Hawkeyes excel in all three phases for dominant victory over Spartans

Iowa scored on offense, defense, and special teams for the team’s first victory of the 2020 season.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa running back Tyler Goodson carries the ball during a football game between Iowa and Michigan State in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. The Hawkeyes dominated the Spartans, 49-7.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

A lively ground attack, a special teams score, a pick six — the Iowa football team did it all Saturday in a dominating 49-7 victory over Michigan State. And the Spartans don’t have any points coming in the mail.

The Hawkeyes excelled in all three phases of the game in Week 3 and improved to 1-2 following two close losses to begin the 2020 season.

“It builds confidence for us,” Iowa running back Tyler Goodson said. “Being 0-2 was very frustrating. It’s all about having the mentality of knowing you can be successful. That’s what we did today. It definitely gave us the confidence going into next week that this team is capable of winning and we can do that over and over.”

Goodson’s performance on Saturday was one of the best in his Hawkeye career to this point. And it all started on the first drive of the game.

Iowa hadn’t picked up a first down on its first drive in either of its first two games of the season. Against the Spartans, the Hawkeyes went 75 yards in eight plays, culminating in an eight yard run into the end zone by Goodson.

“This team was very eager to come out and dominate the game,” Goodson said. “The first drive definitely gave us the confidence to be able to push through the whole game and go drive, for drive, for drive.”

Iowa safety Jack Koerner intercepted Michigan State quarterback Rocky Lombardi on the first Spartan drive of the day, giving the ball right back to the Hawkeye offense.

On a third-and-12 play from Michigan State’s 14-yard line, right after failing to connect with Goodson on a well set up screen pass, Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras lofted a pass up to the right corner of the end zone for Brandon Smith, who beat his defender and grabbed the ball out of the air for the touchdown.

Goodson added onto Iowa’s lead with a nine-yard scoring scamper early in the second quarter to push Iowa’s lead to 21-0. On the day, Goodson ran for 113 yards — 71 of them on Iowa’s first play of the second half — and two scores.

Iowa achieved its season-high in points with 11:16 remaining in the second quarter.

Charlie Jones and Riley Moss extended Iowa’s lead late in the first half. Both players used 54-yard returns  — Jones running a punt back and Moss with a pick six — to push Iowa’s lead to 35-0.

“We talked all week that we needed to show up at 11:02 for the kick and be ready to play,” Petras said. “I think collectively we did that.”

Hawkeye running back Mekhi Sargent tallied two more touchdown runs for Iowa in the second half, and the Spartans had one of their own, but the game was already over.

Iowa scored its most points ever against Michigan State in a complete team performance.

On offense, Iowa gained 405 yards. The Hawkeye defense held the Spartans to 286 yards, picking off Lombardi three times and providing constant pressure throughout the game. Special teams may have been the highlight for the Hawkeyes between Jones’ house call and Tory Taylor’s 45.9-yard-per-punt day.

Between an 0-2 start to the season, missing star receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette as he’s away on suspension for operating while intoxicated, and losing starting offensive linemen Coy Cronk and Kyler Schott for this week’s game because of injuries, Iowa had hurdles in the way that could have prevented it from breaking through for a victory.

The Hawkeyes won nonetheless, and did so in dominating fashion. And in the process, Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz picked up his 163rd win against a Big Ten opponent, moving past Joe Paterno for fourth-most in conference history. Not that a milestone was on Ferentz’s mind when he received a game ball following the win.

“It probably means I’ve been here a while, right?” Ferentz said of the achievement. “You know, that stuff is all great, and I promise you, it wasn’t prominent on my mind. We needed to play well today. That’s what we needed to do.

“Whenever I retire, whenever that day comes, hopefully it’s not for quite a while, although I’m sure some people are wondering about that, then we’ll sit around and talk about stuff like that. It’s neat, but what’s more important is we got a win today. I’m really, really happy for our players.”