IOWA CITY – Iowa (4-1, 1-1) defeated Michigan State (2-3, 0-2), 26-16, on Saturday night inside Kinnick Stadium.
The win is head coach Kirk Ferentz’s 116th career Big Ten victory, moving him into sole possession of third place on the all-time list. Ferentz only trails Michigan’s Bo Schembechler (143) and Ohio State’s Woody Hayes (153).
- QB Cade McNamara left the game in the first quarter with a lower body injury and did not return.
- QB Deacon Hill completed 11-of-27 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown after entering the game in the first quarter following McNamara’s injury. The second-quarter touchdown pass was the first of his career.
- TE Erick All had a 13-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. During the drive, All had 62 yards on three catches (32, 17, 13) for his second touchdown of the season. He finished the game with four catches for 67 yards.
- LB Jay Higgins finished with 12 tackles, his third game with 10 or more tackles this season.
- LB Nick Jackson had 10 tackles, his second straight game with 10 or more stops. Jackson has 22 career double-digit tackle games.
- DL Deontae Craig had a career-high eight tackles and DB Xavier Nwankpa tied his career-high with eight tackles.
- DB Cooper DeJean had his first interception of the season in the second quarter. It is his sixth career interception.
- DB Sabastian Castro had his second interception of the season in the third quarter.
- DB Jamari Harris had his first interception this season in the fourth quarter. It is his fifth career interception.
- K Drew Stevens went 4-for-4 in field goal attempts, including a season long 53-yarder in the third quarter. It is the second-longest field goal of his career. Stevens also made a 40-yarder on Iowa’s opening possession.
- Stevens is now 3-for-3 in his career from 50+ yards.
- Stevens four made field goals ties a career high.
- Stevens is 8-for-9 on field goals this season.
- PR Cooper DeJean returned a 70-yard punt which is the 15th longest return in program history. It is his first punt return of his career. The 70-yard return is the longest play of the season for Iowa.
- It was Iowa’s first punt return for a touchdown since Charlie Jones did against Michigan State in 2020.
- Iowa opened the game with a scoring drive, covering 53 yards over eight plays before converting a 40-yard field goal. It is the third time this season the Hawkeyes have put points on the board on their opening possession (TD, FG, FG).
- It was Iowa’s 19th consecutive game not giving up 400 yards which is the longest active streak in the FBS.
- Since 2009, Iowa defense has registered 223 interceptions which ties for the most in Division-I. (Alabama and Oregon)
- The Hawkeyes had two interceptions in the game for the first time this season. It is the first game the defense has forced more than one turnover.
- Iowa turned the first interception into seven points and turned Michigan State’s fumble into three points in the fourth quarter. The team has a 27-17 advantage in points off turnovers this season.
- Michigan State kicker Jonathan Kim connected on a 58-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. The kick is a Kinnick Stadium record.
- Iowa won the toss and elected to receive. The Hawkeyes have played 306 games under head coach Kirk Ferentz. Iowa has opened the game on offense 224 times (143-81). The Hawkeyes have opened the game on defense 82 times (47-35).
- Under Ferentz, the Hawkeyes improved to 119-25 when winning the turnover battle.
- Iowa’s defense created four turnovers for the first time since Oct. 9, 2021. (Penn State)
- Last time Iowa’s defense had three interceptions was against Northwestern on Nov. 11, 2021.
- The Hawkeyes are 66-2 when leading by eight or more at any point of a game.
- Iowa has won nine of its last 12 night games in Kinnick.
1) Nathan Carter rush for a first down spot challenged (overturned)
2) Noah Kim fourth down sneak spot, ruled short (confirmed)
3) Cal Halladay interception ruled incomplete (confirmed)
The Hawkeyes return to action Oct. 7, hosting Purdue for Homecoming. The game will kick off at 2:30 p.m. (CT) and be streamed live on Peacock.
University of Iowa Football Media Conference
Saturday, September 30, 2023
Iowa City, Iowa, USA
Postgame Press Conference
Iowa 26, Michigan State 16
KIRK FERENTZ: Obviously, we are very happy about the win and proud of how strong the team came together tonight. It was a tough battle out there, and obviously it’s important to win a football game you get a chance at. But the bigger story is the display of resilience we saw from all of our players. And at the end of the day, that can win a lot of football games.
And certainly, I think that was a factor tonight for us. Impressed how Deacon stepped in. Tough circumstance. Disappointing mostly for Cade. To go down early with an injury like that, we really won’t know his status until early next week but it’s nonetheless very disappointing. I can only imagine how he’s feeling.
