It would be cliche to write it wasn’t always easy but frankly, that would be wrong. The Hawkeyes carved up the Spartan defense from the jump using a diversified array of playcalling to go up 7-0, 14-0, 21-0.
The first drive, in particular, brought the season’s first tunnel screen to Tyrone Tracy, good for 13 yards. Spencer Petras looked smooth in a play action pass to Shane Beyer for 18. Charlie Jones had the biggest play of the drive with a 27-yard end around. It was capped off with a three-yard run from Tyler Goodson which used jet sweep action to freeze the defenders.
Iowa went to Ivory Kelly-Martin and Nico Ragaini in space for the biggest plays of the second drive. The drive looked to be stalled out after a telegraphed run play from the 12 and an errant screen pass to Tyler Goodson. Then Brandon Smith happened.
Iowa traded punts with Michigan State before Charlie Jones did what he does with a 31-yard return to set the offense up with stellar field position. The drive featured butter fingers from Tracy on a pass to him was tipped up and snagged by Smith and Smith on a fumble which bounced harmlessly out of bounds. Hey, when things are going your way, they’re going your way. The drive was capped off by another Goodson run, this time from nine yards out.
The defense opened with two interceptions and another three-and-out as Iowa raced to the 21-point lead. Jack Koerner and Barrington Wade were the thieves, with Wade’s being a particularly well-done bit of defending, shirking a blocker on a pass to the flat and GETTING UP to grant the Hawks solid field position.
It was at that point where Iowa’s offense went into neutral. They had four drives the rest of the first half for 8 yards but that doesn’t matter when your non-offense can add 14 points in less than a minute.
Jones has been a revelation in the return game and a line-drive punt enabled his first touchdown of the season where he was hardly touched. Riley Moss came back from a tough moment in coverage a couple series early to return an interception to the house.
35-0 at half.
In a statistic nobody loved to recite, Iowa matched MSU’s opening touchdown with one of their own, sparked by Goodson’s 71-yard run, out of shotgun (!), which featured jet sweep action (!!). Mekhi Sargent made it 41-7, Keith Duncan, 42-7.
Both team looked comfortable to trade punts the rest of the way but Iowa has a distinct advantage there with Tory Taylor “catching the ball and punting it as far as he can” and Jones striking fear into the hearts of opposing punters and special teams coordinators everywhere. The ensuing 45-yard drive was enabled by 25 yards of Sparty penalties and Sargent added his second TD on the day. The ones were done.
Simply put, this was a tonic needed in Iowa City for these Hawks after grinding dust in two low-scoring losses. The offense was humming when it needed to and the defense picked up the slack when the offense stalled out. The special teams were stellar all around, save Duncan’s first miss on a field goal this year.
Still, a total team win for a team which needed one.
- Tory Taylor remains a revelation, as he finished with five of his seven punts landing inside the 20. He averaged 45.9 yards/kick with field position limiting his punting average from being better. Jones returned five, the one referenced for a TD went for 54 yards and the other four going for 51 - 105 total. Hidden yardage.
- Petras was 15/27 for 167 yards. He wasn’t great but Iowa didn’t need him to be. Seven Hawks caught passes with Tracy leading the way with 4 for 38 yards.
- Iowa accumulated 226 yards on the ground on 41 carries. Goodson had 113 on 14 carries (8.1) and Jones’ two end arounds went for 38 total yards. The playcalling was much more in line with Kirk Ferentz’s preference as 60% of playcalls were runs.
- Iowa scored in every quarter, which is nice.
- Iowa’s defense was quite good, forcing the three interceptions but generally living in the Spartans backfield. They had just 59 yards rushing in 32 attempts. Seth Benson seemed everywhere. The coverage held up save a couple of deep shots which were ultimately irrelevant.
- Ben Ross should golf more.