Well, at least it was a little fun for a little while.
In a blackout night at Kinnick Stadium, Iowa spent much of the game on their heels. Quarterback Cade McNamara left the game on the second possession of the game. Backup Deacon Hill looked vulnerable, and that Iowa offense looked like the struggling unit that it’s been all year.
Both teams traded field goals in the early going, Late in the second quarter, the Spartans were driving down the field, looking to extend their 6-3 lead, when Noah Kim found Iowa’s Cooper DeJean in the back of the endzone, killing any momentum. 5 plays later, Hill connected with Erick All in the endzone to give the Hawkeyes a 10-6 lead. 2 possessions later, the Spartans drove down the field, setting up a 58 yard field goal from Jonathan Kim as time expired, making it a one point game at halftime.
After halftime, MSU received the kick and Kim threw yet another interception, which was bizarrely the precursor to a Cal Haladay fumble return for a touchdown on the very first play for Iowa after the pick. From then on, the Spartans played tight, making mistake after mistake in all phases - a terrible QB sneak attempt on fourth down deep in their own territory, a missed field goal from the usually reliable Jonathan Kim, and the dagger of a punt return from Cooper DeJean to put the Hawkeyes ahead with 3:45 to play. After a fumble from Tre Mosley that led to a field goal, and yet another Noah Kim interception, Iowa mercifully kneeled to end the ballgame.
This game had the feel of a get-right win through much of the second half. The Spartans played tight, but the defense mostly played well. Haladay and Angelo Grose both had takeaways and Chester Kimbrough rushed through a massive gap in the Iowa line to sack Deacon Hill. On special teams, Ryan Eckley booted a 67 yard punt, and pinned the Hawkeyes deep in their own zone multiple times, but shanked a late punt to the 38 that set up the game tying field goal, and then of course the Cooper DeJean touchdown return a few moments later.
The offense looked pretty miserable for much of the night. Nathan Carter was solid as usual, clearing 100 rushing yards. Noah Kim started hot, but his game fell off a cliff late in the going. Iowa never sacked Kim, but he made up for that by giving the Hawkeyes the ball 3 times, and never being a threat to throw the ball downfield. Kim looked shaky, and even on completions, seemed to be off target.
Going into the bye week, we’ve seen mistakes kill the Spartans for two weeks in a row. They could have played a perfect game against Washington, and it still would have been lopsided. But Maryland? Iowa? Those were winnable games.
At this point in the season, it’s fair to ask what the purpose of playing the upperclassman at quarterback is. By giving Kim the nod out of training camp, the coaching staff was leaning on his experience and steady handedness to guide the offense into a groove once the games went live. At this point in the season, where the Spartans sit 2-3, it seems clear that there is no steady handedness. The offense is abysmal against comparable competition. Against Maryland, we saw something at least interesting out of Katin Houser in his one series.
This team isn’t going to win the Big Ten. A bowl game may well not be in the cards. We’re officially in the “it can’t hurt to try” phase of the season. Let’s embrace it and enjoy it.
It may be a tough night to be a Spartan, but hey - at least it’s almost hockey season.