EAST LANSING - With a 34-27 loss against Iowa, the road to a bowl game got a little bit steeper for Michigan State.
The day started off so well. The Spartans built a 17-3 lead at the half and appeared to be in the drivers seat. But the Hawkeye running game took the wheel in the second half and put the Iowa offense into a higher gear.
Again the MSU defense could not stop a supercharged running back. Albert Young had his most productive day of the season averaging 5.3-yards a carry for 179 yards. He sprinkled big-gainers, his longest 29 yards, with a steady dose of 3- to 6-yard spurts.
On defense, the development of Greg Jones continues to be a sight to behold. The true freshman led the Spartans for the second week in a row in tackles with 11. His athleticism, closing gaps and not allowing lineman to hit him squarely, provides MSU's defense with a dynamic, disruptive presence.
But failing to stop the run again cost the green & white. Last week it was Chris Wells in a loss at Ohio State. Earlier in the season P.J. Hill of Wisconsin (155 yards), in an MSU loss, and LeSean McCoy (172) of Pittsburgh, in a narrow MSU victory, ran over an overmatched Spartan defense.
Now they'll possibly face Heisman candidate Mike Hart of Michigan in the biggest game of Mark Dantonio's tenure at Michigan State.
Michigan will enter Spartan Stadium on a roll with seven straight victories after their embarrassing 0-2 start.
Dantonio has embraced the back-yard rivalry, often stating the team uses the maize & blue as a measuring stick. He has kept a Michigan countdown clock running, ticking down the time to the meeting next Saturday in East Lansing.
If the Spartans are to get back on the fast-track for a bowl game, they'll do well to find an answer for Michigan's running game — even if Hart continues to sit with an ankle injury. In his place, Carlos Brown has turned in two 100-yard performances in a row, with 132 yards against Minnesota this week to go along with Brandon Minor, who had 159 yards himself against the Golden Gophers.
But if they can't slow things down, at least the Spartans have some horsepower of their own. With running back Javon Ringer, their first 1,000-yarder in over six seasons, wide receiver Devin Thomas, who sits near the top of the heap nationally in all-purpose yards, and future NFL draft-pick tight end Kellen Davis, the Spartans might just embrace a good-old-fashioned drag-race shootout — first one to 50 wins.
Tough Loss, Tougher Road
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