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Wine Online: A Big November Looms
Next four weeks in the Big Ten should be very interesting
Iowa put itself squarely in the Big Ten title hunt with a big effort on Saturday.
Iowa put itself squarely in the Big Ten title hunt with a big effort on Saturday.
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Oct. 31, 2010


IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Adrian Clayborn, Iowa's all-America defensive end, put it best when he said, "If we play the way we're supposed to, it's hard to beat us."


Amen, brother. He could amend that to say, "If we play the way we did against Michigan State, it may be impossible to beat us."

The Spartans came into Kinnick Stadium last Saturday unbeaten and ranked No. 5 in college football. They left with a crushing 37-6 defeat, and if the Hawkeyes had not taken their foot off the pedal the last 20 minutes, the margin would have been much greater.





The Spartans came into Kinnick Stadium last Saturday unbeaten and ranked No. 5 in college football. They left with a crushing 37-6 defeat, and if the Hawkeyes had not taken their foot off the pedal the last 20 minutes, the margin would have been much greater.

But nobody has ever accused Kirk Ferentz of running up the score. When he has a victory secured, he puts it in the bag and coasts home. Embarrassing an opponent is not his style, and Iowa fans should be thankful for that.



But nobody has ever accused Kirk Ferentz of running up the score. When he has a victory secured, he puts it in the bag and coasts home. Embarrassing an opponent is not his style, and Iowa fans should be thankful for that.

The Iowa coach said he did not see this coming. Neither did MSU Coach Mark Dantonio, whose team was on a clear path to Pasadena had it escaped Kinnick with a victory.

Now the race to the Big Ten championship involves four teams, and Iowa is one of them. The others are MSU, Wisconsin and Ohio State, each with one loss in league play. It's going to be an interesting November.

To me, the most encouraging thing to come out of the Michigan State game was the performance of Iowa's defense, which had been pushed around the previous two games. Because the Hawkeyes won by 10 points at Ann Arbor, Michigan's 28 points and 522 total yards went under the radar.

But you couldn't help noticing the five scoring drives Wisconsin had in a 31-30 upset at Kinnick the following week. Yes, there were other reasons Iowa lost the game -- plenty of them -- but for the second week in a row the Hawkeye defense had a bad performance.

"We weren't playing to our capacity the last two games," says defensive tackle Christian Ballard. "That is something we needed to change, and we need to keep it going the next four weeks."

Ballard says the defense was "more intense" against the Spartans, and that resulted in shutting down a very good offense, which came in averaging 35 points and 449 yards. They left Kinnick with six points and 258 yards.

Iowa's defense also contributed the most spectacular play of the season when Tyler Sash intercepted a pass, then tossed the ball to Micah Hyde, who raced from sideline to sideline and finally to the pylon to complete a 66-yard touchdown play.

A few minutes later Shaun Prater swiped a Spartan pass and returned it 42 yards to set up Ricky Stanzi's TD pass to Adam Robinson. That's a total of 108 yards on interceptions returns. Yes, it was a very good day for the Iowa defense.

Meanwhile, Iowa's offense was purring, as usual. It scored on every first half possession to take a 30-0 lead at intermission. It had no turnovers for the third straight game. And the Spartans, who lead the Big Ten in quarterback sacks, never laid a hand on Stanzi.

In fact it was Stanzi who had the longest run of the game when he scrambled for 26 yards to set up a field goal. Stanzi has now thrown for 19 touchdowns and been intercepted only twice. His consistent play puts him among the best quarterbacks in college football. A strong case could be made that he is now the best in the Big Ten.

The special teams also had a good day, after some glaring errors against Wisconsin. Walk-on Mike Meyer kicked a 37-yard field goal into the wind to give Iowa a 10-0 lead. Coverage was good on seven Iowa kickoffs.

Iowa hopes its best effort of the season is a springboard to success on the road. The Hawkeyes proved they can beat the team at the top of the Big Ten, Michigan State. This Saturday they'll have to prove they can beat a team at the bottom, Indiana.



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