EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Joe Bachie wasn’t sure if it was an interception or a fumble recovery.
“I just knew I’d caught it,” the Michigan State linebacker said.
Bachie came diving in and gathered the ball out of midair, giving the Spartans a crucial turnover in the third quarter of their 17-10 win over Iowa on Saturday. It went down officially as a fumble and ended the most promising drive of the second half for the Hawkeyes, and Michigan State held on to win.
Brian Lewerke threw two touchdown passes to Felton Davis in the first quarter, and the Spartans (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) forced two crucial turnovers in the third. Iowa (3-2, 0-2) managed only 19 yards rushing and has now lost its first two conference games for the first time since 2008.
Davis surpassed his career high in receptions before halftime and finished with nine for 114 yards. His touchdown catches of 22 and 6 yards gave Michigan State a 14-0 lead, and that was enough for the Spartans to come away with an important home victory.
“I think the defense was incredible today,” Lewerke said. “They stepped up when we needed them, when the offense wasn’t finishing drives like we needed to. So I think they definitely were the better of the two today.”
Akrum Wadley scored for Iowa on a 9-yard run in the second quarter, but he was held to 30 yards on 17 carries.
“It’s a frustrating and very disappointing loss for our football team,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I thought we had a solid week of preparation getting ready for this ballgame then simply didn’t show up in all areas.”
The Hawkeyes trailed 17-7 at halftime but were on the verge of scoring on the first drive of the third quarter. After a successful fake field goal, Iowa was inside the 10-yard line, but quarterback Nate Stanley had the ball slip out of his hand as he began a throwing motion, and Bachie caught it out of the air.
Brandon Smith fumbled the ball away in Michigan State territory on Iowa’s next possession.
“Anytime you turn the ball over it’s not a good thing,” Iowa receiver Matt Vandeberg said. “We harp on ball security and we want to make sure when we have it that it stays ours. So when that stuff happens, it not only takes away points, you put your defense in a rough spot.”
The Spartans held on at the end after Lewerke scrambled for a first down on third-and-12 with less than four minutes to play. By the time Iowa got the ball again, the Hawkeyes were back at their own 16 with 45 seconds left.
The Hawkeyes lost to Penn State on the final play last weekend, but they were outgained badly in that game and were unable to move the ball against Michigan State. The last time Iowa started 0-2 in Big Ten play, the Hawkeyes did rebound quickly, winning five of their final six conference games.
The Spartans, meanwhile have already matched last season’s win total.
The game may have turned on two plays near the end zone. Stanley lost his fumble in the third quarter. Back in the first, Michigan State’s Matt Sokol fumbled but was able to recover at the Iowa 6, immediately before Davis’ second touchdown.
The Spartans had lost six fumbles through their first three games.
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Defense stingy, but offense offers little for Iowa — again
EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN — Iowa’s defense might have a bone to pick with its offense.
For the second consecutive week, the Hawkeye offense repeatedly put its counterpart in poor field position en route to a conference loss. This time, 17-10 to Michigan State.
The Spartans (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) started three possessions in Iowa territory, held a seven-minute advantage in time of possession and a plus-two edge in turnovers.
That’s not a formula for success.
Neither are Iowa’s 19 yards rushing on 25 carries — with Akrum Wadley’s 9-yard touchdown run being a game-high — or two lost second-half fumbles in MSU territory, one by sophomore quarterback Nate Stanley and freshman receiver Brandon Smith.
The defense, meanwhile, answered every call.
After a 75-yard opening touchdown by Michigan State, Iowa’s defense allowed 10 more points — all in the first half.
With the game on the line in the closing minutes, the Hawkeyes twice halted MSU to give its offense a chance.
Iowa (3-2, 0-2) combined for two yards on six plays in those two opportunities.
Jewell of the defense
Iowa All-America linebacker Josey Jewell continued his strong play, accumulating 16 tackles, including three for loss, and a forced fumble.
In five games, Jewell has 60 tackles — 8.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks — along with an interception, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Iowa’s second leading tackler, Ben Niemann, has 30. Jewell accounts for more than 17 percent of Iowa’s total stops.
Not much special here
Iowa’s special teams didn’t do the team any favors, either.
Colten Rastetter’s first four punts had a net average of just under 30 yards, including two that set Michigan State up in plus-territory.
He finished with six punts with a net average of 34.7 yards and one fair catch.
Iowa also returned its four kickoffs for just 19.5 yards per attempt and didn’t try a punt return.
No mistakes by Spartans
Through three games, Michigan State had turned the ball over eight times, including six fumbles.
That wasn’t the case Saturday.
Quarterback Brian Lewerke played safe, completing 18 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two first-quarter scores.
“A big one is we don’t give up any turnovers,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “They get two. Obviously that’s big in any football game. You can see that.”
The Spartans recovered their lone fumble for their first turnover-free game this year.
» Iowa totaled 29 yards on 20 first-down plays, including 16 on a fourth-quarter pass to Matt VandeBerg.
» Former Omaha South star Noah Fant had two catches or 21 yards.
» Former Iowa Western receiver Nick Easley had two receptions for 33 yards but had a key drop late in the fourth quarter.
» Iowa starting cornerback Manny Rugamba was out with an injury suffered during practice last week.
» The Hawkeyes 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2008.