East Lansing — Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio likens the confidence of punter Jake Hartbarger to someone winning all the games at the fair.
For Hartbarger, that just means he’s feeling good about the way he’s kicking the ball.
“He’s joked about it,” Hartbarger said. “All it means is I’m feeling confident on the field and when I get in there everything feels good.”
It all felt good in Michigan State’s 17-10 victory over Iowa on Saturday when all five of Hartbarger’s punts were downed inside the Iowa 20, including four of them inside the 10. It was his final punt, one that went out of bounds at the 16, that might have been the biggest of the game.
With just less than a minute remaining and Iowa without a timeout, Hartbarger overcame two straight Michigan State penalties to pin the Hawkeyes deep with just 45 seconds left in the game, effectively putting them out of reach of tying the score.
“That’s the biggest thing, pinning it deep inside the 10-yard line is what really helps us out because of field position,” Hartbarger said. “The position their offense is in after we punt is really helpful and then the defense stropped them on three-and-out I don’t know how many times. That is a big part of the game.”
It has taken some time for Hartbarger to get to this point. His first two seasons were inconsistent at best with backup quarterback Tyler O’Connor doing some of the punting back in 2015.
But now Hartbarger has Dantonio talking carnival games.
“I’ve been saying I’ve been waiting because Jake Hartbarger has tremendous talent,” Dantonio said. “I’ve been waiting for a couple years when he was a redshirt freshman and redshirt sophomore for him to start punting like he’s going to the fair. When you go the fair and everything is going well for you, you have a lot of confidence that you can shoot the hoops. You go over and pitch a penny. You can do all these different things and you can just enjoy going out there punting.
“That’s where he’s at right now. He can punt very, very well and he knows that. He’s in rhythm. Sometimes we’re out-punting the coverage, but we’ve had great coverage at this point.”
Person joins youth brigade
Michigan State continued its youth movement on Saturday as safety Tre Person became the 13th true freshman to play this season, seeing a handful of snaps on defense in the first half.
He missed on one tackle but finished with two more in limited playing time as junior Grayson Miller missed his second game with an undisclosed injury.
“Tre Person has done a great job in practice,” Dantonio said. “Grayson Miller is out with a slight injury. He could’ve played but in an emergency role. That front-side safety, you need to be able to cover. He can cover very well. He’s active and he’s been active in practices and I thought we’ve got to give him a chance to play. With that being said, I thought David Dowell played very well today. I thought our entire defense did, and our secondary as well.”
Right guard Kevin Jarvis played in the first three games, but he got his first start on Saturday with David Beedle out because of an injury. Jarvis became the second true freshman to start, joining cornerback Josiah Scott, who has started all four games for the Spartans.
“Kevin Jarvis started, so a true freshman started at right offensive guard,” Dantonio said. “That’s a lot for a true freshman. He played the entire game and I thought he did pretty well. That’s a lot to ask of him the entire game.”
Michigan State held Iowa to 19 yards rushing, which is the Hawkeyes’ lowest rushing total in a game since minus-9 against Ohio State on Sept. 24, 2005. MSU’s defense now has two of Iowa’s five lowest single-game rushing totals since 2005, as the Spartans limited Iowa to 23 yards on Oct. 5, 2013.
… Linebacker Joe Bachie posted a career-high 3.5 tackles for loss, including a 3-yard sack. He also recovered a fumble in the red zone.
… Safety Khari Willis recorded his first career sack, a 7-yard stop in the second quarter.