Big plays guide Iowa to win over Spartans


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Iowa’s aggressiveness was evident from the get-go.

A 17-yard reverse to Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on the second play from scrimmage set the tone for a Hawkeye offense that never stopped attacking the Spartans on Oct. 30.

And in the end, the scoreboard was indicative of that aggressiveness: Iowa 37, Michigan State 6.

Eyeing redemption after last week’s heartbreaking 31-30 loss to Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes entered Kinnick Stadium with a different energy that made the squad look nearly unbeatable.

That intensity — combined with Iowa’s knack for making big plays on both sides of the ball — gave the Hawkeyes the momentum they needed to handily defeat the No. 5 Spartans.

With the win, Iowa (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) remains in the Big Ten title picture.

Despite leading the Spartans by numerous touchdowns, Iowa kept up the aggressiveness in the second half. The Hawkeyes continued to pass the ball and even attempted an end-around to Marvin McNutt in which the former quarterback threw a pass to Johnson-Koulianos.

While the play was unsuccessful, it illustrated that the Hawkeyes were going to continue their aggressiveness and not allow the Spartans to make any sort of comeback.

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“I thought Ken [offensive coordinator O’Keefe] made some tremendous calls. A couple of the big plays were just a perfect time for it,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I thought the offensive staff really put a good plan together, but it gets down to execution. Our players, they carried through and did a great job.”

Successful offensive execution started with Ricky Stanzi.

The senior connected on three passes of 20-yards or more and also had a 26-yard rush, giving the Hawkeyes 32 plays of 20-plus yards this season.

Two of the Iowa’s 20-plus-yard plays Oct. 30 were touchdown strikes — including Adam Robinson’s first-ever touchdown reception. All four plays led to Iowa points.

Stanzi, who completed 11-of-15 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns, was asked about his unusual touchdown completion to the sophomore running back, with one reporter noting that it’s a play the Hawkeyes haven’t run very often.

“That’s why it worked,” he said.

Stanzi said the team’s play-calling was “possibly” more aggressive than in weeks past, but added this distinction could be because the Hawkeyes were able to make big plays, which shortened Iowa’s scoring drives.

Three of Iowa’s scoring drives took six plays or fewer.

“If you can make big plays, take them,” Stanzi said. “You love that kind of stuff. It’s a lot easier to score when you’re making big plays. … You want to take your chances when you can and hit plays down the field.”

The Hawkeyes also had their share of big plays on the defensive side of the ball.

A team characterized by its aggressive trick plays, the Spartans were unable to get anything going offensively. Michigan State managed only one play of 20 or more yards and was held to its lowest scoring output of the season.

Iowa intercepted three Kirk Cousins passes, two of which led to touchdowns. Tyler Sash’s pick led to an unforgettable 66-yard touchdown return by Micah Hyde after a lateral, and Shaun Prater’s 42-yard interception return helped set up an Iowa touchdown three plays later.

When asked about the team’s mindset, Prater simply said, “Very aggressive. It paid off. … I guess the coaches just wanted to make a statement.”

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