Bigach Provides a Hustle-Play Highlight

Nov. 12, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Michigan State wide receiver Keshawn Martin can attest to the never-quit attitude of the University of Iowa football team.

Over the last three-plus seasons, Martin, a 5-foot-11, 189-pound senior, leads the Spartans with 52 plays of more than 20 yards, and 14 plays of more than 40 yards. Imagine his surprise when he was chased down and tackled in the open field by Steve Bigach, a Hawkeye 282-pound junior defensive lineman after a 67-yard gain in the second quarter Saturday.

On third-and-6 from the Michigan State 30, Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins lofted a pass in the direction of Martin. For a moment it appeared that Iowa free safety Tanner Miller would intercept, but instead, the ball slithered through Miller’s grasp and landed in Martin’s hands. Martin sprinted toward the end zone, but he was tripped up by Bigach at the 3.

“You run and hustle as hard as you can every snap,” Bigach said. “The guy was still up, so I had a chance at him and I made the play.”

A skill-position player being run down by a lineman nearly 70 yards upfield? That’s determination.

“I don’t think I would beat him in a 40-yard dash, I’ll tell you that’s the truth,” Bigach said.

The next two plays ended in a tackle by Bigach for no gain and an incomplete pass with a quarterback hurry by, you guessed it, Bigach.

The hustle play be Bigach saved a touchdown and limited the Spartans to a 22-yard field goal. And the message was sent to the east sideline in Kinnick Stadium — the Hawkeyes would not quit…even in a game they trailed 31-7 at halftime.

“You have to keep chipping away,” quarterback James Vandenberg said. “It’s not going to come in one play. Just keep chipping and keep chipping and eventually something might break through and get everybody going.”

Over the final 30 minutes, while No. 13 Michigan State could muster just two field goals, Iowa notched two third-quarter touchdowns to pull back into the game. It wasn’t that the Spartans were content to run out the clock; they executed a double-reverse pass and faked a field goal while leading by three possessions in the third quarter.

For UI defensive end Broderick Binns, the key to achieving a momentum switch is a three-and-out series. That is something the Hawkeyes provided on two-of-three Spartan drives in the third quarter and one more in the fourth.

“As a defensive player, we just want to get the offense the ball back,” Binns said. “It seemed like we did that in the second half, but we didn’t make enough big plays and (Michigan State) did.”

After the Spartans extended their lead to 27 points, Hawkeye senior Jordan Bernstine provided a special team’s spark. He returned the ensuing kickoff 61 yards to Michigan State’s 28 and nine plays later, Vandenberg completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Marvin McNutt, Jr., pulling Iowa to 34-14.

“We have to go out and play hard whatever it is or whatever phase — offense, defense, special teams,” Bernstine said. “The team didn’t quit. We fought hard in the second half, but against a good team, that’s not enough. You can’t give them a head start.”

At the end of the day, the scoreboard flashed a 37-21 victory for Michigan State. The Legends Division-leading Spartans improved to 8-2 overall, 5-1 in the Big Ten Conference; Iowa is 6-4, 3-3, with road games remaining at Purdue and Nebraska.

“It’s a tough loss, but we have to go out and look forward to the next two,” said Bernstine, who had 132 return yards and five tackles. “We’re going to prepare this week and go out and try to win the next one.”

Bigach made an impact Saturday by living the Iowa football philosophy:

“You have to go each play one at a time,” Bigach said. “The next play is the most important play.”

Now substitute the word game for the word play in the preceding sentence: “You have to go each game one at a time. The next game is the most important game.”

For the Hawkeyes, that next game is Saturday, Nov. 19, in West Lafayette, Ind.