Lansing State Journal columnist Graham Couch and Detroit Free Press columnist Shawn Windsor break down the Spartans’ 17-10 win over the Hawkeyes and look ahead to next week’s game at Michigan.
Looking back at what happened in Michigan State’s 17-10 win over Iowa and a look ahead to next week’s game at Michigan.
Three things we learned
Developing defense: MSU’s defense looked dominating against Iowa, holding the Hawkeyes to just 19 rushing yards and limiting QB Nate Stanley to just 197 passing yards. The Spartans also forced two fumbles, sacked Stanley three times and hurried him eight others. They now have nine sacks in four games, two shy of the total for all of 2016. Saturday was perhaps the best defensive performance by MSU since beating the Hawkeyes 16-13 in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Stuck in mud: The play calls in the second half were conservative, but the Spartans found no room to run in whatever way they tried – between the tackles, around the end, on jet sweeps or on toss plays. Running backs LJ Scott, Gerald Holmes and Madre London combined for just 40 yards on 24 carries between them. Iowa loaded the box on MSU, and the young offensive line struggled to create holes and separation for the running backs.
Receiving options: Quarterback Brian Lewerke continues to spread the love to his pass catchers. Saturday, it was Felton Davis with a career-best nine-catch, 114-yard, two-TD breakout game. But Lewerke connected with seven other Spartans after hitting 10 different receivers in the season-opener against Bowling Green and 12 a week earlier against Notre Dame.
Matchup: Michigan State (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) vs. No. 7 Michigan (4-0, 1-0)
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor.
TV/radio: ABC, WJR-AM (760).
Know the foe: The Wolverines enjoyed a bye week after losing quarterback Wilton Speight in their Big Ten-opening win at Purdue on Sept. 23. Michigan remains the nation’s top defense, giving up just 203.3 yards of total offense and a Football Bowl Subdivision-low 69.3 rushing yards per game. Coach Jim Harbaugh’s defense also ranks fourth by allowing just 134 yards passing a contest and is tied for eighth at 13.5 points per game. The Wolverines have sacked opposing quarterbacks 18 times, but their offensive line also has given up 12. U-M has produced a balanced rushing attack between Ty Isaac (356 yards, 1 TD), Chris Evans (220 yards, 2 TDs) and Karan Higdon (136 yards, 2 TDs). And despite struggles in the passing game, the Wolverines are averaging 31.5 points per game. Michigan won last year’s meeting in East Lansing, 32-23, Harbaugh’s first win over the Spartans and just the Wolverines’ third in 10 tries against Dantonio.
Three things to watch
Primetime party: While there have been some memorable games that finished under the lights, MSU and Michigan have never played a true night game in the previous 109 games. Until now. It’s something administrators from both schools have feared because of the potential for problems outside the stadium, but it’s no longer in the schools’ control with the Big Ten’s new TV contracts.
Who’s the man? With Michigan having a bye week, it gives time for Speight to recover from his unspecified injury knocked him out at Purdue before the bye week. But is it enough? The Wolverines’ offense sputtered with Speight under center before senior John O’Korn took over at Purdue, going 18-for-26 for 270 yards, a touchdown and an interception, leading U-M to 28-10 win. All eyes will be on who coach Jim Harbaugh will go with – and how long he’ll draw out the decision, either for internal competition or gamesmanship going into rivalry week.
‘Legs’ Lewerke: Through four games, redshirt sophomore QB Brian Lewerke is leading the Spartans with 248 rushing yards. MSU has never had a quarterback lead the team in rushing, though halfback George Guerre led them in both rushing and passing in 1946 and and Dean Look led the Spartans in rushing in 1958 before transitioning to quarterback the next year.
Contact Chris Solari: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!