Under cloudy skies and a steady rain, the MSU football team saw its control on the season ripped away after falling to the Iowa Hawkeyes, 19-16 in double overtime at Spartan Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Although the Spartans (4-3 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) held the lead for most of the game, an eight-yard touchdown by Iowa running back Mark Weisman tied the game at 13 with 55 seconds remaining, launching the two teams into an overtime showdown.
After both teams’ drives stalled in the first overtime, ending in a pair of field goals, the Hawkeyes got the ball to begin the second period of extended regulation. MSU’s defense held Iowa to one yard on the drive, but kicker Mike Meyer drilled a 42-yard field goal to give the Hawkeyes the edge.
The Spartans got the chance to tie it up or win the game on their next possession, but on second and nine, junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell’s pass intended for sophomore wideout Keith Mumphery was tipped into the hands of Iowa’s Greg Castillo and that was the ball game.
“It was so final,” Maxwell said of the interception. “Obviously I’ve never been a part of an overtime game before as a starter and the fact that I kind of just ended it was difficult to let that sink in and realize that’s it, we don’t get another shot. That’s the game.”
The first-year starter finished 12-of-31 passing for the day for 179 yards and an interception. Freshman wide receiver Aaron Burbridge had another big day, leading MSU with five receptions for 89 yards.
On defense, the Spartans were anchored by junior linebacker Denicos Allen, who had a career-high 13 tackles, with 1.5 tackles for loss, in addition to an interception. Junior linebacker Max Bullough added another 11 tackles with one tackle for loss.
Still, the defense couldn’t stop Weisman on the ground as the 225-pound walk-on running back rumbled for 116 yards, including a 37-yard gain and the eight yard touchdown during Iowa’s pivotal drive.
MSU appeared to be off to a quick start after Allen picked off Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg on the Hawkeyes opening drive, giving the Spartans the ball on Iowa’s 26-yard line. Four plays later and junior running back Le’Veon Bell rumbled 14 yards for the first score of the game, putting MSU on top 7-0.
Bell found himself having to do a lot of the heavy lifting with the rain hampering the aerial attack, carrying the ball 29 times for 140 yards and the score, but it wasn’t enough for an offense that saw drive after drive sputter and end in either three or zero points.
“(We’ve got to) make sure that when we’re up, we’re going for it and everything is going our way,” sophomore defensive end Marcus Rush said. “We can’t relax on anything because anything can happen in the Big Ten.”
Now 1-2 in the Big Ten, MSU will essentially need to win out and get some serious help to earn a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game in December.
As the Spartans walked off the field following the interception, they were stunned.
“It happens and it freezes you,” senior guard Chris McDonald said. “You’re speechless. It was a back and forth football game (and) both teams played very physical.”
Still, head coach Mark Dantonio stressed the Spartans couldn’t dwell on the loss with in-state rival Michigan looming in the foreground.
“The message to our football team is to look forward, and not backwards,” Dantonio said. “It can always get worse. We need to make sure we’re ready to play next week after we deal with today. We’re 4-3, and need to re-evaluate where we’re at.”