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Spartans prepare for battle with No. 17 Hawkeyes

October 9, 2002

After starting the season with five straight home games for the first time since 1918, MSU is finally taking to the road this season.

The Spartans (3-2 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) travel to Iowa City for a showdown with the No. 17 Hawkeyes (5-1, 2-0) on Saturday.

But MSU knows the Kinnick Stadium crowd will be happy to see the Spartans roll into town. MSU last visited Kinnick in 2000 and left saddled with a 21-16 upset loss.

The overall series between the Spartans and Hawkeyes has been close, with Iowa maintaining a 17-16-2 edge.

But, the Hawkeyes have won 13 of the last 19 meetings, and MSU hasn’t won in Iowa City since 1989’s 17-14 victory.

No one wants to admit to any Hawkeye dominance of late, but the Spartans are quick to point out that Kinnick is one of the best home field advantages in the Big Ten.

Junior quarterback Jeff Smoker attributes much of that to the fact that Kinnick is the only conference stadium where the student section is right behind the visitor’s bench.

“They’ve got a pretty wild group right behind your bench,” MSU head coach Bobby Williams said. “Its just noise from start to finish.”

The Spartans will look to end their drought in Iowa City at 12:05 p.m. on ESPN.

Bye the way

During the bye week, Spartan players had more free time than most knew what to do with.

While many, such as junior linebacker Mike Labinjo, took the time to catch up on some much needed sleep, others found time to tidy up the old pads or take a trip home.

Junior center Brian Ottney said it was mostly business as usual, but added he did take a venture home to catch Troy High’s homecoming game.

With all the free time to lounge around, senior left guard Paul Harker realized his apartment needed some work.

“I did some dishes and kind of cleaned up,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s fair to say I hadn’t done any dishes for the last five weeks.”

But after checking the home front, getting a jump on spring cleaning or resting up, the Spartans say they are ready for the Hawkeyes.

Thumbs down

In the first quarter against Northwestern on Sept. 28, Harker broke the thumb on his right hand.

The 6-3, 298-pounder didn’t realize it at first, but when he went to snap on his chinstrap he said he felt the thumb moving around more than it should.

“I just got a new cast on it today,” he said Monday. “I had surgery on it Thursday and should be able to return to practice tomorrow.”

At his regular Tuesday press conference, head coach Bobby Williams announced junior guard Joe Patrick is lost for the season. Patrick had been sidelined indefinitely with lower back pain and Williams said the pain has not gone away.

On a positive note, sophomore defensive tackle Brandon McKinney (back spasms) and redshirt freshman linebacker Seth Mitchell (knee inflammation) are both expected to return to action against Iowa on Saturday.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Alexander (broken fifth metatarsal in left foot) had the cast removed and is back to wearing normal shoes.

Williams said Alexander is looking good, but his return to the field is still a few weeks away.

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