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First half observations: Michigan State getting clobbered on the road

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

In a fog

The Michigan hangover is back.

Throughout Mark Dantonio’s tenure, the Spartans did well the week after beating their biggest rival, going 7-1 after victories at Michigan. Through the first quarter at Iowa on Saturday, it appeared the negative effect of a big win had returned as Michigan State was sleepwalking through much of the opening half.

Iowa offensive lineman Tyler Linderbaum wears "Together" on the back of his helmet the Hawkeyes' game against Michigan State Saturday.

Iowa dominated play along the line of scrimmage, but Michigan State appeared to have little life. Sure, that will happen when your defense can’t get off the field and the offense never gets beyond the 50-yard line. Still, the emotion on Michigan State’s sidelines has been non-existent in the first half.

Getting pushed around

The defensive line played outstanding in the victory over Michigan a week ago, but against Iowa, the front four have been getting pushed off the ball on a regular basis. The holes have been huge for the Hawkeyes in the running game and quarterback Spencer Petras has had all day to find open receivers. In fact, the only thing that slowed the Hawkeyes were a couple of dropped passes and an early false start penalty.

Otherwise, it’s been a straight butt-kicking upfront, something that is also happening when the Spartans have the ball. Through two quarters, Iowa has 209 total yards to 120 for Michigan State, a number saved by a 56-yard pass late in the second quarter and skewed by the fact Iowa scored a special teams touchdown and another on an interception.

Ugly is one way to describe it, but through one half, at least, the tougher team is in control.

Rocky homecoming

It hasn’t been the homecoming Rocky Lombardi was hoping for. Back in his home state for the first time, Lombardi had a brutal first half, throwing three interceptions, going 10-for-20 for 103 yards, a stat line that looked much better thanks to a 56-yard pass to Jalen Nailor. His decision on the second interception was particularly poor as he floated the ball into traffic deep in Michigan State territory. The decision on the third was just as bad and this time it was returned 54 yards for an Iowa touchdown, giving the Hawkeyes a 35-0 lead.

After a good start to the season, Lombardi has reverted to the player we saw more often the past two seasons, one that has been unsure of himself as the offense continues to sputter. To be fair, he hasn’t had a lot of help as there have been a couple of critical drops and the running game has done little, but the Spartans will need more out of their quarterback if they expect to mount a comeback, though that is a longshot.