IOWA CITY – Was it a Penn State hangover? If it was, the players and coaches will never admit to it. But the Hawkeyes did not look like the same team we’ve seen for the last four weeks.
The Hawkeyes dropped to 0-2 in the Big Ten with a 17-10 loss to Michigan State on Saturday.
The Spartans jumped on the Hawkeyes with two early touchdown passes from Brian Lewerke to Felton Davis III to take a 14-0 lead. After that, the Iowa defense went to work and allowed just a 38-yard field goal in the rest of the half. Iowa held the Spartans scoreless in the second half.
Akrum Wadley got the Hawkeyes on the board with a seven-yard touchdown run to cap off a 72-yard drive to cut the lead to 14-7 with 12 minutes left in the first half. Much like the Spartan offense, the Hawkeyes failed to get anywhere after that, settling for nothing more than a Miguel Recinos field goal in the third quarter.
Defensively, Josey Jewell led the charge for the second straight week. The senior linebacker finished with 15 tackles, one week after notching 16 versus Penn State.
Simply put, the Iowa offense struggled in every way possible. Perhaps the most glaring issue was the extreme lack of a rushing game.
It’s no secret that opposing defenses are keying on Wadley. Michigan State certainly took note. Although he did score the lone Iowa touchdown, Wadley was bottled up all day. He finished with just 30 yards on his 17 carries.
The Michigan State offensive line gave a great push all game long and gave the Iowa offensive line fits. This contributed to the problems in the passing game as well.
For the first time all season, the normally well-composed Nate Stanley was uncomfortable from start to finish. The man leading the Big Ten in touchdown passes failed to get one in the end zone for the first time this year.
Stanley and the offense struggled to get across midfield for much of the game, let alone score. The Hawkeyes started inside their 20-yard line seemingly every possession.
Stanley was just 16-for-31 for 197 yards on the game. His deep ball problem continued as he threw a handful of overthrows yet again.
His struggles were compounded by a fluke turnover in the third quarter. After leading the team down field to the Spartan five-yard line, Stanley evaded a sack and lost control of the ball as he went to throw. It was officially ruled a fumble and picked up by Michigan State’s Joe Bachie. The Hawkeyes came up empty on one of their best drives of the game.
Stanley’s fumble was the first of two for Iowa. Freshman receiver Brandon Smith coughed one up later in the quarter at the Michigan State 38, ending another scoring chance.
Michigan State entered the game as +5 in the turnover margin on the season, but never turned it over on Saturday.
T.J. Hockenson led the Hawkeyes in receptions and yards with three catches for 46 yards. Nick Easley and Wadley each caught three passes as well.
Colten Rastetter’s punting was again less than great, but many of his punts came from deep in Iowa territory. On a fake punt, he completed a pass to freshman defensive end A.J. Epenesa to extend a Hawkeye drive. The trickery was one of the biggest highlights on the day for Iowa.
Back to back losses to start the Big Ten season is obviously not what Iowa wanted, and not what you would expect when the defense held the Spartans scoreless in the second half. The offense is going to have to put in work next week and fix whatever went wrong in week five.
Stanley has been stout so far this season, but reminded everybody that he is just a sophomore making his fifth start on Saturday. Fans may be frustrated with Stanley’s performance, but he has been generally good thus far in his short career. Next week is another test for him as it will be the first time he has to bounce back after a poor outing. Stanley doesn’t seem to get bothered by much, so I don’t suspect his troubles to linger for another week.
Don’t turn your back on Stanley yet. He’s still growing up.
The Hawkeyes (3-2, 0-2) play at home next Saturday against Illinois (2-2, 0-1). The Homecoming game is at 11:00am on Big Ten Network.