EAST LANSING - Michigan State’s 17-10 victory over Iowa unfolded pretty much the way the Spartan coaches and players expected, but that didn’t make it any easier. And the feeling of accomplishment wasn’t any less.
“Another white-knuckle game,” head coach Mark Dantonio said with a smile. “It’s what you love. Keeps you going.”
“We knew it would take all four quarters and then some to make it through. That’s the way it always is against Iowa. Emotionally, we played extremely well and just kept hammering, kept going.”
And the Spartans’ season keeps going, exiting September with an acceptable 3-1 record, heading toward next week’s rivalry game at Michigan. Iowa falls to 2-2, one week after losing to Top 10 Penn State on the game’s final play.
“It’s a gut win,” Dantonio said. “Big win. And it’s in Spartan Stadium. When you can win with guts, when you win with toughness, and you play under pressure and you win, good things usually follow.”
Sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke passed for 212 yards on 18-of-28 accuracy, including TD strikes of 22 and 6 yards to wide receiver Felton Davis. Lewerke and Davis were hot in the first half, but cooled in the second half after taking a 17-7 lead, and ended up leaning heavily on the Spartan defense to seal victory.
The Spartans could never establish a ground attack. The result was a blank second half of offense, but the Spartan defense contained things by holding the Hawkeyes to just 231 yards of total offense and 11 first downs.
“Lewerke played well,” Dantonio said. “You can’t audible on third-and-one; you get your coach upset.”
That audible, to a deep fade on third-and-one at the Iowa 20-yard line early in the fourth quarter, resulted in an incompletion and a holding penalty.
Two plays later, kicker Matt Coghlin missed a 48-yard field goal that could have created a two-score cushion.
“You have to play the percentages there a little bit,” Dantonio said.
And that’s exactly what the Spartans did in the second half in admittedly growing conservative in trying to run the ball, limit risks against a Hawkeye defense that has a penchant for forcing turnovers. But Michigan State committed zero turnovers on this day, which provided a big step toward victory.
Neither team had success on the ground. Iowa rushed for jut 19 yards (on 25 carries) and Michigan State mustered only 88 yards on 40 carries while starting true freshman Kevin Jarvis at right guard in place of the injured David Beedle.
Dantonio didn’t give any specifics on Beedle, but his injury is not season-threatening.
Lewerke rushed for a team-high 42 yards, including a gutty 13-yard scramble on third-and-12 with less than four minutes to play and the Hawkeyes having already spent two time outs.
“I thought that was huge,” Dantonio said. “Took clock away.”
Michigan State stayed on the ground for three straight plays, even after a false start created second-and-13 and third-and-nine.
“When we got down to the end there, we just needed to take the clock and punt it if we can’t get a first down,” Dantonio said. “Once they were out of time outs, that clock was going to continue to run. We couldn’t risk stopping it (with an incompletion).”
Michigan State punted Iowa to the 16-yard line with less than a minute to play. Michigan State then played prevent defense for two plays - one of which resulted in a scrambling incompletion, and the second was a coverage sack by Demetrius Cooper, which expired the clock.
Sophomore middle linebacker Joe Bachie had a team-high nine tackles for the Spartans, including a sack, 3.5 tackles for loss and an interception.
His interception came early in the second half, inside the Spartan 5-yard line, gathering in an airborne bobble by Iowa QB Nate Stanley.
Iowa's next drive, late in the third quarter, ended when Josiah Scott forced a fumble, which was recovered by MSU linebacker Chris Frey at the Spartan 41-yard line.
SpartanMag.com will have more coverage.