A week after playing sloppy mistake laden football against Wisconsin, Iowa responded with its sharpest and most complete performance of the season dismantling Michigan State. Balanced and efficient offense: check; smothering and opportunistic defense: check; solid and mostly mistake-free special teams: check. Iowa was ready to execute in all phases of the game and looked like a team with something to prove. Now a week after a heart-breaking loss in which the doom and gloom, season over, 7-5 type of thoughts started coming out, Iowa is back in position to at least share a conference title.

Stanzi and Robinson do it again

Iowa's offense didn't really need to do a lot. They had a short field much of the day thanks to the defense (and somewhat the special teams). As a result, the stats are overly impressive. Stanzi threw for less than 200 yards for the first time this year and Robinson only had 69 rushing yards. But yardage is not the only measure of success.

Stanzi had extremely efficient once again (and closed the gap on BSU's Kellen Moore as the nation leader in passing efficiency) going 11/15 for 190 yards with 3 TDs and no INTs. He once again started the game very well. He went 4/4 on the 12 play, 80 yard drive that started the game, and finished the first half 8/10 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He was also very good moving in the pocket to avoid blitzing Spartans while keeping his head up and eyes moving to find open receivers down the field.

Robinson had a big first half, and for the first time in weeks got to rest on the bench while Marcus Coker got some reps. Robinson actually accounted for less than half of Iowa total rushing attempts! He still have 69 yards on the ground and his first career receiving touchdown...a 32-yard catch on a wheel route in which he ran right by super-Spartan Greg Jones. Robinson also owned Jones on a couple other plays including a run that he made Jones miss using a spin move, and a monster block that he put on Jones during Ricky Stanzi's 26-yard scramble for a big first down.

A few other offensive players worth noting:
  • Brad Herman had his best day ever with 3 catches for 80 yards including a 56-yarder that set up Robinson's touchdown at the end of the first half.
  • Sandeman's touchdown grab was excellent. Stanzi really rocketed the ball into a tight space and Sandeman had no trouble hauling it in.
  • I mentioned it earlier, but it was great to get Coker in to relieve Robinson for a number of series. He had modest number, 40 yards on 14 carries, but showed his potential on a couple of nice runs.
  • McNutt's over the shoulder one-handed tip to himself was a thing of beauty. His touchdown catch in the second half was also pretty spectacular.

The defense's back on track

After two miserable weeks (by Iowa's standards) for the defense, they rebounded in a big way. Iowa held Michigan State scoreless for 3 quarter and forced 3 turnovers. Kirk Cousins had previously only been intercepted 4 times in his first 8 games...Iowa picked off 3 of his passes and returned then for 122 yards and a TD. No interception (and maybe no play) was bigger than Tyler Sash's pick-and-lateral to Hyde who returned it to the house. That play put Iowa up 17-0 and seemed to demoralize the Spartans.

It started up front for the Hawkeye defense. Iowa completely shut down MSU's running game and held them to a season low 31 rushing yard. Though the Hawkeyes registered only 1 sack (by Steve Bigach in junk time), Cousins was consistently pressured when he tried to sit in the pocket. Mike Daniels continued to be a disruptive force, blowing up a couple of plays in the back field.

The most promising thing about the defense, though, was that this was the secondary's best game. Sash, Greenwood, and Prater all had interceptions. I don't recall any real breakdowns by Hyde or anyone else. Prater was giving up slant all day, but always made sound tackles and didn't give up a long gain. When Cousins tried to test Prater on a non-slant, Prater got his interception.

The linebackers would solid considering the circumstances. It was good to get Tarpinian back out there on passing down. Hopefully next week he'll be able to play even more. The freshmen, Morris and DiBona, played well. Morris showed again that he's good in run support. He comes in and cleans up on a lot of tackles. The one big negative was that Tyler Nielsen went down near the end of the game. The starting 3 next week could by Morris, DiBona, and Ross Petersen. That's true freshman, red-shirt freshman, and walk-on senior.

Hey, the special teams weren't that bad

The kickoff return team was much improved. The Spartans' 7 returns went for just 117 yards with a long of 20 yards. The punt coverage was also improved and Iowa downed 3 inside the 20 and didn't allow any return yards.

Mike Meyer hit a 37-yard field goal. He is now a respectable 5/6 on the year and made 5 in a row since missing his first attempt. He did miss a PAT that hit the left upright and bounce out. Luckily, that miss didn't have any impact on the game unlike last week.

A few more things

I liked the reverse pass by McNutt. It's too bad he wasn't able to connect with DJK. I thought Iowa might do something like this to try to counter MSU's propensity for trickery. Iowa tried it once last year too, but just once, so I don't expect to see it again this year.

I know some might question keeping Stanzi in the whole game, but I thought it was nice to see Iowa keep the pressure on for the whole game. The play calling did get a lot more conservative and second teamers were substituted in and out. But for the most part, Iowa really tried to stick it to Michigan State.

I thought those timeouts at the end of the first half were pretty hilarious. When the Spartans just wanted to get into the locker room and regroup, Ferentz made them run a couple of extra plays just to rub it in a little.