Hawkeyes steamroll Spartans with relentless rushing attack in 49-7 rout
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa senior offensive tackle Alaric Jackson is not known for histrionics. That’s how you know how much Saturday’s game meant to the Hawkeye offense.
In the second quarter, Jackson helped open a hole for running back Mekhi Sargent on a second-and-10 play. Sargent surged through it for 11 yards. Jackson got up off the Kinnick Stadium turf, onto his knees and gave a hearty first-down signal as he looked toward the Michigan State bench.
It was a telling snapshot of the forces that fueled a 49-7 Hawkeye victory. The home team was 0-2 and tired of hearing about a punchless offense. The Spartans just happened to be the team that was in the way.
Well, they weren’t in the way for long, actually.
Iowa ran for 226 yards, averaging 5.5 per carry, and ran Michigan State out of the building, taking a 35-0 lead into halftime.
“We played our butts off, honestly, on all levels,” Jackson said afterward, his face streaked by sweat and eye-black. “We just keyed in on finishing drives, the extra one, two yards.”
The Hawkeyes scored their most points ever in 48 meetings with Michigan State. The offense provided four rushing touchdowns and one through the air. The defense and special teams each got in on the scoring action.
The Spartans (1-2) were simply overwhelmed, right from the beginning. Iowa took the opening kickoff and went 75 yards in eight plays. It was the longest scoring drive of the season for the Hawkeyes, and the first time they hit paydirt on their opening possession of a game this year. Running back Tyler Goodson started with a six-yard run to the left, where Jackson has been stationed for four seasons. Goodson ended it with a three-yard touchdown, also to the left.
“This team was very eager to come out and dominate the game,” Goodson said after running 14 times for a season-high 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “The first drive most definitely gave us the confidence to push through the whole game and go drive for drive for drive.”
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Sargent added 31 yards on the ground and two scores of his own.
All of this was behind an Iowa offensive line that was without two injured starters — guard Kyler Schott and tackle Coy Cronk. Cody Ince and Mark Kallenberger got the call in their place and stayed in until the game was out of reach.
Which was midway through the second quarter, really.
Iowa rushed for just 77 yards last Saturday in a 21-20 home loss against Northwestern. That number ate away at players such as Goodson and Jackson. Both reported practice sessions this week that were intense and focused.
“Just trying to be the best us we can be, and we did that all week,” Jackson said. “It showed up (Saturday).
“We put the work in. We all did our job and came out victorious.”
Goodson, a sophomore, has started the past seven games. He has seven touchdowns in that span.
His best play Saturday, however, came up four yards short. Michigan State scored its lone touchdown on the first drive of the second half to cut the deficit to 35-7. That’s hardly danger territory, but Iowa certainly didn’t want to start letting the Spartans feel comfortable.
On the initial Hawkeye play of the second half, the ball again was placed in Goodson’s hands. He had time to survey the field as he took the handoff from quarterback Spencer Petras in the shotgun formation. Goodson ran for 71 yards before being tackled.
Sargent scored three plays later. Order was restored.
“I could tell that the middle of the field was going to be wide open. I just had to be patient,” Goodson said of his career-long jaunt. “I broke one tackle and I thought it was smooth sailing from there. But obviously it wasn’t. Next time, I’ll finish the play.”
Jackson returned to Iowa instead of entering the NFL Draft because he was unhappy with a junior season that was hindered by injury.
Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz is happy he did.
“He's kind of a quiet guy,” Ferentz said of Jackson. “I actually complimented him (Friday) night just on the things I've seen him do kind of the behind the scenes a little bit and the encouraging words he gives younger players. He gets it. He cares about the team, cares about us being a good team, cares about his teammates.
“So he's playing really well on the field, but he's doing all those things that as a coach you hope a guy would do, especially as a senior.”
You can understand why Jackson was a little demonstrative on the field Saturday. Iowa hadn’t won a game since Dec. 27, in the Holiday Bowl. The Hawkeyes scored 49 points against USC in that one as well, but it seemed like an eternity ago to the players on this year’s team.
“Getting this win, that big at home, was a really good feeling for us,” Jackson said.
Iowa next visits Minnesota at 6 p.m. Friday, with the Floyd of Rosedale trophy on the line.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.