I mean... WOW. What was that?!
Ten years ago, Iowa put together a shockingly complete throttling of Michigan State in Iowa City, 35-7. Ten years later, they did it again, dominating the Spartans in all three phases and rolling to an easy 49-7 win. The win in 2010 was obviously more notable because it came against a great Michigan State team -- they were ranked #5 at the time and ended up winning 11 games. But it's rare for Iowa to just completely kick Michigan State's ass... and that's exactly what happened today.
Iowa started the game with the ball and never let off the gas in the first quarter. They stormed down the field for a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by a Tyler Goodson touchdown run. Then after a Rocky Lombardi interception that functioned as a punt, the offense got the ball back and... stormed down the field again, this time going 74 yards for a touchdown drive capped by a Brandon Smith touchdown reception. We saw Iowa open up a 14-0 first quarter lead a week ago only to see disaster ensue in the game's final three quarters... but history did not repeat itself today.
After trading a few punts back-and-forth, Iowa took advantage of good field position at midfield and zipped down the field for their third touchdown drive of the game, polished off by another Tyler Goodson touchdown run. With that score, Iowa finally broke the seemingly-impenetrable 20-point barrier and opened up a 21-0 lead on the Spartans. It turns out they weren't done scoring points on a Sparty team that looked out of sorts all day, though. The game settled into a back-and-forth puntfest before Iowa returner Charlie Jones took advantage of a bad line drive kick (and some good blocking) to slash his way upfield for a 54-yard punt return score. A few plays later, Riley Moss added to the Iowa joy with a pick-six on Lombardi's third interception of the game. All told, Iowa entered halftime with a 35-0 lead... and there was much rejoicing in Hawkeyeland.
The second half was a much quieter affair, but Iowa did manage to end one particularly galling streak: that whole "no touchdowns after halftime" millstone that's hung around Iowa's neck all season (and dating back to the last few Big Ten games last year). After Michigan State ended Iowa's shutout with their one and only good drive of the game, a 12-play, 75-yard series that ended with an MSU touchdown, Iowa answered back immediately, with a 4-play, 75-yard drive of their own that was highlighted by a 71-yard run by Tyler Goodson and capped off by a Mekhi Sargent touchdown. After that things settled into a steady rhythm of punting --
-- until Sargent added another touchdown to put the finishing touches on Iowa's blowout victory. 49-7 good guys, time to break out the chips and salsa, friends, and drink all the beer.
Speaking of punting... while the obvious headlines are that Iowa won (finally!) and the offense looked pretty good (at last!), we have to spare a moment to talk about Tory Taylor, who is a magical punter from down under who has arrived to bring us non-stop punt porn on a weekly basis. I mean, just look at this sick filth:
Thory Taylor: punting artist pic.twitter.com/xtGtzyqTHn— HeavensFX (@HeavensFX) November 7, 2020
And Taylor has been doing that on the regular all damn season -- but especially in today's game. He routinely buried Michigan State deep in their own territory and the subsequent victories Iowa picked up in the field position battle made it much easier for the offense to put together scoring drives. Taylor ended the game with this frankly outrageous final stat line:
Look at that! Not just the 45.9 yards per punt average (which is sublime), but five punts inside the 20-yard line! Even that really undersells what Taylor did -- four of those five punts downed inside the 20-yard line were inside the 10-yard line... and the one that wasn't was downed all the way at the... 11-yard line. Taylor is dropping laser-guided bombs from deep with his foot and it's a beautiful thing to watch.
If Taylor isn't the Big Ten Special Team Player of the Week, there ought to be an inquiry... unless he shares it with Charlie Jones, that is. Jones finished the game with five punt returns for 105 yards and a touchdown. That works.
Iowa finished the game with 405 yards of offense, with 226 yards coming on the ground. Goodson was excellent, rushing for 113 yards and two scores on 14 carries (8.1 ypc), and Sargent was solid, adding 31 yards and two scores on nine carries. But the story of the game for Iowa's offense was probably the play of the offensive line, especially in the first half; they were consistently mauling Michigan State's defensive front and opening up spacious gaps for Iowa's runners to zip through. It makes things a lot easier for a back when his blockers are blowing the defense off the line of scrimmage as often as Iowa's offensive line was today. Spencer Petras was... OK; he finished 15/27 for 167 yards and a touchdown and still struggled with touch on his passes on several occasions. He did avoid any costly errors, though.
But we can quibble with that later; let's just enjoy the fact that Iowa absolutely stomped the hell out of Michigan State today and looked pretty good for three hours. Iowa football was frustrating to watch the last two weeks; they were just fun to watch today. That's a very welcome change and one we're happy to celebrate. So let's enjoy the good times.