Well that was ugly. Both teams struggled offensively in the rain. It was a pretty classic Kirk Ferentz win. It's no secret too, that Mark Dantonio has tried to model his program after what Ferentz has done at Iowa. And yeah, it was pretty clearly on Saturday. These two teams looked nearly identical.
In a game that went to 2 overtimes, it makes sense that the teams were so even. Both had exactly 70 offensive snaps. Iowa won the time of possession 30:01 to 29:59. Iowa averaged 3.6 yards per carry, MSU 3.8. And on and on down the stat sheet.
Even the way the game played out...
- For every awful off-target Vandenberg pass, Maxwell had his own.
- For every Greg Davis called 3-yard out on a 3rd-and-6, Michigan State did the same.
- Hey, MSU tipped a pass and intercepted it...we can do that too.
- A large, lumbering running back goes for over 100 yards.
- Costly penalties. Check.
- 3-and-out. Punt. 3-and-out. Punt. Rinse. Repeat.
What it ultimately came down to...timing. Iowa's biggest mistake came on the opening drive, which gave them plenty of time to recover. Most of the others came during the 3-and-out, punt section of the game. Iowa played its best in the final minutes of the 4th quarter and in the overtime.
Michigan State's largest errors came at the end of the first half and in the overtime. The Spartans had a mind-numbingly bad clock management blunder at the end of the first half that at least cost them a shot at kicking a long field goal. And then of course the interception.
In the end, this gave was so sloppy and even, I don't know how much my keys to the game really mattered, but let's review them anyway.
Four Factors in Review
Stop Le'Veon Bell - Bell ran the ball 29 times for 140 yards and 1 TD, averaging almost 5 yards a carry. I would have said those were losing numbers. But Iowa held Bell when it mattered most. Michigan State had 1st-and-goal in both the 4th quarter and the first overtime. Bell had 3 carries on those two series...each went for just 2 yards and Iowa kept him out of the end-zone. Michigan State settled for a FG both times when a touchdown either time would have won the game.
Have an offensive identity - I can't say this went well. Iowa came out in shotgun 3-wide and tried to establish a short passing/screen game early. I think Greg Davis was worried about the aggressive MSU front 7 so had James Vandenberg getting rid of the ball very early. As you would imagine, it failed miserably as the first drive ended in an interception.
Iowa then flailed around for the next 50 minutes or so trying a little bit of everything. At one point in the second half Iowa went no-huddle and went 3-and-out in under a minute. In all Iowa had 7 3-and-outs on the day.
With the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, Iowa finally found its groove. Vandenberg attacked MSU's tight man coverage and found Keenan Davis for 35 yarder down the sideline on a 2nd-and-26. Then Mark Weisman took a 3rd-and-6 outside zone to the left (Iowa's go to play this season) 37 yards down to the Spartan 7. He would punch it in 3 plays later on another third down run.
Win the turnover battle - An early interception doomed Iowa last year against Michigan State as the Hawkeyes quickly fell behind 0-14. Things started all too similar this year with a tipped passed that was intercepted on the first drive. However, Iowa bounced back and took care of the ball in incredibly sloppy conditions the rest of the game.
And then, of course, Iowa evened the turnover count on the final play of the game on a tipped ball of their own that Greg Castillo hauled in to seal the win.
Cut down on penalties - Both teams had costly penalties. The worst was the block in the back by Ray Hamilton on Jordan Cotton's would be kickoff return for a touchdown. He was behind the play and pushed the kicker who had no shot at making a tackle. Iowa did score a field goal on the ensuing drive.
The 4th-and-1 false start penalty on I think on Vandenberg, though it was announced on Tobin (16, 60...they sound pretty similar) was also pretty dumb. Iowa had tried to draw MSU offsides with a hard count. Fail. Timeout. Then Iowa comes out and MSU calls a timeout. Finally, Iowa tries the hard count again only to get called for a false start. Punt.
Michigan State's costly penalties were on defense...a pass interference and holding penalty. Both extended Iowa drives, and the Hawks finished each with field goals.
Of the games
Player(s) of the game - I'm going with the defensive line as a unit. The group we were all the most worried about at the start of the year has stepped up in a big way. Andrew Maxwell was consistently under pressure. Iowa registered two sacks, 3 QB hurries, and forced Maxwell to throw the ball away a lot.
The D-line also did a good job of eating up blockers against the run allowing the linebackers to make plays on Bell. Anthony Hitchens had 15 tackles (he's leading the nation averaging 13 tackles per game) and James Morris had 10.
Plus there was that whole tipped ball leading to the game sealing interception thing.
Leading the way was Joe Gaglione with 11 tackles, a sack, and 1.5 TFL. He has very quietly become one of the better defensive linemen in the league. He is tied for 36th in the nation (not too shabby) in tackles for loss averaging 1.33 a game.
Louis Trinca-Passat also had a great game. You don't see it on the stat sheet (just 1 tackle and 1 QB hurry) but he was very disruptive up the middle. And he was the one with the tip.
Play of the game - I think it has to be the 35-yard pass to Davis on 2nd-and-26 when it seemed like all hope was lost in the 4th quarter. It was perfectly thrown, a great catch, and exactly what Iowa needed.
Good coaching decision of the game - Wow this is hard...there are so many to choose from. Um, no. Not really. I guess maybe the left outside zone on 3rd-and-6 was a good call. The MSU players said they knew it was coming, but Iowa just out-executed. So um, good job Greg Davis.
Leaders of the Legends
I'm just a week in, but so far, my predictions are going pretty good here on BHGP. I thought Iowa would maintain at least a tie of the Legends Division lead over the next month leading up to the Michigan game. And I predicted Iowa winning 20-17 over the Spartans (so close).
But yeah. Iowa is now 2-0 in the B1G and maintains its share of the division lead with Michigan. Iowa will probably be favored in each of its next 4 games (maybe not against Northwestern). Depending on how things go for Michigan (who I think will lose to Michigan State this week), Iowa has a real shot here to make the Legends race interesting.