Sunday, April 14, 2024

Spartan offense sputters, turnovers fuel Iowa win

Iowa wide receiver C.J. Jones runs for a touchdown in the second quarter of the MSU vs. Iowa football game in Iowa City Saturday while MSU senior cornerback Cedric Henry attempts to stop him. MSU lost 44-16. —

Iowa City, Iowa - Under rolling gray skies, the Spartans couldn’t weather the Iowa storm on a dreary Saturday in Hawkeye country.

Five turnovers coupled with MSU’s worst offensive performance - 249 total yards - the Spartans (3-3 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) extended their losing streak at Kinnick Stadium to 14 years with a 44-16 loss to a talented Iowa squad (6-1, 3-0).

“It’s really very, very hard to play over the number of turnovers we had and give up big plays like we did,” MSU head coach Bobby Williams said.

And unless the Spartans begin to execute like the team expected to come out of the preseason, the forecast for the rest of the season is dismal, as MSU still has to play top-ranked programs Michigan and Penn State.

“Obviously, they have an up field battle,” ESPN analyst Bob Davie said. “Particularly because they had such high expectations early on.”

Both the Wolverines and Nittany Lions host those contests, which doesn’t bode well for MSU. Under head coach Bobby Williams, the Spartans are 1-8 on the road in the Big Ten.

Against Iowa, the Spartans’ lone bright spot came early in the first quarter when MSU scored on the opening drive on 12 plays for 54 yards - the team’s first touchdown on an opening drive this season.

And that score came with the help of second chances - two pass interference calls inside the red zone, allowed senior tailback Dawan Moss to score from two yards out.

Following the score, the boo birds were chirping. But those cries quickly turned to cheers for the remainder of the contest, as Iowa running back Jermelle Lewis sprinted through a parting Green-and-White sea on the ensuing kickoff, resulting in a 94-yard touchdown, the seventh longest in Iowa history.

From there is a tale of turnovers for MSU.

Two of junior quarterback Jeff Smoker’s passes, were intercepted in the first half, which the Hawkeyes used to their liking - a 36-yard field goal by place-kicker Nate Kaeding and the second returned 62 yards by free safety Derek Pagel for the Hawkeyes’ second touchdown, putting the Hawkeyes up 17-7 with :25 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter Iowa’s scrambling quarterback Brad Banks made good on a 62-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver C.J. Jones with 6:22 left in the half.

Fumbled football dominated play for the Spartans in the second half.

After sacking Smoker for a 5-yard loss in the third quarter, Iowa defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux again crushed Smoker, forcing him to fumble into the claws of the Hawkeyes on MSU’s 21-yard line.

Backup sophomore quarterback Damon Dowdell replaced Smoker for the next three drives, all of which ended in poor fashion - a Dowdell fumble and interception as well as a punt.

“Since we didn’t win, I felt like I played bad,” Dowdell said.

Also, Charles Rogers’ NCAA and Big Ten records for most consecutive regular season games with a touchdown reception ended at 13.

The Hawkeyes contained the junior wide receiver for five catches for 78 yards.

“We both came out with a lot of fire and intensity but they simply maintained it for four quarters,” Rogers said in a released statement following the game.

Kevin Hardy can be reached at hardykev@msu.edu.

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