Opinion | Hawkeyes dominate in game they desperately needed

The Hawkeye football team bounced back after losing two close games to start the season. Now the focus is on getting win No. 2.


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. Goodson and fellow back Mekhi Sargent each ran for 2 scores.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

In Iowa’s 21-20 loss to Northwestern last week, two passes by quarterback Spencer Petras deflected off the hands of tight end Sam LaPorta and were intercepted by Wildcat defenders at crucial times in the game.

This week against Michigan State? The luck was on Iowa’s side.

Leading 14-0 at the start of the second quarter and on Michigan State’s side of the field following a 31-yard punt return from Charlie Jones, Petras fired a pass underneath to Tyrone Tracy on a crossing route. The ball hit off Tracy’s hands and sprung up into the air … and right into the hands of another Iowa wide receiver — Brandon Smith.

“That was nice that we caught it this week,” Petras said with a smile.

The play picked up 12 yards, Iowa extended its lead on that drive, and kept doing so for the rest of the game in a 49-7 drubbing of Michigan State. The Hawkeyes dominated and picked up their elusive first win of the season. And it was one they needed badly.

Starting 0-2, both close losses, put a roadblock in the way of Iowa’s chances to win the Big Ten West, especially now that Northwestern is 3-0. Dropping another game to start 0-3 would have made things significantly worse. But Saturday’s victory was a good start to turning the season around.

The Hawkeyes led 35-0 at halftime and extended their lead by actually scoring points in the second half — not that Iowa particularly needed more points this game.

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Iowa’s offense looked the best it has all season against Michigan State, particular the rushing attack. The Hawkeyes ran for 226 yards and four touchdowns against the Spartans with a 5.5 yard per carry average. Tyler Goodson accounted for 113 yards and two of those scores.

Defensively, the Hawkeyes rattled Spartan quarterback Rocky Lombardi all day. The West Des Moines Valley High School graduate threw three interceptions – including a pick six to Iowa cornerback Riley Moss – and was sacked twice, although he faced pressure throughout the day. The Spartans only ran for 59 yards against the stout Hawkeye front.

Special teams was another highlight for the Hawkeyes. Tory Taylor may be the best punter in the country (or else he’s off to the best start) and Jones is a punt returning wizard and scored a touchdown in the second quarter.

Kicker Keith Duncan missed a short field goal attempt — maybe the team’s only gaff of the day. But missing out on three points when the team scored seven touchdowns against a conference rival didn’t matter once the locker room celebration began.

“It was great. I haven’t felt that good in a long time, honestly,” left tackle Alaric Jackson said. “Getting this win, that big at home, was a really good feeling for us.”

Like Jackson said, getting that first win was big. And the Hawkeyes should celebrate it. But there are more challenges ahead — starting with securing win No. 2.

Iowa’s first attempt at that comes this week in a Friday night matchup on the road in Minnesota.

“We needed success, and I don’t mean that like success-or-else mode,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said, following the Michigan State game. “… But we needed to experience some success. But right along with that comes, you have to earn it. You can’t sit around counting on the other team to mess up, so you go home happy. That’s not the way it works. We just needed to work hard, have a good week of practice and then show it on the field, and hopefully we took a positive step today.

“Now the next test is can we put back-to-back together … It’s been a building process. Hopefully we’re on an upward trend, but time will tell.”

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.