Keenan Davis on a deep ball along the MSU sideline, but Spartan cornerback Johnny Adams snagged a bobbling interception before returning the pick 30 yards to the Hawkeye 19.
Three plays later on a third and 8, Cousins tossed a 17-yard touchdown strike to running back Edwin Baker to make the score 14-0. Senior Tyler Nielsen was in man coverage and in position to make the play, but he didn't adjust while the ball was en route, allowing Baker to snag the touchdown catch.
The momentum started to shift when the Iowa defense made a stop on MSU's next possession. On first and 10 from the 41 yard line, Mike Daniels had a quarterback hurry, and Broderick Binns followed with a 6 yard tackle for loss. On third and 16, Binns again was in the offensive backfield, with the hurry on Cousins, forcing Michigan State's first punt.
Taking over at its own 17-yard line, Vandenberg hooked up with McNutt on first down, as the senior made a magnificent left handed grab for 30 yards to move the ball to midfield. The completion moved McNutt over the 1,000-yard mark on the season. Two plays later it was McNutt in the middle of the action again, gaining 19 yards on a wide receiver reverse to advance the ball to the Spartan 33.
After a pair of three and outs, Michigan State used a big play to put three more points on the board. On third and six from its own 30, Cousins found Keshawn Martin for a 67 yard gain down to the Iowa 4. Iowa sophomore Tanner Miller went for the pick, but the ball floated just over his extended hand. Senior defensive lineman Steve Bigach saved the touchdown, running from the line of scrimmage to tackle Martin inside the five.
From there, the Hawkeye defense held firm, stopping the Spartans three times inside the five. Cousins fumbled on first and third downs, before MSU settled for Conroy's 22-yard field goal, making the score 17-7.
It was the Spartan special teams that swung the momentum and led to 14 Michigan State points in the closing minutes of the first half. Spartan punter Mike Sadler put the Hawkeye offense in a deep hole, booming a 54-yard punt that was downed at the Iowa 2 yard line.
After running three times from its own end zone, senior Eric Guthrie had a 51 yard punt, but Martin returned the ball 20 yards to the Iowa 35, setting up outstanding field position. Cousins completed an 8 yard pass to Brian Linthicum on the second play of the drive, before the Spartans caught Iowa in a blitz, which opened up a lane for a 25-yard Le'Veon Bell touchdown run.
Special teams were the Achilles heel again, as Bernstine fumbled on the ensuing kickoff. Bernstine was initially ruled down on the play, but instant replay overturned the call, giving MSU possession on the Iowa 27 yard line.
On the second play of the drive, Cousins faked a quick pass to the sideline before finding Cunningham for a leaping touchdown reception to extend MSU's lead to 31-7. The Hawkeyes moved the ball from their own 17 to the MSU 32 over the final 1:21 of the half, but Mike Meyer's field goal was blocked as the half concluded.
Cousins completed 18-of-31 attempts for 260 yards and three scores to lead the Spartans. Bell carried the ball 20 times for 112 yards with one score and Martin had four catches for 87 yards.
The Hawkeyes (6-4, 3-3) return to action Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind., at Purdue. Game time is set for 11 a.m. (CT).