Thursday, November 30, 2023

Know Thy Enemy: MSU Football hits the road for the first time to battle Iowa

September 29, 2023
Sparty and Herky the Hawk entertain fans during the game against Iowa on Sept. 30, 2017, at Spartan Stadium. The Spartan defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10.
Sparty and Herky the Hawk entertain fans during the game against Iowa on Sept. 30, 2017, at Spartan Stadium. The Spartan defeated the Hawkeyes, 17-10. —
Photo by Jon Famurewa | The State News

Know Thy Enemy is a Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State's opponent. This week, The State News' football beat writer Jacob Smith spoke with football reporter Matthew McGowan of The Daily Iowan ahead of Saturday's Michigan State-Iowa game

After a rough past two weeks, the Michigan State Football team will hit the road for the first time this season as they travel west to take on Iowa. This matchup will be a test for the Spartans to see if they can rebound from two straight losses. The game will kick off Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC.

Q:  Defense has played a big part in the success for the Hawkeyes so far this season. What has jumped out at you the most on the defensive side of the ball, and who has stepped up?

A: “Honestly, you know, Iowa, they are known for their linebackers,” McGowan said. “The success at linebacker has continued on into this season. Right now, you got Jay Higgins and you got Nick Jackson. Jay Higgins, he’s been here, he’s been here since he was a freshman, so he’s waited his turn, and now in his senior season, he’s ready to go. This is his first season as a full time starter, and he leads the team in tackles. Alongside him is Nick Jackson. So Nick Jackson transferred here from Virginia in the offseason, and usually you know, Iowa linebackers, they got to wait, pay their dues, wait before they start—but he started game one, and he’s put up just about the same numbers as Higgins. So yeah, I think Nick’s really grown into the position well. He’s been to Iowa, he’s best friends with Jay, so those two really stand out to me on defense. Obviously, you have the secondary, Cooper DeJean, he’s doing what he does. And there’s not a whole lot of sacks right now, but in terms of just opponent points, and being able to create turnovers, Iowa is still good in that department. Maybe not as good as last year, but they’re still in the mix.”

Q: At the quarterback position, Cade McNamara transferred over from Michigan. How has the offense looked with him at the helm, and how would you grade this addition?

A: “So I mean obviously Cade McNamara, big name you know,” McGowan said. “People were excited when we first got him in January. The hype was there. Not counting the Penn State game because the Penn State, that was a total failure, I mean on offense. But even in those first three games, Cade, I mean his accuracy hasn’t been great. Against both Penn State and Western Michigan, his completion percentage has been below 50 percent. He’s also thrown, I think, three interceptions this year so far. But at the same time, he’s also not quite 100 percent. He suffered a quad injury during the spring game of this year, and so he’s getting better. He’s getting better everyday, but clearly I don’t think he’s as mobile as he should be. He said today that he is able to move around in the pocket, but in terms of running up field, he still feels a little bit of pain. He had a scramble against Penn State, and he was like, he was not running full speed. Like he can only run about 80 percent right now in terms of being able to run, but I think it’s still early. I still hope that he has the pedigree, and he clearly has weapons around him. The system just has to work. They just have to find an offensive identity. They got to commit to either running the ball, or commit to you know, passing it around. Right now, it looks like, if I had to predict anything, it looks like they’re just going to stick with you know, run the ball a lot. And Erick All will probably be the leading receiver this year, now that Luke Lachey is out for the season.”

Q: After getting shut out last week at Penn State, how do you think the Iowa offense will respond against a rather young MSU defense?

A: “So obviously the players and coaches, none of them are happy about Penn State,” McGowan said. “I mean Cade (McNamara) called it one of the worst losses he’s ever experienced. Even Kirk Ferentz said today that like yeah, the fans feel bad, but who feels worse is the players and coaches. They said they forgot about it after 24 hours, but in my opinion, that loss is going to stick with them. They are going to be motivated battling that loss, and they want to prove people wrong. So I think definitely against a younger secondary, hopefully the passing game will be more involved, but if anything I would just expect Erick All to lead the team in catches in that game. I think Iowa should be able to create some big plays, and we saw it week one against Utah State. I wouldn’t be surprised if Seth Anderson has a long grab and Diante Vines gets into the mix. But what would really surprise me is if Kaleb Brown, the transfer from Ohio State, if he gets involved, that would show signs that the offense is really growing.”

Q: Score prediction?

A: "Iowa is going to win,” McGowan said. “I’m going to go 27-10 Iowa. That’s my prediction.”

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