The Michigan State football program (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) bounced back in a back way Saturday, opening up Big Ten play with a 26-14 victory on the road over the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-1).
The first 25 minutes of the first half were really dominated by the Spartans, doing so through a suffocating defense and an offense that dominated time of possession.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook led the way, having himself a career day, throwing for 276 yards and two touchdowns, pacing a methodical Michigan State offensive attack that went on six scoring drives.
Highlighted by a 46 yard touchdown completion from Cook to receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr., the Spartans jumped got out to a 10-0 lead with 6:18 to go in the first half. The play also gave Michigan State their first play of over 40 yards on the season, being the last team of 126 FBS schools to do so.
However, for the next five minutes, the Iowa offense woke up. Up until that point, the Hawkeyes only had 21 yards of offense on the day and hadn’t even picked up a first down yet. From that point until halftime, the Hawkeyes went on a 6 play, 75 yard touchdown drive and another 6 play, 65 yard drive to take a 14-10 lead into the half.
The second half was a different story though.
The Spartans came out and opened up the half on a 7 play, 75 yard drive, capped by 37 yard touchdown pass from Cook to receiver Bennie Fowler, giving the Spartans a 17-14 lead, where they never looked back.
From there, freshman kicker Michael Geiger kicked three field goals, allowing Michigan State to close the game out with a 26-14 victory. It was a big day for Geiger, rebounding from an early missed field goal to hit his next four of 27, 35, 49, and 40 yards respectively.
Coming into the game, a big key would be whether or not junior Iowa running back Mark Weisman would be able to put up the same kind of numbers he has this season on this Michigan State defense. In his first five games, Weisman had averaged 123 yards a game, but he certainly hadn’t faced a defense yet this year as good as Michigan State’s.
The result: Weisman was held to just 9 yards on 7 carries.
Save for those five minutes at the end of the first half, this Michigan State defense once again played spectacular, holding Iowa to just 264 total yards of offense on the day. The defensive star of the day on Michigan State though has to go to senior corner back Darqueze Dennard, who twice picked off sophomore Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock.
In the end, Michigan State looked as good as they have all year on Saturday. Like they have for a majority of this season, the defense once again proved they are one of the best in the country. But what gave the Spartans the edge in this one was the fact that Cook and his receivers finally found a way to work together and move the ball on offense.
Moving forward, the win today should provide a good stepping stone for the Spartans and give them something to build on as they move deeper into the heart of the Big Ten season.
Up next for Michigan State, they’ll return home to East Lansing to take on the Indiana Hoosiers (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) next Saturday, October, 12.
Follow Ryan Squanda on Twitter @squandaryan