But I thought Deacon stepped into a tough situation, did a good job of leading our football team and making good decisions, especially in the second half in some critical situations. He did a good job.
Offensively, we didn’t have a lot of rhythm. Had a couple good drives in the first half, and then didn’t have a lot of rhythm during that part and then it’s kind of like a multiple array of things.
Defensively, we want to get off the field a little quicker at times, but I thought they showed resiliency and kept our opponents out of the end zone. That was a big deal.
The bottom line is you can see a lot of things going on. We have a lot of young guys, and some of it’s mental. Some of it’s physical. But we have a lot to work on, and we’ll get back to that tomorrow.
I think the coaching staff is well aware of what we need to get done and the challenges to get it down and move faster as we move forward.
We have plenty of work to do. Not going to let that ruin tonight, that’s for sure but really proud of our team’s resilience. And bottom line right now we are 4-1, puts at 1-1 in the league, and to get back up on our feet after a tough week on our that’s where we’re at right now.
We’ll celebrate, enjoy this thing tonight and go back to work tomorrow.
- After your win, or loss last week, how was practice this week after a tough loss?
KIRK FERENTZ: I’d be lying if I didn’t say some of it the lingered a little bit, some of the feel, the sting, if you will.
Monday, I thought we were okay. Tuesday we were lacking some things, and then I thought bounced back Wednesday and were good the rest of the week. That one stung. That’s a tough loss and those aren’t much fun when you go through them. But it’s a credit to our guys, and we are getting some good leadership from guys. And we have some bumps right now, some issues we have to deal with, and it’s not going to go away. So we have to deal with that and push through it.
- With Cade, is it going to be a multiple-week-at-best type of situation with him?
KIRK FERENTZ: I don’t want to speculate, but it always is concerning; a guy has to get helped off the field. Considering what he’s been through, it’s really tough. You feel bad for any player that gets injured but in his case, it’s rough.
- Anything for Nick DeJong?
KIRK FERENTZ: Just got done talking to him in the locker room. It seemed like it’s not as bad as it could have been. So no dislocation, anything like that, which is good news.
- What’s your confidence level in Deacon Hill?
KIRK FERENTZ: Deacon, unfortunately has gotten more practice, I don’t mean that in a negative way, but he’s practiced more than a normal No. 2 guy would because of Cade’s first issue.
I think that benefitted him a little bit tonight. But it’s one thing to practice. It’s another thing to step in there when the game is on the line which it was. We had a lot of football to play. I thought he showed good poise out there. Played with confidence. And his teammates, you can see they rallied around him, made some good throws and had some other ones we can probably improve on, but I feel like he did a good job for the first time in a really critical time.
- How’s Cade’s spirits?
KIRK FERENTZ: I mean, you can probably figure that one out yourself. It’s not good. No player who gets injured is feeling too happy about things.
- If he does have to miss extended time, is that for sure Deacon’s job? What’s Joe Labas’ status, as well?
KIRK FERENTZ: Joe missed a lot of time, too, if you remember, coming into camp. Right now Deacon will clearly be 1, and Joe will be 2, and we’ll keep pushing forward.
- Does Deacon give you what he need to succeed on offense, and how?
KIRK FERENTZ: He’s a different style quarterback. He’s a big quarterback but he throws the ball well. It’s his strength and I thought tonight, we hadn’t really seen him in game action, where the game is on the line. And I thought he showed a lot of good things today.
We’ll start with that and just keep pushing forward. And his wherewithal, his presence on the bench and on the headsets was really good, encouraging and that’s also a good thing.
- The last time we saw you lose a starter in a game and have a backup go in like that was Ricky in ’09 and James has to come in, and James was cold playing against Iowa State. Did you see the effect of those one represents from Deacon?
KIRK FERENTZ: It definitely helps. It definitely helps. It’s tough to be the No. 2 quarterback. But yeah, he’s gotten a little bit more work, but also he’s new to our program and he has not played since ’20, I think. So those are the things that you have in the back of your mind that you have to factor in.
For him to get out there and play successfully tonight and lead us to a victory, it should be good for his confidence. All that being said, there’s a lot of work to do.
- What did you see on Cooper’s punt return?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, I’m not sure I would have predicted it based on the way their guy was punting the ball, first of all. He had a couple rockets that we had not seen.
A couple went over Cooper’s head. Gave us bad field position. Then fourth quarter they had one that went out of bounds, plus-50 territory, and then on that one, he got one that we could fuel. As you look out there, he’s catching the football and the gunners, our guys did a good job on their gunners. And coverage, there’s some space in there.
