Oct. 3, 2013
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist | @GrinzOnGreen
EAST LANSING, Mich. ─ For the better part of Mark Dantonio's head-coaching tenure at Michigan State, the series against Iowa has produced knock-down, drag-out affairs.
Whatever the reason, senior offensive guard Blake Treadwell is sure the Spartans will get plenty of advice from the Hawkeye fans, who'll be sitting within arm's reach behind them in Saturday's Big Ten opener at Kinnick Stadium.
"There's been no hot dog throwing (at us), but they'll let you know if you're not playing, I'll tell you that," Treadwell said. "They'll say, `Your jersey looks a little clean No. 64.' They'll talk some trash."
Treadwell sat out the 2011 game in Iowa City because of injury and played on the defense line there the previous year.
"They said some stuff that made the hair raise on the back of your neck," Treadwell said. "If I do anything, I just smile and laugh, but I don't talk back. I love fans who are passionate, especially away fans when they try to get after me and trash talk. I embrace it. I'm excited to play there."
Some of MSU's most gut-wrenching games of all-time have come against Iowa. Four of the last six games have been decided by an average of just under four points.
Last season at Spartan Stadium, the Hawkeyes tied the score with a touchdown in the final minute of regulation and then won, 19-16, in double overtime. In 2009, No. 7 Iowa pulled out a 15-13 victory with a 7-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game.
The Spartans won 16-13 at home in '08 and lost on the road, again in double overtime, 34-27 in 2007. The two exceptions in the Dantonio era came in 2011 when quarterback Kirk Cousins led MSU to a 37-21 victory that broke a seven-game losing streak in Iowa City dating back to 1989, and Iowa's 37-6 victory in 2010.
In 1987, spurred on by Coach George Perles' blistering halftime speech that peeled the pink paint off the Kinnick Stadium locker room walls, MSU scored a come-from-behind 19-14 victory, which allowed the Spartans to rebound from a 1-2 non-conference start and propelled them to the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl. Three years later, a 12-7 home loss to the Hawkeyes cost Michigan State the outright conference title.
The reason for the closely contested games between MSU and Iowa appears to be rooted in the similarities between the two programs.
"I think the main thing is toughness," Treadwell said. "Iowa is very physical and has always been known for their toughness. They're not going to flash-and-bang you. It's straight-up, me-against-you, who's-gonna-win. At Michigan State we embrace that, and I know they embrace that, too.
"That's why I think it's always been a bruising battle we both look forward to."
There has been a mutual influence between the programs for years dating back to Perles' intense, but friendly, rivalry with former Iowa coach Hayden Fry. Then, Perles' former defensive coordinator, Norm Parker, worked in the same capacity under Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz until he retired in 2011. Phil Parker, who played defensive back for MSU from '82-85 and was a Spartan graduate assistant coach in '86, has been on Iowa's staff for 15 seasons and took over as defensive coordinator last season.
"I think there are a lot of similarities in it," Dantonio said. "It's a program that prides itself on toughness, which I think we do, too. There are some aspects of it that are related to Coach Perles, with Norm Parker being there and Phil Parker being there.
"They're going to be who they are, they're going to be good at that, and they're going to master that craft. They say this is who we are, this is what we're going to do, and try to do it to the best of their abilities. When I came into the Big Ten in 2007 (as a head coach), I looked across and saw Iowa and said that's who we can be. They can play with anybody, anytime, at anyplace, and that's who we can be. I think that's what we tried to emulate somewhat."
GoG Notes & Quotes
MSU linebackers coach Mike Tressel elaborated on what likely will decide the Iowa game:
"When you play Iowa, both teams know that it's going to be a bloodbath, it's going to be a battle. They're saying the same things over in their football office - `You've got to be the tougher team; you've got to make them quit first.'
"We're saying the same things. Our guys know what to expect. They know you can't take one play off. If there's one play you want to take the easy route and not be physical, it will cost you."
The Spartans are 4-4-1 in conference-openers against Iowa.
After opening the '87 season with a 27-13 victory against Southern Cal, they lost at Notre Dame, 31-8, and at home against Florida State, 31-3. The season appeared to be unraveling in the first Big Ten game when MSU went into the locker room trailing the Hawkeyes, 14-7, at halftime in Iowa City.
However, the Spartans' defense pitched a shutout the rest of the way, and the offense scored a pair of field goals in the third quarter and a touchdown in the fourth to pull out a 19-14 victory.
Michigan State went on to win the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl, and free safety Kurtis Drummond is looking forward to a similar reversal in the wake of the 17-13 loss at Notre Dame two weeks ago.
"We just put it behind us," he said. "We can't let it be a snowball effect, so we got it out of our system quick. We had some fun in practice last week and are ready for the new season.
"We learned from our mistakes and are ready to bounce back. If guys weren't humble, it definitely humbled you. If guys didn't think they had things to work on, they saw what they need to do. You can get some good out of a loss."