Spartans Collapse in Iowa City!

Hondo S. Carpenter

October 27, 2007

Iowa City, Iowa

Kinnick Stadium

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There is one thing that you can say about these Spartans, they never make life easy for themselves. The Spartans came into Iowa City today and faced a very good defense. Not an Ohio State quality defense, but very good one.Â

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The Spartans marched down the field in their first possession and if not for Brian Hoyer missing a read on Kellen Davis who was wide-open for a TD, they would have had seven. Instead they had to settle for a 39-yard field goal that Brett Swenson sent wide left.

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The Spartans dominated the first half. Missed opportunities killed them. Aaron Bates had a gorgeous punt that would have pinned the Hawks inside their own ONE, but the Spartans tackled their own player sending him into the end zone. He probably didn’t even have to pick the ball up; it looked as though it was going to stop short of the goal line. It was miscues like that, and some missed tackles that allowed a dominated Hawkeye team to get right back in the game.

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This Hawkeye team is not a very good team offensively. They are fundamentally very sound. A characteristic that the Spartan defense possessed in the first half, but mysteriously lost in the second. The Spartans held the Hawks to only 62-yards rushing in the first half, with an anemic 3 first downs. That was not the case in the second. They garnered 108 in the third quarter alone and 230 for the game.

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The Spartans allowed the lethargic Kinnick Stadium crowd to wake up with just over 4 minutes to go in the third quarter after the Hawks tied the game up at 17. Thankfully for MSU, QB Brian Hoyer again demonstrated the ability to avoid mistakes and even showed some running ability. After the Hawks tied the game the Spartans had a drive going thanks to Hoyer but Roland Martin picked up his second holding penalty of the day and the drive stalled.

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On the ensuing Iowa drive, the MSU defense held strong, but Iowa got an 81-yard punt and the Spartans had to start at their own 20. The Spartans looked poised to move the ball again, but another penalty (personal foul) pushed them back and Bates shanked a punt into the wind for only 25 yards. The Hawkeyes had a first and ten at the Spartan 41.

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Thank God that the Iowa offense is so terrible, the Spartan defense held them out of the end zone, but they were able to nail a 47-yard field goal and to take the lead 20-17. The Spartans were able to eventually tie the game to go to overtime, but one thing stood out late in the game.

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I will never allow Spartan Nation to be a place that we rip kids, but facts are facts. Terry Love is a great kid, but at what time does MSU make a change with punt return? With just over four minutes to go in the game and with less than two minutes in the game MSU kept Terry Love on the field returning punts. It is my opinion that Terry has struggled this season. When the ball hits the ground, he gives the entire Spartan Nation a heart attack because he consistently makes poor decisions when the ball is on the ground. Why wasn’t Devin Thomas put back there?  He could have at least possibly helped with field position and maybe MSU wouldn’t need a field goal to tie, they could have possibly got a TD.

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Secondly, on six different plays late in the game and on overtime Brian Hoyer locked in on a receiver from the inception of the play and similar to the first drive of the game when he missed a wide open Kellen Davis for a TD.  He had open teammates that didn’t get the rock. I asked Don Treadwell after the game if this late in the season did he expect to have to go back and deal with a QB that continually locks in on receivers. He said that they would have to look, but trust me coach it is bad.

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Finally in overtime you have to be bothered when on the last play, MSU is facing a fourth and thirteen and Hoyer throws to a covered Devin Thomas for five yards? I asked Treadwell specifically after the game about that play and he told me that Hoyer was supposed to look to the end zone for other receivers and he went there. Treadwell was obviously frustrated with the decision, and rightfully so. He did take the high road and blame the staff, but it was evident that Hoyer simply made a poor read. You have to put your best player (Thomas) in a spot to make a big play. Don’t use him as a decoy five yards down the field. Should Hoyer have thrown there? No way. Should Treadwell have sent him there? NO WAY!

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I certainly mean no disrespect, but to quote Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN, “This is why you’re MSU.” Losing ball games that they should win has doomed this program and today was one of those games. Missed tackles, dropped passes, poorly thrown balls and penalties doomed MSU in the second half and over time.

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I came away from the Ohio State game excited that at least the Spartans had played the number one team in the nation in Columbus to a very competitive game. Sadly today the Spartan Nation played to the level of their competition. Even though this is year one of a rebuilding project it still is disappointing. There are no excuses for this loss. The Spartans showed in the first half that they were the dominating team.

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People will rip the staff, but they had them ready. MSU made Iowa look like the proverbial East Lansing High School that Narduzzi referred to earlier this season. The problem is that the team (players specifically) has to get rid of the haunting Jekyll and Hyde nature that has haunted them. The task will not be easy, but this is the staff that can do it.

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This game was huge. This team collapsed. There is no other word for it. The Spartan Nation rejoiced that they finally got their chance to rip UM for their play early in the season when they lost to APP State. That was fine, but all is fair in hazing and if MSU losses next Saturday to the Wolverines, then man up people we earned it.Â

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I predicted at the start of the season that this team would get to six wins. I still feel that they will. The frustrating part is that this team could have had more. In all fairness, they have been on the verge of something special. They blew it. They collapsed. That said, I haven’t in any way lost faith in this staff. I just wanted to see something better after so many years of hopeless crap and poor play. I think that we all can agree on one thing. If the Spartans can beat UM next week a special season is still possible. Heading into rivalry week, this is one loss today that isn’t going to get off your back like last week.

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This one hurts. What made it even worse was when an Iowa police officer asked me after the game, “How could you guys beat the sh** out of us and we still win?” I have no idea officer, but this is why we are MSU. I told you last week that the OSU game was a clear picture of where this program is heading. Today was a clear picture of where MSU has been. Now you just have to get over it and move one. Not an easy job, but in Dantonio I trust. I just want to see more of where we are going and less of where we have been!

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