I’m not sure I slept at all Saturday night. It was brutal. Just brutal. A slow, painful death by 1,000 cuts…or rather a death by 22 plays. I’m not sure if I’ve fully recovered. I’m not sure if I really have anything to write about the game.
I thought about going through the 10 plays or so that could have changed the result if they had just gone the other way. The roughing the kicker. The no-call on the targeting that led to the pick in the endzone. Jordan Canzeri’s injury. And on and on.
I thought about questioning the playcalling, or questioning some of the coaching decisions. Or the conservatism of the third quarter followed by the balls to the wall fourth quarter or the lack of misdirection against an attacking defense. But really there is no need for any of that. Iowa played a hell of a game. They fought so, so hard and laid it all out there. There’s really nothing to be disappointed in how the team played, just the outcome. And I have to hand it to Michigan State. That final drive was a championship worthy drive.
On Friday I wrote about how Iowa would need to continue doing the things it did all season that made this season special. And I think they did…Michigan State just did all those things a little bit better.
A quick review
The Run Game
Michigan State ran the ball a lot and it was just effective enough to move the chains. While LJ Scott has hit right around the line of scrimmage over and over, his ability to fall forward for a few extra yards every freaking time is what won MSU the game.
Iowa had a hard time getting anything going in the run game after Canzeri went out. They tried to do a little bit with the pitch play to get to the outside, but I think that was mostly setting up the too-obvious halfback pass in the 4th quarter.
The Spartan linebackers were aggressive and made plays. The biggest was the Riley Bullough hit that led to interception. But Darien Harris was also a force and led the team with 9 tackles. They were a big reason Iowa only had 52 rushing yards.
Iowa’s linebackers did alright. Cole Fisher and Josey Jewell were both very good. They made it hard for Michigan State to do much on offense. Ultimately, though, they weren’t able to make enough plays and it ended up being the safeties making a lot of the tackles.
That blitz that led to Josey Jewell’s interception was well-called and well-executed. It was too bad Iowa could only get 3 points out of it. The interception in the end zone was a killer, though. It looked like George Kittle had it pin to his shoulder and was about to haul it in for a TD when he got blasted helmet to helmet and dropped the ball, which then somehow landed and stayed on Bullough’s back/shoulder allowing Demetrious Cox to scoop it up. Ugh.
The Hidden Yards
A few big plays here… First, following the interception, Iowa’s D held and forced a 3-and-out and it looked like Iowa should get good field position and maybe drive down and score before the half like they have several times this year. But then Jake Hartbarger boomed a 61 yard punt and pinned Iowa deep. After a short punt of their own, it set up MSU for a long FG as time expired in the first half that luckily loudly bounced off the upright.
The other big play was the roughing the kicker penalty at the start of the third quarter. Again Iowa’s D rose to the occasion and forced a punt. But instead of getting good field position (at the 41), Iowa was pinned deep again (at the 12), went conservative, and had to punt. MSU scored on their next drive.
THE ROSE BOWL. I think that’s all I need to say.