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Smoker guides 'U' past Iowa, breaks 3 records

September 29, 2003

Two incompletions didn't spoil Jeff Smoker's day. All his receiver wanted was a little attention, so it didn't matter when he dropped the second pass.

With a boyish grin on his face, something that seemed so far away during the past year, Smoker tossed a Frisbee with little accuracy to "Zeke the Wonder Dog," the black Labrador that usually is a halftime show but somehow became an invaluable portion of the postgame festivities after MSU's upset win over then-No. 13 Iowa.

"(The drop) is definitely Zeke's fault," dog owner Terri Foley said. "He had a tooth on it."

Luckily for the Spartans, Smoker's day started a little more accurate than it ended. The Spartans put 14 points on the board in the first eight minutes of the game behind 11-of-12 passing and two touchdowns from Smoker and never looked back, winning 20-10. The win moved the Spartans up to No. 25 in this week's Associated Press Top 25 Poll.

MSU used a no-huddle offense that didn't allow Iowa to substitute any defenders into the game during the first two drives.

"You'd like to keep it going all game, but it's kind of hard to do something like that," Smoker said. "That was a tremendous start, something you'd like to do every week, come out with a bang like that and get a good start and try to maintain it."

He drove the Spartans 80 yards on 10 plays, then 41 yards on seven plays for two touchdowns and an insurmountable lead. The senior quarterback, hampered by a toe injury the past week, found senior wide receiver Ziehl Kavanaght in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown and then proceeded to toss a 7-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Eric Knott for the second score.

"We thought we executed it real well to begin with," head coach John L. Smith said. "We got a turnover and got some scores. I have to congratulate those coaches and those kids."

Knott returned to the starting lineup after recovering from a right knee injury during the opener against Western Michigan. Last week against Notre Dame, Knott was in for only one play - the onside kick hands team. It was the first touchdown of the season for each receiver.

But, once again, the Spartans seemingly couldn't score in the second half, putting only three points on the board. However, with the defense holding Iowa to only three points in the second half, the Spartans were able to hang on for the win.

When asked about the lack of second-half offense, Smith responded sarcastically, "We didn't score, because you have to cross that goal line, and they won't give you points if you don't."

Smoker also entrenched himself into the MSU record books even further, breaking passing records for career touchdowns, completions and attempts. His 48 touchdown passes broke Bill Burke's record (46), while his 478 completions topped Jim Miller (467) and 818 attempts beat Ed Smith (789).

He broke the career passing and total offensive yardage records earlier this season.

"It's cool," Smoker said. "If I'm breaking records, then I know I'm doing something good. We're winning games and (the records are) cool, kind of an extra thing on the side."

Once again, Smoker distributed the ball well, with eight different receivers catching passes, led by sophomore Agim Shabaj with nine catches for 62 yards.

Smoker finished the game 28-of-44 for 218 yards and two touchdowns.

"You can't win a game like this and think we're satisfied or we don't have to get any better," Smoker said. "Each person individually has to keep improving for us to be successful this year."


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