Iowa football team hoping to avoid 0-3 start heading into Michigan State matchup

There’s little margin for error moving forward if the Hawkeyes want to contend in the Big Ten West.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum throws a block during the 2019 SDCCU Holiday Bowl between Iowa and USC in San Diego on Friday, Dec. 27, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Trojans, 49-24.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

In the shortened 2020 Big Ten regular season, the third game of the season may have bigger implications than in other seasons for Iowa (0-2).

With a 24-20 loss at Purdue and a 21-20 loss versus Northwestern, a home game against Michigan State (1-1) may be a must win for Iowa if it wants to stay alive in the race to win the Big Ten West.

Michigan State upset No. 13 Michigan in Ann Arbour last week, 27-24, and is under head coach Mel Tucker, who’s in his first season coaching in East Lansing. But the Hawkeyes are focused on themselves first. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said he thinks everyone on his team can find ways to do things a little bit better.

“Our guys have done a lot of good things over the past six or seven months,” Ferentz said. “Certainly, very unusual circumstances, unusual times. I think the guys have handled it well day-by-day, week-by-week, and where we stand right now is, what we need to do is keep pushing forward and see what we can do to try to get over on the winning side of things, and it gets down to focusing on improvement and that’s every practice, everyday, not looking too far down the road and doing a better job in the detail. That’s what we need to be doing right now as we move forward.”

Typically, a team’s performance comes down to its quarterback. For Iowa, Spencer Petras’ performance has been mediocre at best so far in his first two games ever as a starter.

At Purdue, Petras failed to throw for a TD but did run one in as he finished the day 22-of-39 for 265 yards. In the home opener against Northwestern, Petras threw for a touchdown — and three interceptions — as he attempted 50 passes throughout the game.

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Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum said Petras has been hard on himself, but that he’s a positive leader.

In both games, the Hawkeyes have had a solid start in the first half. But it’s been a different story in the second half, with three points scored against the Boilermakers and none in the game against the Wildcats.

“It just comes down to execution,” Linderbaum said. “It’s not like we’re not trying to score points in the second half, it just hasn’t been going our way. The big focus is execution, and just try to push that ball through in the second half and just finish games.”

With Petras still adjusting as the lead signal caller, the run game is crucial. The Hawkeyes threw 50 times last week and strayed away from the ground game, which Ferentz said after the defeat is not how the team wants to play. Linderbaum said it was on the five offensive linemen to set the tempo for the run game right away.

The Hawkeyes rushed for 195 yards against the Boilermakers but found the Wildcats to be a bigger challenge, rushing 77 yards against them. The Spartans have given up 129 rushing yards per game.

“They’re a heavy box team,” Iowa running back Tyler Goodson said. “One high safety. So, the main thing for us is just to get to know how linebackers play, whether they’re over playing or slow playing or how their front d-line play. They’re a good defense and we have a pretty good offense, it’s just all about the technical things and what we can do better to improve and be successful in the run game.”