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Iowa Michigan St Football

Iowa's Brandon Smith fumbles as he is tackled by Michigan State's Josiah Scott, left, as Khari Willis (27) and Joe Bachie, right, move in during the third quarter of Saturday's game in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 17-10. 


Five things to contemplate following the Iowa football team's 17-10 loss at Michigan State on Saturday:

1. The good

Illinois and a bye week are next on the Hawkeye schedule.

That provides time for the Iowa offense to work to fix the issues it has had in recent games before facing another of the Big Ten's defensive heavyweights.

The Fighting Illini defense, filled with new faces this season, has struggled to stop the run in its 2-2 start to the season. Lovie Smith's second team is allowing 179.5 yards per game on the ground, 13th among Big Ten teams.

That won't provide Iowa with a true test of how much it can improve in a week, but the chance to work against a porous Fighting Illini defense should at least give the Hawkeyes a needed boost of offensive confidence as they work to move beyond an 0-2 start in the Big Ten.

2. The norm

In many respects, Saturday's game against Michigan State was simply more of the same in a series filled with defensive struggles in recent years.

As Spartans coach Mark Dantonio talked to his team before the game, he compared it to a heavyweight fight and challenged his players to be ready to compete in the final round.

Michigan State did that and needed to, holding Iowa without a first down in its final two possessions after the Hawkeyes pulled within seven points on a Miguel Recinos field goal which proved to be the only points either team scored in the second half.

In five of the nine games Iowa and Michigan State have played in Dantonio's 11 seasons, neither team has managed to score 20 points.

Every yard has been a challenge to come by and that proved to be the case again Saturday. Michigan State held Iowa to a season-low 231 yards while the Hawkeyes held the Spartans to 300 yards.

In many respects, this game was the simply the norm in a series filled with ugly football games.

3. The bizarre

Turnovers ultimately denied Iowa a chance to rally in the second half, none more bizarre that Nate Stanley's third-quarter fumble that negated the deepest penetration of the Hawkeyes' deepest penetration of the day.

Scrambling under pressure that proved to be a day-long companion for the sophomore quarterback, Stanley eyes his receiver in the end zone but his arm had other ideas.

The ball fell out of Stanley's arm and toward the turf where the Spartans' Joe Bachie was a willing receiver.

His fumble recovery set the tone for a second half which saw a Brandon Smith fumble end Iowa's next possession.

A young Hawkeye offense simply isn't good enough at this point to overcome losing the turnover battle.

Michigan State understood that as much as anybody. The Spartans were last in the Big Ten in turnovers margin entering the game and after watching three first-half turnovers turn into 21 Notre Dame points a week earlier, ball security was a practice priority.

Michigan State fumbled once against Iowa, but recovered.

Iowa, which can expect to hear plenty about ball security this week, put the ball on the carpet four times against the Spartans, lost two and in many respects, never recovered.

4. The bad

The inconsistencies in Iowa's punting game continued to create issues that were only magnified by short drives which contributed to poor field position throughout the opening half.

As coach Kirk Ferentz accurately puts it, when you start a new punter riding the roller coaster is a part of the deal.

Colten Rastetter has taken the Hawkeyes on a ride the past few weeks. Punts of 37, 36, 32 and 33 yards preceded a 49-yard rugby-style punt in the first half at Michigan State.

Most left the Spartans with a short field and allowed Michigan State punter Jake Hartbarger to bury Iowa's offense inside its 10-yard line three times in the first half.

All five of Hartbarger's punts were downed inside the 20, while Rastetter accomplished that just once on seven punts.

Ferentz is looking for some sort of consistency there that hasn't emerged yet. As the Hawkeyes prepare for their sixth game, he'll study options that include pulling the redshirt off of true freshman Ryan Gersonde.

During his postgame comments, Ferentz said he is keeping an open mind about the situation. Time will tell if he sticks with the same roller coaster ride or decides to sample another one.

5. The ugly

When you're built to run the football and you can't run the ball, the results are seldom pretty.

Things were downright ugly for the Hawkeye offense against Michigan State. Following up an 82-yard effort against Penn State with 19 total yards on the ground against the Spartans, the Hawkeyes' inability to gain yards on the ground is an issue.

The performance was Iowa's worst since Ohio State held the Hawkeyes to minus-nine yards on the ground during a 2005 game at Columbus.

There's frustration.

From the piercing looks of running back Akrum Wadley as he fielded questions to the head-shaking responses of players on the offensive line, Iowa understands it has an issue.

It's about cohesion, not only from the front five but from within the entire offensive unit.

"If one guy doesn't fulfill his assignment, it can blow up the whole play,'' offensive lineman Sean Welsh said. "It's about us doing our job and executing what we are responsible to do.''

Wadley's first six carries against the Spartans -- no gain, minus-two, minus-one, three, one and minus-one -- illustrate what happens when that cohesion isn't there.

Ferentz suggested that this isn't the time to push the panic button. He'd prefer that the offense hit the "improve button.''

Seems reasonable and needed if Iowa hopes to move beyond its first 0-2 start in the Big Ten in nine seasons.