So if Cooper gets space, something good might happen and he did a great job finishing the play. He’s a really good football player.
- Aside from what you just said, how would you define him from somebody who hasn’t seen —
KIRK FERENTZ: I was talking on the radio about the movie, The Natural… really good players don’t look like they are grinding or working that hard out there but they are. Everything he does, just seems to be, it’s like it’s almost instinctive or natural to him. He has a really good sense in the return game and that’s a big part of it.
He’s got the courage to field it, and you know, do something with it, and then he has a good knack in knowing how to read things and where to go. The same thing on defense. He finds a place to be at the intersection of the ball quite frequently, and you know, looked like a tough catch, didn’t get his foot down but somehow he makes it happen.
- You had the fourth-and-one, and kicking the field goal, your thought process with a few minutes left?
KIRK FERENTZ: Emotionally I wanted to go for it. That was my first instinct, and then I think we had stoppage of play, something was going on and I walked down there and it was a little further than I thought. I thought maybe we could just hit it in there quick. It was a little further than I thought, and you know, emotion is one thing but doing the smart thing was the other and I felt like it was best to tie the game and let’s keep playing.
- It’s been interesting watching how opposing offenses have attacked you, more so slicing-and-dicing than attacking downfield. Your secondary has not gotten the turnover rate that you’ve been used to. How important was it for Jermari and Sebastian and Cooper to really get things rolling in that direction?
KIRK FERENTZ: That stuff, if you’re focused on those things, it usually means bad things are going to happen. I’m going to try to encourage the players to do — just play, play the defense and play your spot and if it’s meant to be, it will be if you’re playing it properly. That’s usually how we make big plays defensively.
So when guys start thinking more about getting the pick, that’s usually when bad things end up happening. The ones that came tonight are just a product of the way we’re doing things and guys making good plays. They still have to make a good play. Yeah, we have not been overly worried about that.
Flipping it on the other side, though, the ball security, that’s two weeks in a row now we have done a poor job with that and that’s not going to cut it. We’ve done better in the penalty department but you can’t turn the ball over and we had one for a touchdown today.
- When you look at your wide receivers or receivers in general, six drops or five in passes thrown by Deacon, was it the change in velocity or anything, or was it just they weren’t doing the job?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yeah, there might have been a little touch issue on some of the underneath stuff maybe, I don’t know. I still think the receivers catch the ball, that’s just me. I’m a line coach. If you want the ball, catch the ball.
You know, if we are going to have an offense, we are going to have to do a little better in that partnership and blitz pick ups and we missed one of those tonight which cost us a possession.
And then ball security, you know and our run game, I thought we saw some flashes in the second half, but in the first half there really wasn’t much there in the run game.
So you know, we’re four-plus, five games into it now. We have got to do a little better job on figuring out what we can do given the guys that we have; it’s a moving target with personnel, but figure out what they can do and try to play to their strengths.
If we are going to throw the ball, we have to catch it and that’s the way it is no matter who it is. If a guy can make a spark play on top of it like Erick did today, that’s good football play. That’s getting things going here a little bit.
Just like the picks, usually big plays are a buy product. Guys doing things right and playing hard and maybe breaking a tackle or doing something a little bit extra.
- Tonight was the first time we got to see Drew Stevens go out this season, 44-yarder, 53-yarder. What does he bring to the table that gives you a lot of confidence in him?
KIRK FERENTZ: He has been so consistent, basically. I think it was 19-of-21 last year. Missed two on the whole season.
So if you think about where he was a year ago, spring, when he was here and both our placekicking, just looked terrible that spring, maybe as bad as I’ve seen in a couple decades. The improvement he made just from that time, spring to last fall through the fall, it’s impressive, and he’s a bigger, more mature kid now and he’s done a really nice job.
- Frustration, loudly about the offense and specifically about Brian. What would be your message to them?
KIRK FERENTZ: Well, I mean, 3-and-out isn’t any fun for anybody. I get that. We’re working hard to improve that and that’s what we’re going to do. That’s what we do every year, every season.
- About Colby, and then the running backs, could they be back next week?
KIRK FERENTZ: So Connor came in at the end when Nick came out, Connor came in. He came out of last week’s game a little bit dinged up, if you will, and practiced, I guess, Friday, yesterday and was kind of like an emergency guy but he came out of the game clear, so we’re good to go with him. We’ll get him back in there.
And running backs. We’ll see. Hopefully, if not next week, the week after. It will be good to get a couple more veteran guys in there.
I thought Kamari sticks it up there and runs hard. It’s a good start, but it will be good to have a little more firepower.