The Hawkeyes provided a classic example of how not to play on the road as they spent most of the first half making mistakes in various phases of the game. After receiving the kickoff and moving the ball to midfield, QB Kyle McCann threw a forced pass over the middle that was intercepted. To compound the throw, the WR on the play for Iowa did not even turn around or look back for the ball.
In the other games this season, the Iowa Defense responded after such mistakes by stopping the opposing offense. However, against MSU in the first half, the defense could not come close to properly tackling or covering the talented and athletic Spartan skill players. WR Herb Haygood set up the first MSU touchdown on a long reception with a couple missed tackles. RB T.J Duckett ran it in from 6 yards for a 7-0 lead.
The Spartan Offense had their way with the Iowa Defense in the first half. It took a whole half of football before the defense remembered how to gang tackle and wrap up. Duckett only ended up with 25 carries for 71 rushing yards for the game, but in the first half Duckett broke many tackles as Iowa defenders were trying to pop him without wrapping up.
The player that made the difference for MSU was Haygood. Although MSU was shut down by the Iowa Defense in the second half, Haygood had already done his damage. He had most of his 9 catches for 119 yards in the first half, and his 100-yard kickoff return put the Spartans up 28-14 in the first half.
The Iowa Defense performed very well in the second half as the Spartans had very few first downs or yardage. For the game, the Iowa Defense held MSU to 179 passing yards, 39 carries for 90 rushing yards, and recovered two fumbles deep in Spartan territory. As the game went on, the tackling and coverage looked more like what Hawk fans have been seeing all season. However, when everything is said and done, MSU scored 31 points and won the game.
The Iowa Offense ran 35 times for 144 yards. Kyle McCann threw for 220 yards. Yet even though the offense scored 28 points, 14 of those points were set up by a Tim Dodge blocked punt and a Derrick Pickens hit on the QB that Aaron Kampman recovered. Both plays gave Iowa the ball inside the five-yard line.
Iowa could not sustain drives on offense. Typically, the Hawks would get into several 3rd and four or 3rd in five situations, but tipped passes or poor throws ended up stopping the drive. McCann was picked off four times, including a crucial play in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game when a Hawkeye receiver and Spartan defender both came down with a long McCann pass in the end zone. The officials awarded the ball to MSU, and the Hawkeyes lost another chance to tie the game. MSU was also awarded the ball when DB Matt Stockdale came down with the ball with a MSU receiver in the first half. Both calls appeared to be the correct calls, but they could have gone either way.
The offensive line and RB Ladell Betts looked much better than they did last week. Ladell ran 18 times for 79 yards. Betts looked healthier and hit the hole much quicker with power and authority. The OL also made him look better as there were many more holes. To compensate for the fact that they lost two DBs to injury last week, MSU played a lot of zone and at times had only 6 defenders in the box around the line of scrimmage. Although that makes it much easier to run, the Iowa ground game took a step forward in the game.
The Iowa passing game did not. The pass protection wasn't outstanding, but that was not the direct problem. MSU could not get to McCann to make the sack on most occasions, but it seemed as if they were tipping every third pass he attempted. Part of the credit needs to go to MSU, but the OL and McCann need to do a better job of finding and using throwing lanes to get the ball to receivers. McCann is 6'5" tall, but throwing over linemen and blitzing LBs and DBs did not work well today.
It was also McCann's worst game in reading defenses and throwing accurately with authority. He missed open receivers at times, and did not step into some throws that failed because they did not get out to the receiver quick enough. Kyle is still the QB that can get this team to a bowl game, but he needs to pick his play up a notch as it has slid in each of the last two weeks.
McCann is the starter and can do the job, but I think many people are wondering what happened to the plan of using Brad Banks for a couple of series a game? There were two goal line situations that many expected to see Banks in much like Kordell Stewart used to be used for the Steelers in 1995 when he played the slash role, but instead the coaches chose to run option and QB sneaks with McCann.
The Iowa Offense has fallen into an alarming pattern of not being as successful moving the ball as the game goes on. The offense looked better yesterday in the first half, but the play calling and execution dropped as the game went on. Banks is not the answer to this problem, but he does have the ability to jumpstart the offense with his abilities and get Iowa going again. The Iowa coaches looked like they were getting out-coached at times by the Spartan staff that had two weeks to prepare for Iowa.
The Iowa Defense did not come out ready to play in the first half. The kickoff team gave up the first kickoff return touchdown against an Iowa team since 1976. Yet when that is all said and done, the score was still only 28-21 at the half. The Iowa Defense held the MSU Offense at bay almost the entire second half, yet the Iowa Offense was not able to take advantage. Kampman recovered another fumble in Spartan territory the 4th quarter, yet the Iowa Offense was only able to get a missed Nate Kaeding field goal attempt out of the gift.
This Iowa team has the ability to have a good season, but right now they look like a mediocre team that is playing just well enough to lose. They are getting good play from many members of the team, but not even the upperclass veterans are providing the consistency that Kevin Kasper and LeVar Woods provided last year. Iowa does get a home game against 1-4 Indiana this week, but it is going to take more consistent performances by the entire team and coaching staff if the Hawks are going to get this season back on track. The loss to MSU has turned the Indiana game into a must win situation.