Iowa City, Iowa — It hasn't been much of a secret over the past few seasons that Michigan State's defense is among the best in the nation.
In 2011 and 2012 the Spartans finished the season ranked in the top 10 in total defense. Entering Saturday's game against Iowa, they were the No. 1 defense overall in the country, ranking No. 1 against the pass and No. 2 against the run.
After Michigan State's 26-14 victory at Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeyes are probably wondering how any team rated better against the run.
That's because the Hawkeyes, who entered the game averaging 244.4 yards on the ground, finished with 23 yards against the Spartans.
To put it in perspective, Michigan State punter Mike Sadler gained 25 yards on one fake, 2 yards better than Iowa had as a team.
"I actually outrushed Iowa today," Sadler said. "What that says about our defense is scary."
Iowa's Mark Weisman, the second-leading rusher in the Big Ten, found out how scary it was, getting banged up early and finishing with just 9 yards on seven carries.
That should be scary, considering Weisman came in averaging 123 yards a game, but Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz wasn't surprised.
"We didn't think we'd come in and be getting 280 on these guys," he said. "That wasn't our thought coming in. But we were hoping that we could run it effectively. The way they're built they make it very difficult to do that, and they're playing good team defense, period. They did a year ago, as well. So we knew it was going to be a tough challenge. We weren't naïve by any stretch."
Iowa was able to put up some numbers on its final series of the game, but aside from a pair of big plays on their final two drives of the first half, the Hawkeyes simply had nowhere to go against the Spartans.
"It was an excellent performance," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "Weisman is a load and the offensive line is well-coached. They have good schemes, good concepts. But we're well-coached and the players believe in what we're doing. It will be a good film session tomorrow."
What that film will show is a team that simply does not allow teams to run the ball and forces them to throw.
"We're all working together as a collective unit," defensive end Shilique Calhoun said. "We try not to let each other down and the biggest thing is to stop the run and we did a great job today. I praise the rest of the guys for fighting hard and holding tough, especially the defensive tackles and linebackers. (Iowa) gets downhill on every play and it's a testament to them playing hard every play and being great."
Iowa did manage to move the ball some through the air, though much of that came late in the game. But it's not like going to the passing game was terribly effective as Darqueze Dennard intercepted two passes.
It was a nice change for the secondary after it was hit with four pass interference calls against Notre Dame.
"It was great to get that monkey off my back," Dennard said. "It was real fun to go out and play and I just happened to get two interceptions. It wouldn't have happened without the defensive line and the linebackers getting pressure. But it was a great feeling coming off the Notre Dame week."