IOWA CITY — A storm blew through Kinnick Stadium on Saturday afternoon that didn’t include a drop of rain.
Michigan State collected all of the 16 points scored in the second half as it stormed back from a four-point halftime deficit to earn a 26-14 Big Ten victory over the Hawkeyes.
“We talked all week about how we had to storm the gates, how we would have to play through a storm of adversity and we did those things. We weathered it all,’’ Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “We did a lot of good things, and we seemed to do them all at just the right moment.’’
That led to one frustration after another for the Hawkeyes, who had a four-game win streak end as they reached a midseason bye week with a 4-2 record.
Michigan State’s defense, statistically the best in the nation, limited Iowa to 23 rushing yards, intercepted quarterback Jake Rudock twice and forced Iowa to punt a season-high eight times.
Spartans quarterback Connor Cook threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns in the sophomore’s first Big Ten start, picking apart the Hawkeye secondary while completing 25-of-44 passes.
And on special teams, Iowa once again proved vulnerable to the fake punt. Mike Sadler rushed 25 yards for a first down on a fake to open the fourth quarter, setting up the third of freshman Michael Geiger’s four field goals in the game.
“It just never seemed we could get anything going,’’ Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “We didn’t get the stops we needed, the fake hurt us and their defense played well. They didn’t give our offense a chance to get going. It was a real tough day.’’
The combination of issues left the Hawkeyes in poor field position throughout much of the game and with no running game to speak of — Rudock led Iowa with 11 yards on three carries — the Hawkeyes struggled to gain any momentum.
“Outside of the way we closed the first half, there wasn’t much there,’’ Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said.
Iowa collected 140 of its 264 yards of offense on its final two possessions of the second quarter after spotting the Spartans a 10-0 lead.
Held to 26 yards on 14 plays during their first five drives of the game, the Hawkeyes found success through the air as they opened a 14-10 halftime lead.
Rudock completed his final 11 pass attempts of the half, splitting the last 10 evenly between two six-play touchdown drives which provided Iowa with a short-lived lead.
The Hawkeyes gained their first first down of the game with 5 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the second quarter when Rudock hit true freshman Matt VandeBerg for an 8-yard gain. Four snaps later, he connected with Damon Bullock on a screen pass which led to a 47-yard touchdown strike.
After Iowa’s defense forced a three-and-out, Rudock went back to work.
On a drive that opened with a 36-yard catch by Tevaun Smith, the sophomore finished a second straight 5-for-5 drive by hitting C.J. Fiedorowicz over the middle for a 10-yard score which gave the Hawkeyes a 14-10 edge with 1:10 left in the first half.
“We did a good job of getting the lead, but we gave it right back to them and never got anything going after that,’’ Fiedorowicz said.
The Spartans (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) moved ahead to stay when Cook completed a 7-play, 75-yard drive to open the second half by hitting Bennie Fowler with a 37-yard touchdown pass just over 3 minutes into the third quarter.
“We came out to make a statement after halftime. We felt we could get some things going in play action,’’ Cook said. “The line did a great job. I felt like I had all day to throw and when that happens, it makes you more comfortable.’’
Iowa (4-2, 1-1) picked up one first down on its initial possession of the third quarter, but didn’t pick up another until after Geiger had hit field goals of 35, 49 and 40 yards to provide the Spartans with their winning margin.
The Hawkeyes totaled just six rushing yards over the final two quarters, unable to sustain anything as leading rusher Mark Weisman was held to nine yards on seven carries as he dealt with what he labeled a minor ankle injury.
“They showed us why their defense is regarded the way it is,’’ Rudock said. “Nothing came easily. They were as physical as anybody we’ve seen, took away the run and they covered up our receivers pretty well. They gave us a tough lesson that we need to learn from.’’