Practice Makes (Near) Perfect

Oct. 31, 2010


IOWA CITY, Iowa — It didn’t take long for the University of Iowa football team to get the sour taste out of its mouth. A week after falling one point short of victory against Wisconsin, Iowa made sure there would be nothing remotely close to a repeat performance against No. 5 Michigan State, dominating the Spartans, 37-6, on Oct. 30. It could be argued the outcome was essentially decided just six minutes into the game.

Iowa scored on its first possession and jumped out to a 17-0 first-quarter lead. By halftime, the Iowa lead had stretched to 30-0.

“It definitely brings us momentum,” said UI cornerback Micah Hyde. “The momentum is on our side, we’re in Kinnick, and it’s electrifying. It was a great atmosphere out there. When we went down and scored, it was like if we hold them to zero points, we win the game.”

Not quite zero, but six was close enough on this day.

One day before Halloween, Michigan State didn’t have any tricks that it showed so often in 2010. The Spartans did however give out plenty of treats to Iowa defenders. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins was intercepted three times — twice in the first half, which led to Iowa touchdowns and 13 points.

“We came out, we executed, and we got some big plays,” said UI strong safety Tyler Sash. “We had three interceptions (Saturday), and our defensive line did a great job getting pressure.”

The first turnover was intercepted by Sash, who, after picking off the pass, flipped a lateral to Hyde, who reversed field, and took the ball the remaining 66 yards to the house, giving Iowa the 17-0 lead.

“I guess it was kind of a spur of the moment play kind of,” said Sash. “I undercut the route, I knew the route as soon as the tight end blocked since I’d seen it 100 times on film. They ran the same thing last year and I almost got it last year. But this year I kind of went flatter and got underneath it. The receiver had time to react back and I just kind of flipped it back to Micah and he did the rest.”

“It definitely brings us momentum. The momentum is on our side, we’re in Kinnick, and it’s electrifying. It was a great atmosphere out there. When we went down and scored, it was like if we hold them to zero points, we win the game.”
UI sophomore cornerback
Micah Hyde

“I was very surprised,” said Hyde. “I talked to him after the game and he said he always talks to (Shaun) Prater about it, but when he did it, I was like `whoa what do I do,’ but I made a good play out of it and our defense did a great job blocking.”

The next Michigan State treat was picked off by Prater and returned 42 yards. Three plays later, Ricky Stanzi found Adam Robinson for a 32-yard touchdown pass, the first receiving touchdown of Robinson’s career.

“I was in cover 3 and one wide receiver ran a dig route and the quarterback was just looking my way the entire time so I just decided to break to the ball,” said Prater.

Iowa talked all week about an improved focus and execution in practice leading up to Michigan State. The message should be clear for opponents — don’t make the Hawkeyes mad. Following the only two losses for Iowa on the season, the Hawkeyes have outscored their opponents 61-9 in the following games.

“Practice was a lot better,” said UI defensive end Adrian Clayborn. “Guys were into it, guys showed emotion, and we practiced like we needed to. That’s probably the reason we got the victory. Just going back to the basics, and just coming to practice and making each practice count, which I think we got away from. But I think this week we really focused on each practice and each drill and really got after it.”

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz echoed Clayborn’s comments regarding the week of practice leading up to the game.

“I thought Thursday our guys really were very sharp in practice,” he said. “It looked like a good way to finish the week and conclude it. It’s always good to come off the field Thursday feeling good about our execution. I thought everybody was wired in. They were ready to go today.”

Now that Iowa has gotten back into the win column, the Hawkeyes must find a way to maintain their level of focus and execution they showed against Michigan State for the rest of the season.

Iowa’s next two opponents — Northwestern and Indiana — could be considered “trap” games. The teams are a combined 2-6 in Big Ten play, however both teams gave Iowa fits last season at Kinnick Stadium. Northwestern handed Iowa its first defeat of 2009, and Indiana scared Iowa on Halloween last year, as the Hoosiers jumped out to a 24-14 lead, before Iowa rattled off 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to claim a 42-24 victory.

It’s easy to be focused and motivated following a heartbreaking loss and going up against the fifth-ranked team in the country. How about playing a team after a lopsided 37-6 win?

“Just knowing that you have to take every team — I know it sounds cliché, but you have to come out every week in the Big Ten Conference and play the best football that you can, because any team is capable of beating you on any given day,” Sash said. ” We have to keep moving forward and get ready for Indiana.”

Whoever Iowa is scheduled to play, when the Hawkeyes bring the focus and execution that they did against Michigan State, their opponents are in for a tough challenge.

Clayborn knows it, too.

“If we play how we’re supposed to play, it’s hard to beat us,” he said.

As the adage goes, practice makes perfect.