2011 Michigan State Spartans Football

 
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Michigan State Spartans @ Iowa Hawkeyes Football Recap

Michigan State 37, Iowa 21

 

 

It is so easy to repeat the refrain that in the world of Big Ten football, “Same Old Sparty” never leaves the party. On Saturday, an angry and focused football team from East Lansing, Michigan, gave its critics and doubters a different headline to talk about in the state of Iowa.

Michigan State merchandise The Michigan State Spartans (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) took control of the Big Ten Legends Division race with a convincing win over the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City on Saturday. This triumph gives MSU head-to-head tiebreakers over Iowa and Michigan in the race to Indianapolis, while keeping coach Mark Dantonio’s team one game ahead of a Nebraska club which owns the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Spartans. In the new calculus of the division race, Michigan State can secure a berth in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game with wins over Indiana and Northwestern in their final two games. The Spartans can also clinch the Legends Division title if they split their final two games and Nebraska loses one of its final two contests against Michigan and Iowa.

Just what made this performance so impressive and unusual for the Spartans? One needs to consider the immediate and not-so-immediate past, the backdrop which framed this football fight in the Heartland of America. This 16-point smackdown was Michigan State’s first win at Iowa since 1989. While Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz, Iowa’s two most recent coaches, took the Hawkeyes to prestigious January bowls over the previous two decades, Michigan State could never break through. The Spartans, whose last Rose Bowl appearance came in 1988, have made the Capital One (formerly Citrus) Bowl twice but haven’t been able to go beyond that point. This win allows Sparty to dream of a place in the Big Ten title tilt, which can be the program’s portal to Pasadena and the Tournament of Roses on January 2.

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What also made this performance such a cathartic and cleansing moment for Michigan State football is the fact that the Spartans’ national title dreams were ruined last season in Iowa City, when the Hawkeyes hammered Michigan State, 37-6. That was the only regular-season loss for MSU, the lone blot on what was otherwise the program’s best autumn since the Duffy Daugherty days of the mid-1960s. Truly, this win in Iowa will carry a lot of mileage for the MSU program.

Kirk Cousins threw for 260 yards and three touchdowns, delivering the goods on a day when many felt he’d fall short. Cousins hit B.J. Cunningham for two touchdowns in the first half, including a 22-yard strike with 1:21 left in the second quarter that gave Michigan State a 31-7 lead. Le’Veon Bell carried 20 times for 112 yards and a touchdown.

James Vandenberg threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns for the Hawkeyes, who fell to 6-4 on the season. Marvin McNutt, playing in his final home game, caught eight passes for 130 yards and a touchdown, and set Iowa’s career record for receiving yards with 2,635. Marcus Coker, the Big Ten’s leading rusher, was held to 57 yards for Iowa. Michigan State forced three Iowa turnovers as part of a defensive tour de force that kept the Hawks in check all day long.

The Spartans took a 14-0 first quarter lead on touchdown passes from Cousins to Cunningham and Edwin Baker. Michigan State had not scored more than 13 points in any of their three previous road games.

The Hawkeyes scored on an eight-yard pass from Vandenberg to C.J. Fiedorowicz early in the second, but 17 unanswered points gave the Spartans a 24-point halftime lead at 31-7. Third-quarter touchdowns by McNutt and Coker closed the deficit to 13, but Michigan State’s defense prevented any further surge.


By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer

 

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