Oct. 2, 2004
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IOWA CITY — Drew Tate walked into Saturday’s game against Michigan State as the lowest producing quarterback in the Big Ten Conference as far as total offense, with a 154.8-yard per game average.
He walked out as the first Iowa quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards in four years, while extending the Hawkeyes’ winning streak inside Kinnick Stadium to 15 games with a 38-16 victory over the Spartans before a sellout homecoming crowd.
Tate finished with 340 yards and one touchdown, going 25-for-36 with one inconsequential interception, and tying for the 15th best performance by an Iowa quarterback. He ties Scott Mullen who reached the mark against Minnesota in 1999.
Jon Beutjer was the last Hawkeye QB to throw for more than 300 yards, with 380 against Indiana on Sept. 30, 2000. Beutjer’s team didn’t win that day; Tate’s did.
“I don’t think he made too many mistakes,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said of Tate, “and he really did a nice job moving our football. He had a good tempo going, doing better in game management, getting our guys in and out of huddles and those things. I’m really pleased with the way he’s grown and improved.”
The Hawkeyes (3-2 overall, 1-1 in the league) threw on every first down of the first half, perhaps signaling a change in the offensive philosophy of the long-running Iowa coaching staff.
“That was a little bit of a surprise,” Michigan State coach John L. Smith said. “(Tate) did a good job of getting them out with a lot of play action. I thought their plan was good. Their play action got them into good situations and kept them in good situations. They did a good job.”
The Spartans’ quarterback, Drew Stanton, led the offensive attack for Michigan State (2-3, 1-1). The sophomore had 245 yards on 29-of-54 passing and was the team’s leading rusher with 15 carries for 89 yards.
Iowa’s defense held the Spartans on their own turf through the first quarter, letting them first cross midfield with just under five minutes remaining in the first half. And despite four chances within Iowa’s 10-yardline, Michigan State could only convert one into a touchdown, with 4:24 remaining in the game, on a 1-yard run by Stanton.
The Hawkeye defense changed a few things up on Saturday, often playing with five or six defensive backs.
“We’re still the same, but we’re trying to mix things up,” said senior defensive lineman Derreck Robinson, who had Iowa’s only sack. “Their offense was hitting us with things that we’re not used to. They caught us off guard on a few things.”
The Spartans’ kicker, Dave Rayner, nailed three field goals and one extra point. Iowa’s sophomore kicker, Kyle Schlicher, was also perfect on the day with a 23-yard field goal and four extra points.
As for Iowa’s scoring attack, offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe and Ferentz developed the pass-intensive game plan early this week and didn’t look back.
“That’s what we practiced all week starting on Tuesday when we got going,” said junior wide receiver Ed Hinkel, who had seven catches for 98 yards including a 15-yarder for Iowa’s second touchdown of the game and a 43-yarder that set up the third. “That’s what we were practicing. We didn’t run too many run plays in our practice sessions.”
“I was excited that we got to throw the ball, but I’m just happy to get the win,” Tate said. “I think that’s the mentality of everybody.
“We were going to run the ball, but I think we did a good job with me underneath the center, throwing some and running others,” Tate added. “We did a good job with everything really, and I don’t know about surprising but we were trying to run our offense. It takes all of us.”
“We were going to run the ball, but I think we did a good job with me underneath the center, throwing some and running others. We did a good job with everything really, and I don’t know about surprising but we were trying to run our offense. It takes all of us.”
Quarterback Drew Tate
Whether passing the ball as often as Tate did Saturday will happen more often is still up in the air, according to Ferentz.
“Time will tell,” he said. “I think the staff did a great job of putting the plan together, and more importantly, our players executed it. We still want to be balanced, but we’ll see how things go.”
Tate, who recorded more than 12,000 yards as a prep, doesn’t think that the coaching staff will change the strategy too much.
“I don’t think so, but it depends on what the defense gives us,” he said. “In this case, we had to throw the ball because they put so many people in the box.”
Hinkel agrees with Tate’s strategic assessment, but he said that he’s “not going to complain” if the coaches decide to pass more often.
“We were excited,” Hinkel said. “I had never seen a game plan like that since I’ve been here. We knew we’d have to make some plays, and I think we did a good job today.”
After the spring game last April, Ferentz called his young receiving corps “underwhelming,” but with two receivers with 40-plus yard catches, racking up all but 124 yards of offense, he’s changed his choice of descriptors.
“They’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “I’m not ready to ordain anything yet. They’ve certainly improved. We’re definitely growing at that position, and we need to. It’s going to have to continue.”
Junior Clinton Solomon was the Hawkeyes’ leading receiver with four catches for 105 yards. Calvin Davis added 34, Warren Holloway put in 26 and running back Jermelle Lewis even contributed 45 yards.
“We’re trying to be the best receiver corps in the Big Ten,” Solomon said. “No one can double team Hinkel because they have me, James Townsend, Warren Holloway, and Matt Melloy. We have many options. That’s the good part about it.”
“We’re really balanced at the position right now,” Hinkel said. “It’s just going to help us. We obviously knew that we had to improve coming out of spring ball. We worked hard all summer and in camp, and I think that’s showing now.”
The Hawkeyes’ running game was starting to show improvement after last week’s minus-15-yard showing too.
Lewis punctuated Iowa’s first drive with a 47-yard touchdown run at 11:45 in the first quarter, and Marques Simmons had a breakout game with two touchdowns out of 13 carries for 47 yards.
Freshman fullback Tom Busch also got in on the action with a 3-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter, shaking off three Spartan defenders in the power play.
“We’re hardly the Denver Broncos in the running game yet,” Ferentz said, “but we’re going to keep working on it. We made some positive steps today certainly, and if we can throw the ball, it’ll help the running game certainly.
“It all goes together.”
The future of Iowa’s running game, though, depends on whether a knee injury Lewis endured starts with an `A’ or an `M’. Lewis injured his right knee on a scrambling 28-yard first-and-10 pass play from Tate early in the second quarter.
“We’re really balanced at the position right now. It’s just going to help us. We obviously knew that we had to improve coming out of spring ball. We worked hard all summer and in camp, and I think that’s showing now.”
Wide receiver Ed Hinkel
Ferentz intimated that Lewis may have torn his anterior cruciate ligament, which with Marcus Schnoor and Albert Young makes him the third running back in five games this season to fall from a ligament tear.
“It’s an unfortunate situation. It hurts the football team, but a lot more importantly, it’s a tough thing for Jermelle. We’ll MRI it on Monday, but it looks tough,” said the coach, who’s taken to using the term `MRI’ as a verb recently. “We’ve had some injuries hit us, and it’s getting a little silly. This `next man in’ stuff is getting overused.”
Simmons, a junior, moves up to No. 1 on the depth chart, but he was the fourth-string running back going into this season and not even listed on the chart following spring practice. Sam Brownlee a 5-foot-10, 200-pound sophomore from Emmetsburg, IA, will be Simmons’ backup.
“It’s pretty thin,” Ferentz said. “I think we have a few other guys we can use: Champ Davis, Aaron Mickens, and I think we’ll give strong consideration to (freshman) Damian Sims.”
Thankfully for the Hawkeyes, Ferentz will have some time to figure out his running back situation. Iowa is idle next week before entertaining Ohio State on Oct. 16.
“This bye week came at a perfect time for us,” Ferentz said.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com