IOWA CITY — Michigan State’s punter ran for more yards on one fake than Iowa did in 16 tries.
That, in a nutshell, showed how humbled the Hawkeyes were in suffering their first loss in more than a month.
Connor Cook threw for a career-high 277 yards and two touchdowns and Michigan State opened Big Ten football play with a 26-14 win over Iowa on Saturday.
Darqueze Dennard had a pair of interceptions for the Spartans (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten), who held the Hawkeyes (4-2, 1-1) scoreless in the second half.
“They’re playing good team defense, period,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We knew it was going to be a tough challenge. We weren’t naive to that by any stretch.”
Cook put Michigan State ahead to stay with a 37-yard TD pass to Bennie Fowler early in the third quarter. Freshman Michael Geiger added three field goals in the second half for the Spartans, who held Iowa to 23 yards rushing.
Mark Weisman ran for just 9 yards on seven carries for the Hawkeyes, who saw their four-game winning streak snapped.
“We knew they were a tough team to run the ball against,” Ferentz said. “We didn’t come in thinking we were going to get 280 (yards rushing) on these guys. That wasn’t our thought. But we were hoping we could run it effectively. But the way they’re built, they make it very difficult to do that.”
Iowa was also victimized by yet another successful fake on special teams.
Up 6 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan State pulled off a crucial fake punt. Mike Sadler ran for 25 yards, setting up a 49-yard field goal by Geiger that put the Spartans up 23-14 with 13:28 left.
“We may never try to return one again,” Ferentz said. “To their credit, they made a good call.”
Jake Rudock threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns for the Hawkeyes. But Dennard picked him off twice, including an interception with 5:09 left that largely ended the suspense.
Rudock completed his last 11 passes of the first half for 138 yards and two touchdowns — by far the best stretch of his young career.
Rudock beat a Michigan State blitz by finding Damon Bullock in the flat for a 47-yard touchdown, and he hit C.J. Fiedorowicz for a 10-yard touchdown pass just before the half.
That would be it for the Hawkeyes.
“We got a little tempo going, offense definitely got up a little bit there,” Rudock said. “The half came to an end and we wanted to continue it in the second half and just didn’t do it.”
Cook — who had hooked up with Macgarrett Kings on a 46-yard TD pass in the second quarter — opened the second half with a long touchdown pass to Fowler that gave Michigan State a 17-14 lead.