Oct. 10, 2012
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — While the University of Iowa sits atop the Legends Division with an undefeated record in Big Ten Conference play, the rest of the league is looking up at Michigan State’s defense.
The Spartans (4-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) welcome Iowa (3-2, 1-0) to East Lansing on Oct. 13 for an 11:01 a.m. (CT) kickoff from Spartan Stadium. After six games, Michigan State leads the Big Ten, allowing 86 rushing yards and 272.3 total yards a game.
“They have a really good defense, and it’s going to be a big challenge,” said UI running back Mark Weisman. “You’re motivated every week to do well, and you have to go out and prove it on the game field.”
Weisman is fourth in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 103 yards in five games. During the last three contests, Weisman has run for 507 yards on 72 carries (7.0 per attempt) with seven touchdowns. Sophomore Damon Bullock, who started and ran for 150 yards in the season-opener, returns from injury. Flashy freshman Greg Garmon is also in the offensive backfield mix.
“We have more guys who can come in and keep people fresh,” Weisman said. “It’s always a competition, but it’s a good competition. We make each other better, and we make each other work harder. It is added motivation to get better each day, knowing there is someone right there on your hip trying to beat you out.”
“We have taken a couple big steps forward, but there is always room for improvement. We’re going to keep focusing on that. Michigan State has a fantastic defense, we just have to come to practice, work on what we think we can take advantage of against their defense, and play our style of offense.”
UI offensive left tackle
Iowa and Michigan State have a common opponent this season: Michigan State defeated Central Michigan, 41-7, on Sept. 8; the Chippewas upset Iowa, 32-31, two weeks later in Iowa City. After scoring a combined 24 points in the first two games, the Hawkeyes have posted point totals of 37, 31, and 31.
“We have taken a couple big steps forward, but there is always room for improvement,” said UI left tackle Brandon Scherff. “We’re going to keep focusing on that. Michigan State has a fantastic defense, we just have to come to practice, work on what we think we can take advantage of against their defense, and play our style of offense.”
In their last home game Sept. 29, the Spartans allowed 17 points against Ohio State; last week the same Buckeyes rolled up 63 points in a victory against Nebraska.
“For the last couple years they have had a really good unit on defense, and that is no different this year,” UI quarterback James Vandenberg said. “They are really good at stopping the run and getting you into some bad situations. We will have our hands full.”
Vandenberg completed 22-of-47 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns (with one interception) against Michigan State in 2011.
The last two trips by the UI to East Lansing have provided entertaining football.
The Spartans won, 16-13, in 2008; Michigan State’s Adam Decker stopped UI running back Shonn Greene for a loss of three yards on a fourth-and-1 play from the Spartan 21 with 2:10 remaining.
Iowa won, 15-13, in 2009; Hawkeye receiver Marvin McNutt, Jr., caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ricky Stanzi on fourth-and-goal as time expired.
The last two meetings (both inside Kinnick Stadium) were not as competitive. Iowa won, 37-6, in 2010, Michigan State won, 37-21, in 2011.
That brings it back to Saturday’s matchup. In four of their six games this season, the Spartans have held foes to 35, 37, 46 and 72 yards on the ground. In its last game, Iowa rushed for 182 yards — 177 by Weisman. The Hawkeyes are also coming off a bye week.
“My legs feel a lot better this week than they did last week,” Weisman said.
Let the game begin.