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Film Room: Michigan State vs. Iowa

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The Spartans were dominated on both lines by the Hawkeyes.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a week makes. In fact, that is the second time already this season we have said that. The only thing consistent about this Michigan State Spartans football team appears to be inconsistency. A week after playing a near perfect game in a win over Michigan, the Spartans were a total mess in a blowout loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Basically nothing went right this week, which is shown in both the eye test, and the numbers. The offensive and defensive lines were dominated by Iowa, which blew the Spartans off the line of scrimmage all day on both sides of the ball. So that is where we will start.

Defensive Line

This is Iowa’s first touchdown of the game. It comes on third-and-goal from the three-yard-line. Iowa doesn’t really hide the fact that this looks like a running play, as the Hawkeyes come out with extra linemen and two deep in the I-formation. One wide receiver is to the top of the set, and comes in motion before the snap.

Again there is nothing complicated here. The deep back is going to get the ball and follow the fullback off the left side of the formation. The Spartans circled in green are going to end up the same place the runner does, in the end zone. Not exactly what you are hoping for when trying to make a goal line stand.

Look at the pile of Spartans that end up in the end zone around Tyler Goodson as he scores. Iowa knew it had the advantage and just bullied the MSU line. This is the first drive of the game, too, so it’s not like the defense got worn down. They were just overmatched.

Here is the the third Iowa touchdown now, which comes on a second-and-six from the MSU nine-yard-line.

Again, nothing crazy here. I-formation, with the tight end shifting across to the near side pre-snap. There are two wide receivers to the top of the formation. The o-line is going to block to their right, clearing out a lane for the running back. The tight end is going to drop down and seal the running lane from the bottom with a block on the outside linebacker to that side.

And here is the result. The MSU defenders to the top are completely walled off from the ball carrier. Besides the players being blocked along the red line, you see two MSU defenders just standing there because there is no path for them to get to the runner. They are taken out of the play without even being blocked.

Meanwhile, below in the orange circle, you see the two Iowa blockers handling their assignments and sealing that edge. The runner has an open running lane and there isn’t even anyone to touch him until the deep safety at about the two-yard-line.

The safety doesn’t take a particularly good angle to fill the running lane and the runner goes right through him for an easy score. This was likely to be a touchdown in a flag football game. Again, the Iowa line just imposing their will at the point of attack.

Offensive Line

This play was one that was immediately called out by the fans and writers alike on Twitter. After hitting Jalen Nailor for a big gain into Iowa territory, MSU has a third-and-one from the Iowa 27-yard-line. The Spartans call a pitch to Elijah Collins to the left side.

The center (red) is going to pull after the snap to help block out in front of Collins. Former punter turned tight end Tyler Hunt (orange) is going to swing out and try and block the defender out side. The other two blockers on that side are going to try and block down and seal the edge. None of it happens.

Jayden Reed whiffs on his block, which lets a defender into the backfield and immediately causes problems. The center never blocks anyone and a linebacker has an unblocked gap to Collins. And Hunt gets run over trying to block the defender on the outside. The result is three guys getting to Collins before he even sniffs the line of scrimmage.

This play had no chance.

Punt Return

Iowa really iced the game late in the first half with a couple of quick scores, one on special teams and one on defense. This is the punt return touchdown.

Now it must be noted that the punt itself was a large part of the problem. From inside your own end zone, a line drive punt that wasn’t particularly long is going to cause problems.

Here is when the returner caught the ball. As you can see, the nearest MSU player is 14 yards away. This is a problem. The next problem comes when you do not stay in your lane. You can see that Iowa has three MSU players covered with blockers, but the fourth in the middle of the field is unblocked. Here comes the issue, the returner, Charlie Jones, is going to start right, and then reverse field. The MSU player in the middle is going to leave his lane and take himself out of the play.

The result is an insanely large hole gap for Jones. From here he makes it all the way to the 20-yard-line before anyone from MSU even remotely has a shot at him. They do not make the tackle and he picks up some extra blocking down field and walks into the end zone.

Another flag football touchdown for Iowa, as the only contact he had was bumping into his own blocker.

The coverage was an issue all day. Jones averaged 21 yards per return on five attempts, including the 54-yard one above. He also had a long return nullified with a penalty. It was a rough day for that unit, and something they definitely need to correct moving forwards.

Well I’ve seen enough. Let’s move on to Indiana next week and hope that the Spartan team that showed up in Ann Arbor shows up against a top-10 ranked Hoosier squad.