Monday, November 14, 2011
Well, well, wasn’t that a beautiful smack down of Iowa on Saturday? The Spartans used a variety of efforts, and another impressive defensive performance, to beat up the Hawkeyes, 37-21. Most impressive was the smothering of the Iowa offensive line, and the opportunistic Spartan defense, forcing three Iowa turnovers. MSU’s defensive line was again dominant, holding the Big Ten’s leading rusher, Iowa’s Marcus Coker, to just 51 yards on 20 carries (2.7 average) and just 87 yards for the day.
MSU now heads into this weekend in its final home stint vs Indiana, and are 4-TD favorites. 8-2/4-1, the Spartans are now the highest ranked Big Ten team, improving to #12 in the AP Poll and #15 in the BCS. We haven’t beaten the Ugly Chickens in Iowa City since I was an undergrad – 1989 to be exact – so this annihilation was a long time coming.
Before you could blink it was 14-0. A fast start in Iowa City is what the Spartans really needed. And, they got it. Kirk Cousins (18-31, 260 yards, 3 TDs) was very sharp early, making impressive throw after impressive throw. BJ Cunningham and Ed Baker made impressive, difficult catches in paydirt (Baker with a beautiful one-hander). And, then, top it all off, MSU had one of its better running efforts of the season, over 150 yards on the ground – with 112 yards by LeVeon Bell and an impressive 25-yard TD… Bell is looking all the more like Lorenzo White, a big body, deceptive speed, and just the ability to run hard between the tackles. And, Ed Baker had a nice day hitting the corner with his speed for 51 yards on the ground. But, the play calling was as good as it has been all year, including an impressive double reverse to Keshawn Martin, who promply threw a BEAUTIFUL ball to Brian Linthicum for 28 yards… which reminds the ES -
Flashback to earlier in the week, where the ES criticizedthe Spartan offensive play calling with respect to the absence of tight ends in Big Ten play…. Injuries or not, MSU found a way to get it done – impressive edge blocking by Brian Linthicum all day long to help spring the running game, but also Linthicum had five catches for 71 yards… his most productive day in Big Ten play this year.
The only concern for MSU all day long really was 1) the center-QB snap, three times dropped by Cousins (and once on a critical third down); 2) giving up big chunks of yards on kick returns; and, 3) a measly 4-for-16 on third downs. But, Iowa imploded with mistake after mistake, and MSU made them pay by scoring on nearly every Hawkeye error. The 31-7 halftime lead was beautiful (and rare in Iowa), and that 48 yard field goal by Conroy in the fourth period would have been good from 70 if he hid is straight. He hooked that thing like my golf drives – 100 yards to the straight and then 150 yards to the left. Beautiful.
Even Mike Sadler had his best day as a Spartan punting for the Big Green and pinning Iowa deep when Cousins and his offense could not convert third downs. He averaged 46 yards on six punts, with three downed inside the 20.
MSU is in control of a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title. Two games to go: Indiana and Northwestern… GO GREEN.