MSU hopes turnover margin continues to improve against Michigan
Turnovers have been a point of emphasis for MSU this season.
Prior to MSU’s conference game against Iowa on Saturday, the Spartans turned the ball over eight times — six fumbles and two interceptions.
The Spartans reversed their misfortunes Saturday as they were able to protect the football and not allow the Hawkeyes to record a takeaway.
Defensively, MSU secured two Iowa fumbles to end the game with a plus-two turnover margin, while holding the Hawkeyes to just 19 yards rushing in a 17-10 win to improve to 3-1 on the season.
“Plus two turnovers, so a big one is we don’t give up any turnovers,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “They get two. Obviously, that’s big in any football game. You can see that. Emotionally, we played extremely well and just kept hammering, kept coming knowing that it would take all four quarters and then some to make it through."
After having to carry a football around the Spartans’ practice facility all week, LJ Scott, who has three fumbles lost this season, had 14 carries for 32 yards rushing in the Spartans’ win and did not commit a turnover.
As for the quarterback, Brian Lewerke finished the game completing 18 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I think I made good decisions, when to throw the ball, when to force and when to not,” Lewerke said. “Obviously, we had no turnovers (Saturday), so it was a big plus. Our defense did a great job of getting the ball out of Iowa's hand. I think we were plus-two in the turnover margins. When that happens, you know that's a recipe for success.”
Despite having no turnovers, the Spartans recorded one fumble as tight end Matt Sokol lost control of the football in the red zone, however, MSU ended up regaining possession to prevent a turnover.
“We spend a lot of time at the beginning of practice doing ball security drills every day of every week, so I’m sure we’ll continue to do that — unacceptable for me to put the ball on the ground,” Sokol said. “I got to do better. Can't have that. I know that it’s going to be emphasized every single week as the game goes on, especially with these big games coming up.”
The Spartans will go on the road this weekend for the first time this season to face in-state rival No. 7 Michigan.
Sophomore linebacker Joe Bachie said it's important MSU keeps the turnover momentum from the win against Iowa.
"We needed those couple fumbles that we had," he said. "We just have to build. Hopefully, they start going together and snowballing a bit. If you look at the stats, you know Coach is always telling us that turnovers are going to win games, and we need to be better in the turnover margin."
The Wolverines opened as 13 ½-point favorites, but as long as the Spartans don’t commit turnovers, Sokol thinks MSU has a strong chance to take the Paul Bunyan Trophy back home to East Lansing.
“For every game we play in, if we don’t turn the ball over as an offense and our defense gets turnovers, I think our ability to win is very much increased,” he said.