Spartans deliver '12th round' win in gritty showdown vs. Iowa
The Spartans knew what type of team the Iowa Hawkeyes were ahead of their Big Ten showdown — tough, gritty, physical; a game bound to be a defensive struggle.
So the night before, the team watched the last fight scene of the movie “Southpaw.” Head coach Mark Dantonio told his team the game will be similar to a 12-round fight. As senior linebacker Chris Frey described it, he said it was like going to "war."
So when the MSU defense went out on the field for the last time to finish the game off, the Spartans were ready.
“We went into that last series, this is the 12th round,” Frey said. “It’s time to finish it.”
And finish they did. Starting at their own 16-yard line, the Hawkeyes failed to move the ball forward, much less the 84 yards needed to score the game-tying touchdown.
Senior defensive end Demetrius Cooper sacked Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, which in turn also led to a fumble.
While the Spartans were unable to corral it, the play sent the Hawkeyes deeper into their own territory. A few plays later, MSU snatched its third win of the season.
“When I went out there for that last drive, I just had to put it all in and give it all I had,” Cooper said. “I went out there and I knew that I had to get to this quarterback by any means.”
Of course, no one play won the football game for the Spartans. The end result reflects the holistic effort, though a singular play can shock the game with a crucial momentum swing.
And that’s exactly what the Spartans did, collecting key takeaways when they needed it.
Turnover margin finally swung back in MSU’s favor, a key aspect of the game the green and white were looking to improve.
Linebacker Joe Bachie was credited with a fumble recovery right as Iowa was knocking on the doorsteps of the endzone. Frey, too, had a crucial moment, scooping up a fumble himself after cornerback Josiah Scott jarred the ball loose.
Bachie continued to shine in the spotlight in the game’s brightest moments. The true sophomore had nine tackles, chipping in a sack. His 3 1/2 tackles for loss far and away led his team.
But arguably, the most telling stat of the night was simple — Iowa rushed for just 19 yards. Tailback Akrum Wadley had his moments, including his touchdown run, but he finished with 17 rushes for a meager 30 positive yards.
“We needed to show people that we’re physical, we’re a physical team,” Bachie said. “Our d-line played great. They had that mentality coming into the game and they just helped us out a ton.”
Against an impressive signal-caller in Stanley, MSU also relied on creating pressure up front. The Spartans had eight quarterback hurries, consistently keeping Stanley on his toes.
Despite a few pretty throws, the quarterback had a rough outing. He finished 16 of 31 for 197 yards throwing, recording no touchdowns.
In a game where the offense struggled — held scoreless in the second half — the defense stepped up in a big way. Iowa couldn’t get anything going late, desperately looking for that equalizing touchdown.
Realistically, the Spartans played a very small sliver of their Big Ten schedule, with eight games remaining. But for at least 24 hours, the time they’re allotted to celebrate a win, they’ll celebrate.
“We talked about it being a must-win game,” Bachie said. “That was our mentality coming in. We knew it was going to be a fight. Talked about 12 rounds, three rounds in each quarter. It took all 12 rounds in that fight."