Oct 31, 2020; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA;  Michigan State Spartans quarterback Rocky Lombardi (12) passes against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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Spartans a tale of two teams; Hawkeyes up next

Mel Tucker gained a lot of new admirers last weekend.

The new Michigan State coach made history last week as his team surprised archrival Michigan 27-24. He became the first Spartans coach to record his first overall victory against the Wolverines. Tucker and the Spartans (1-1, 1-1) will try to carry that momentum to Iowa in a Big Ten game Saturday.

“I’m proud of that, that Spartan Nation is pleased and excited about our program and our win against the school down the road,” Tucker said.

Tucker’s first game at the helm was a debacle, a 38-27 home loss to Rutgers in which Michigan State committed seven turnovers. The Spartans didn’t have any at Michigan.

It’s tough to predict which Spartans group will show up in Iowa. Tucker knows his players can’t dwell on those bragging rights.

“We have to move on to the next opponent,” he said. “I’ve been in rivalry games before and won rivalry games. They’re major accomplishments and they’re important, certainly, for everyone involved … but at some point, you have to move on to what’s next.”

Spartans quarterback Rocky Lombardi threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns at Michigan and found a new favorite target: wide receiver Ricky White. The freshman set a single-game school record with 196 receiving yards.

The Hawkeyes (0-2, 0-2) have lost two close games and got more bad news early this week. Wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who had seven receptions in a 21-20 loss to Northwestern on Saturday, was suspended by head coach Kirk Ferentz after police said the wide receiver failed sobriety tests early Sunday morning after he was pulled over for speeding.

Iowa hasn’t lost its first two games since the 2000 season.

“Historically, we have played a lot of close games, so the challenge for us right now is to find a way to get over the hump and make the outcome go a different direction — in our direction,” Ferentz said. “It gets down to being a little more detailed and doing everything collectively a little bit better.”

Sophomore quarterback Spencer Petras has completed just 53.9 percent of his passes in the first two games. He was picked off three times by the Wildcats as the Hawkeyes managed just three points in the last three quarters.

“Spencer has done a lot of good things,” Ferentz said. “You keep in mind this is his first year starting. Unlike most guys in the past that have played here, he didn’t have the luxury of being in spring practice, so this is learning on the job.”

Ferentz and his staff are doing a lot of learning this week regarding the Spartans and their new coach.

The schools will match up for the first time since 2017. Michigan State won that game 17-10.

“It seems like forever since we played Michigan State, and they have a new coaching staff, so it’s a whole new round of research for us as a staff,” Ferentz said. “We’ve got two games from this year to have some idea what they look like and their personality. That’s a fresh challenge.”

Tucker said he sees the same type of challenge for his group.

“Iowa is a very tough place to play, whether they have fans or not,” he said. “They have a physically strong football team. They’re going to try to win the line of scrimmage, they have very good skill players on both sides of the ball, and they play relentlessly on special teams.”

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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