After a heart-breaking loss last week, Iowa was in East Lansing, Mich., on Saturday to take on Michigan State. The Spartans (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) took a quick, early lead and never trailed, as the Hawkeyes (3-2, 0-2) fell on the road, 17-10. Let’s take a look back at Iowa’s performance.
Nate Stanley had the greatest performance in his young career in his first road start earlier this season. His second road trip did not go as well, however. With little production coming on the ground, Stanley was forced to take on a big portion of the offensive load and he struggled.
He was under pressure often, and while he handled it relatively well, his passing was off most of the afternoon. His accuracy was off, he overthrew another deep ball and often appeared to get rid of the ball too late, causing a once open receiver to be covered by the time the ball arrived. And after going fumble free following his three-fumble debut this season, Stanley fumbled twice on Saturday, including one he lost at the Michigan State 5-yard line in which he lost control of the ball while winding up to throw.
Overall, Stanley was 16 of 31 for 197 yards. Grade: D-
Opposing defenses have been keying up to stop the run this year and it has been having a noticeable impact on Iowa’s effectiveness on the ground. The running lanes simply have not been there through much of the games and that continued on Saturday. Michigan State was in the backfield all afternoon, as the Spartans took a page from Penn State’s playbook and run blitzed against the Hawkeyes often.
Because of this, Akrum Wadley was never able to get anything going. Whether it was a run up the middle or a sweep to the outside, Michigan State was there to clog the running lanes and stop him. Wadley finished his day with his worst performance of the season, as he ran 17 times for 30 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown run. He also caught three passes for 17 yards.
Freshman Ivory Kelly-Martin didn’t receive many touches but he didn’t fair any better, finishing with one carry for -2 yards to go along with one reception for 10 yards. Grade: D-
Wide Receiver/Tight End
It was a solid outing by the receivers against the Spartans. While no one put up particularly big numbers, they were able to get open and caught the majority of the catchable passes. A couple more well-placed throws from Stanley may have resulted in a better overall day.
T.J. Hockenson paced the group by catching three passes for a team-leading 46 yards. Matt VandeBerg had three receptions for 31 yards, while Nick Easley and Noah Fant each had two for 33 and 21 yards, respectively. Ihmir Smith-Marsette caught one pass for 31 yards and Brandon Smith caught one for 8 yards, though he ended up losing a fumble on the play. Grade: C+
The Iowa offensive line had a rough day against Michigan State on Saturday. While the pass protection was solid, the Hawkeyes were unable to handle the Spartans’ run defense, as Iowa managed just 19 total rushing yards. While injuries have caused a lot of shuffling up front this season, the lack of consistency from the O-line has to be a concern going forward. Grade: F
Overall Offensive Grade: F
To put it mildly, the Iowa offense struggled on Saturday. The Hawkeyes managed just 231 yards of total offense, including a paltry 19 on the ground. That obviously is not a winning formula and is something Iowa will need to figure out in the coming weeks if it wishes to make some noise in the Big Ten.
Unlike their offensive counterparts, the Iowa defensive line played well against the Spartans. The Hawkeyes were able to bottle up the Michigan State rushing attack, limiting the Spartans to 88 yards on the ground, including just 28 from running back L.J. Scott. The D-line wasn’t as effective in rushing the passer, but the Hawkeyes were still able to put pressure on quarterback Brian Lewerke from time to time.
Nathan Bazata paced the group with eight tackles, half a sack and a pass breakup. Anthony Nelson added six stops, including a sack, and A.J. Epenesa added three tackles. Parker Hesse had two tackles, while Matt Nelson, Sam Brincks and Cedrick Lattimore each added one. Grade: A-
As you would expect from a group as experienced as this one, the linebackers had a strong outing on Saturday. They did a good job in shutting down the ground game, as they were able to fill the gaps and shed blockers to get to the ball carrier. They also played well in coverage and tackled well, as there weren’t any egregious misses that resulted in big plays.
Predictably, Josey Jewell was the standout of the group, finishing with a game-high 16 tackles (three TFL), half a sack and a forced fumble. Bo Bower was next with three tackles, while Ben Niemann added two stops and a quarterback hurry. Grade: A-
Judging solely by the opening drive would lead one to think the defensive backs had a rough day against Michigan State. After all, the Spartans were able to march down the field and pick up 70 yards through the air en route to game-opening TD. Luckily for Iowa, things improved mightily after that possession, as the Hawkeyes held MSU to 142 passing yards the rest of the game. The coverage got a little tighter and the tackling remained strong with few misses.
Michael Ojemudia, starting in place of an injured Manny Rugamba, led the defensive backs with eight tackles. Amani Hooker continued his strong play since becoming a starter and finished with five tackles. Miles Taylor had four stops, while Josh Jackson had two and a pass breakup. Grade: B+
Overall Defensive Grade: A-
The Iowa defense quietly had a good day on Saturday. After allowing 75 yards and a TD on the game’s opening drive, the Hawkeyes settled in and held Michigan State to 225 yards the rest of the game. Although the Spartans scored an additional 10 points on the defense, they were all the result of a short field for MSU.
It was a decent showing from the Iowa special teams in East Lansing. Miguel Recinos continues to shine as the No. 1 kicker, connecting on his lone field goal attempt (43 yards) while also booting two of his three kickoffs for touchbacks. The Hawkeyes converted on a fake field goal, with Colten Rastetter connecting on a pass to Epenesa for a first down. Rastetter was not quite as effective punting the ball, however, as he averaged just 37.8 yards on six punts. Grade: C+
Overall Grade: D
No, the individual unit grades don’t average out to this one, but this was an ugly one on Saturday. While the defense rebounded from a bad start, the offensive struggles continued. If Iowa’s problems on offense persist, particularly when it comes to running the ball, it could make the rest of the season uncomfortable.
Stat of the Game: 22 for 30
Iowa ran 22 first-down plays for a total of 30 yards on Saturday. Included among those plays was a 16-yard pass from Stanley to VandeBerg that accounted for over half of the total yards.