Sunday, October 5, 2008

Iowa - The Aftermath

Sitting in the north end zone section late in the 4th quarter, watching the Hawkeyes come closer to scoring a touchdown to take the lead, one thought kept echoing through my head:

"Dear God, it's going to happen again."

"It", being of course, a punch in the gut where MSU lets a lead slip away in the last moments, usually in the most heartbreaking way possible (C.J. Bacher throwing eleventy million touchdown passes, Chad Henne remembering he has deep threats on the field, etc.). When 4th and 1 came around at the MSU 21, I thought that the Hawkeyes would kick a field goal, have it split the uprights, and have the game go into overtime.

I was wrong.

The offense stayed on the field, and after Iowa used its final timeout, I thought that it was going to be a play action toss. Stanzi would find a wide open 3rd string tight end for a touchdown, giving the Hawkeyes the lead immediately, and that the Spartans would go four and out soon thereafter.

I was wrong.

The play was a handoff to Shonn Greene, who had torn through the MSU front seven all game. However, instead of going up the middle for the one yard needed, he ran off-tackle. As I saw Adam Decker hit Greene in the backfield, I was nearly certain that Greene would shed the tackle, gain ten yards and obtain the first down.

I was wrong.

Decker forced Greene to the ground. Iowa turned the ball over on downs, and after a couple of Ringer runs and a harrowing quarterback sneak where Hoyer fumbled the ball, Michigan State won the game. As I was leaving Spartan Stadium, I reflected back on how I felt ten minutes earlier, when I was sure MSU would surrender the victory.

I was really wrong. And it never felt better.

More notes on the game:
  • I don't think Iowa made a bad call by choosing to run on 4th down for their final play, and the Iowa fans I talked to in the bar after the game agreed with that sentiment. One can certainly criticize the execution of the run (Off-Tackle? Seriously? After Shonn Greene gashed MSU up the gut all day), but the core decision was sound.
  • Brian Hoyer looks like he needs to get out of his head a bit. He had a very good first half, followed by a mediocre second half in which he nearly let the Hawkeyes back in the game late.
  • Javon Ringer looked human. That's OK, a lot of running backs will against Iowa's defensive line. As for the offensive line, just because the running game generates a lot of yards and the quarterback gets sacked very few times makes a great offensive line. I think MSU has a good defensive line, but I don't think they're tops in the Big Ten good.
  • Dropped passes - yikes. Cunningham and Dell eached dropped one in the end zone. On the plus side, Charlie Gantt has progressed by leaps and bounds this season, and continued this pattern in yesterday's game.
  • The defensive line played great against the pass, pressuring Stanzi many times. Special credit goes to Trevor Anderson, who had 2.5 sacks in the game.
  • The cornerbacks could still use a bit of work. A few times I saw a CB slip, allowing a Hawkeye receiver to catch the ball unimpeded.
  • A lot of Spartans got banged up yesterday: Dell, Wiley, C.L. Rucker, and Gantt off the top of my head. Hopefully they'll be healthy for Northwestern.

As for the rest of the Big Ten, some brief impressions:

  • Penn State had their first sub-par performance I felt, as I was sure the offense would've put up at least 40. The defense did its job, and even though the Nittany Lions do have an above average offense, I still can't believe the Purdue offense has been this ineffective this year.
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers - 5-1. On top of that statement, they won the Indiana game with their defense. Let those words sink in a bit. I think they have to get to 7-5 to be bowl-eligible this year in the Big Ten, and with them getting Northwestern, Michigan and Iowa at home, it's not outside the realm of possibility. As for Indiana, I think they'll be lucky if they win another game all year. Well Hoosier fan, there's always basketball seas...How many scholarship players will they have? If I were you, I'd cryogenically freeze myself until this school year is over.
  • Let's see: a team from Michigan followed up an emotional upset victory by playing flat, making mistakes, and getting dominated (albeit by a superior team)? Well, that's typical MSU- wait, it was the Wolverines? Huh. Anyway, I also believe that Juice Williams isn't the best passer in the conference, but he is the best quarterback, if that makes any sense.
  • Terrelle Pryor is wasting no time in cementing his mythic status. The number of quarterbacks that can lead a game-winning drive in one of the three toughest places to play in the Big Ten (Wisky, PSU, OSU) is small, the number of freshmen QBs who can do it is fewer yet. As for Wisconsin - the wins will start coming. And let's face it Wisconsin fan, you reserve those tickets for the Outback Bowl in July every year. I'd fully advise you to hang onto those.

I'll be back to a more regular posting schedule this week, last week was a gauntlet of tests, interviews and career fairs.

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