Preview: Iowa features tough, gritty style similar to MSU
In ways, Iowa football is a walking contradiction.
College sports is like school, where players have a set number of years they can don their school colors. It means eventually, beloved student-athletes come and go, despite the fans’ wishes.
It’s also why Kirk Ferentz’s tenure at Iowa is such an anomaly. He’s in his 19th year at the helm of the Hawkeyes, nearly two decades at the same university.
It’s led to a stable program, one head coach Mark Dantonio labeled as “consistent.”
However, there are some key changes to Iowa two years removed since it dueled MSU in the 2015 Big Ten Championship game.
C. J. Beathard is no longer a Hawkeye, and in his place under center stands true sophomore Nate Stanley. Cornerback Desmond King, a Michigan native, is long gone to the NFL following graduation.
“I think with Iowa you get what you see,” Dantonio said. “What you experienced in the past is genuinely going to be what you get. Fundamentally, they’re very sound offensively and defensively, special teams. It will be a challenge.”
The Hawkeyes enter the game against the Spartans just a week removed from a heartbreaker. They lost on a last-second, gut-wrenching score by Penn State to fall to a 3-1 record.
Despite the demoralizing defeat, Iowa steps into Spartan Stadium plenty talented with their current roster. Stanley and running back Akrum Wadley are a 1-2 punch on offense, supported by a strong offensive line.
However, if there’s an aspect the Spartans are already expecting from their foes, it’s the physicality. The two teams feature a similar reputation, one the rest of the Big Ten already knows.
“We kind of mirror each other in some ways I think,” linebacker Byron Bullough said. “I think Saturday’s going to come down to who’s the tougher team and we look to answering the bell with that.”
On defense, the black and gold is led by senior Josey Jewell. The middle linebacker, the same position Spartan Joe Bachie plays, collected a number of accolades after a 16-tackle effort against the Nittany Lions.
The linebacking core as a whole is strong, three seniors listed atop the depth chart. The defense, despite allowing 579 total yards to Penn State, allowed just 21 total points.
It’s a group that will look to disrupt dual-threat quarterback Brian Lewerke at every step.
“I think they have a very tough defense,” Lewerke said. “Very good at stopping the run, they’ll pack the box definitely. I think they’re a very stout defense.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Bachie said Stanley was “one of the best” quarterbacks the Spartans will have played thus far.
Couple him with Wadley — who has amassed 338 yards rushing in 2017 — it’s why Bachie said his team must clean up the sloppy mistakes from MSU’s game against the Irish.
“We just got to tackle better,” Bachie said. “That’s one of my things we focused on today, we’ve got to tackle better as a team. Wadley’s going to be a great running back to go against, he’s going to get us ready for the Big Ten. He’s another guy we have to capture.”
The Spartans and Hawkeyes duel at 4 p.m. at Spartan Stadium Saturday.
Following the loss to Notre Dame, it’s the first time this season MSU will have to respond to some adversity after a blowout loss.
“I think we're feeling really good,” Lewerke said. “We're trying to get back on the field, trying to fix all the mistakes we made in the game in practice this week. I think we're very excited.”