Michigan State started off terribly in its season opener against Rutgers. The Spartans fell to 0-1 and we all smiled. Michigan State deserves bad things. Sparty got our attention last week by going into the Big House (yes, it’s a vacant house, but still...) and beating the Khaki Pants Kid. Our Hawks have found ways to lose against what initially looked like an “easy” portion of the schedule. It’s safe to say there’s a whole lot of uncertainty in the B1G and with our beloved black and gold. Here are three things to watch for on Saturday.
Much has been said about how the Hawkeyes under Kirk Ferentz strive for balance on offense. An equal part pass, an equal part run. Don’t make mistakes. Punting is winning. The Hawkeyes have lacked this identity so far this year. It has been well-documented that Iowa ran the ball only 23 times vs Northwestern, while passing 50 times. The thing that is most perplexing is that Iowa led for much of the game. It wasn’t like we fell down early so we had to sling the ball around. Look for the Hawkeyes to get back to running and throwing equally on Saturday. That has been our goal and identity for the last twenty plus years.
Second Half Points?
Iowa took advantage of some Northwestern miscues last Saturday that led to some quick scores. Once again, the Hawkeyes’ offense looked nonexistent in the second half. In two games this year, Iowa is averaging 1.5 points in the second half. That puts us ranked 102/103 of the FBS teams who are currently playing football. We are ranked ahead of UMass. So we have that going for us, which is nice. There is hope in that Brian Ferentz’s offenses have the following rankings (130 teams) the last three years in second half scoring.
2017-18 ( 27th) 15.9 pts
2018-19 (34th) 15.2 pts
2019-20 (80th) 12 pts
It’s sad to even type this, but scoring 7 points in the second half on Saturday would feel like a success. Ten second half points?!? We’re talking Mardi Gras levels of fun there. I’m going to go big here, the Hawks put up 14+ in the second half. Michigan State is giving up 31 points/game, so we aren’t facing the ‘85 Bears.
The Rocky and Ricky Show
Michigan State’s true freshman WR Ricky White exploded on the scene helping Mel Tucker get his first win leading the Spartans. In the season-opening loss to Rutgers, White had one catch for five yards. Tre Mosley was injured in that game; Ricky White got his chance. All the 6’1” 175 pound receiver did was record 8 receptions for 196 yards (24.5 yds) and 1 TD. [Isn’t it nice for once for this to happen to someone other than the Hawks? In both football and basketball through the years it feels like opponents have had guys have career days against us, never to be heard from again.] If those numbers scare you, they should. Probably because we still have thoughts of David Bell running through our secondary. Bell is 6’2” 205, so White doesn’t have the same size as the Hawkslayer. White seemed to have terrific chemistry with Iowa’s own, Rocky Lombardi. Michigan State took numerous deep shots vs the Wolverines, and Lombardi showed excellent accuracy on them. Lombardi threw for 323 yards, 3 TD’s, and had zero INT’s. The Iowa defense will have its work cut out for them trying to limit the big plays from the Spartans.
To avoid 0-3 (yikes), the Hawks have to establish a ground game. The Spartans typically have some tough dudes in the trenches and at LB, so easier said than done. I’d like to see us run more out of “non-running” formations. I think back on the Mark Weisman offense where we lined up in a power set and basically said, “Here’s where we are going.” Those days are gone. Also, Spencer Petras made some very nice throws that were on the outside. More of that, please. I still think Spencer is gonna be a Dude. I just don’t want him firing fastballs into triple coverage in the middle of the field. Tip drill city.
I’m also going to reach out to Levar Woods (Hawks’ special teams coordinator) and tell him to kick an onside kick to start the second half if the opportunity presents itself. Everything he has dialed up has been gold! Our squad needs to get some points on the board early in the 3rd quarter. Brilliant!! Go Hawks!