Iowa City, Iowa – Head coach Mark Dantonio said earlier this week that Michigan State was a better team coming out of a bye week. That certainly proved true as the Spartans earned a hard-fought 26-14 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday afternoon at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa’s offense netted just 26 yards on its first five possessions of the game. Going three-and-out four times and the other ending in a Jake Rudock interception. Spartan’s cornerback Darqueze Denard had two picks on the afternoon, including one with 5:09 left in the game that all but ended the Hawkeye’s chances.
Michigan State’s defense entered play as the only one in the country allowing fewer than 200 yards a game. That standout defense led the way all-game long, limiting Iowa to just 264 total yards for the game. The Spartans held the Hawkeyes stout running game in check, allowing just 23 yards rushing, and limited Iowa running back Mark Weisman to just 9 yards on 7 carries.
Sophomore QB Connor Cook played arguably the best game of his career thus far against the Hawkeyes, finishing the game 25-44 for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns. Cook looked poised in just his fourth ever start and was helped by an athletic group of Spartan wide receivers that gave the Iowa secondary fits all game. After a scoreless first quarter, Cook found Macgarrett Kings for a 46-yard touchdown pass to put the Spartans up 10-0 with just over 6 minutes remaining in the first half. Cook then connected with Bennie Fowler for a 37-yard touchdown to open up the third quarter to give Michigan State a 17-14 lead that they would never relinquish.
Michigan State entered Saturday’s game with one of the worst offenses statistically in college football, while Iowa had the 7th best defense in the nation. The Spartans were seemingly able to do just about what ever they wanted to offensively on Saturday, pilling up 412 total yards. They were also able to exploit all to familiar mistakes made by the Hawkeye defense, including countless missed tackles, which allowed Spartan receivers to gain extra yards after the catch and extend drives.
One would have to assume that Cook has now earned the starting spot for good in East Lansing, after replacing last year’s starter Andrew Maxwell during the Spartan’s first game of the season against Western Michigan. Cook managed the game well against the Hawkeyes as Michigan State dominated time of possession by almost 15 minutes and was able to keep the Hawkeyes tired defense on the field by converting 64% of his third downs.
The loss drops the Hawkeyes to 4-2 and 1-1 in the Big Ten Legends division. The Hawkeyes must recover quickly as they now have a much needed bye week, which looms larger given the countless Hawkeyes who went down with injuries today. Iowa follows up the bye week with a visit to Columbus to take on Ohio State, before returning home to face Northwestern.
With the win Michigan State seemingly puts itself in the driver seat for the Legends division as faces three bottom-tier Big Ten teams in Indiana, Purdue, and Illinois the next three weeks. Before hosting a huge home contest against #19 Michigan the first week of November.