INDIANAPOLIS – Tevaun Smith asked for a chance. When he got it, the Iowa receiver delivered.
Trailing Michigan State, 9-6, in the Big Ten Championship game Saturday here at Lucas Oil Stadium, Smith hauled in an 85-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Beathard on the first play of the fourth quarter. It was the Hawkeyes’ longest play from scrimmage this season.
“I felt like I could get separation and I told (the coaches) that during the game,” Smith said.
It wasn’t the catch that Smith wanted to talk about, however. The ball bounced off his hands on a similar attempt later in the game. And the Hawkeyes (12-1) ended up losing, 16-13, in the final minute.
“I felt like I should have caught that ball,” Smith said. “That was my fault. I should have caught that ball. At least I should have high-pointed it. There were two guys closing in and I saw them in my peripheral and I kind of lost track of that ball. It’s a catch I should have made.”
Fourth-ranked Iowa stalled on offense for most of the game, particularly the third quarter when it managed just three yards on seven plays. Then, out of nowhere, Beathard dropped back and uncorked a beautiful deep pass. Smith hand-battled with the Spartans defensive back before freeing himself, nabbing the ball and sprinting into the end zone.
“I felt like I got the separation (early in the route) but the ball took a while to get there to me so we were kind of hand fighting and fortunately I caught it. And then unfortunately I couldn’t get the other one,” Smith lamented.
The Hawkeyes passing game was compromised by their inability to run the ball. They were held to a season-low 52 yards on 24 carries and 268 yards overall.
INJURY REPORT: Jordan Canzeri went down with a right leg injury late in the first quarter after gaining nine yards on a run. The senior running back from New York appeared to be in a great deal of pain and walked very gingerly to locker room shortly after exiting the game. He did not return.
Nathan Bazata left the game in the second quarter. Trainers worked on the sophomore defensive tackle’s right knee and fitted him with a brace. He returned to start the second half.
Ben Niemann started the game after being knocked out early in last week’s Nebraska contest. Team doctors took the sophomore linebacker from Illinois through concussion protocol this week but he was able to practice from Tuesday on.
Nate Meier, who injured his leg at Nebraska, also opened the game at his normal left defensive end spot. He was limited in practice this week and has been dealing with a shoulder injury most of the season.
ALL DRESSED UP: Hawkeyes in uniform for the championship game.
QB – Beathard, Cook, Boyle, Wiegers.
RB – Canzeri, Mitchell Jr., Kulick, L. Daniels, Wadley, Cox, Plewa.
WR – Parker, McCarron, Vandeberg, Scheel, Hillyer, T. Smith, J. Smith, Stone, Falconer.
TE – Outsey, Wisnieski, Duzey, Krieger Coole, Pekar, Kittle.
OL – Render, Daniels, Welsh, Myers, Walsh, Boettger, Ferguson, Ward, Simmons, Ferentz, Blythe, Croston
DL – Cooper, Nelson, Bazata, Spears, Johnson, Gressel, Ekakitie, Terlouw, Meier, Brincks, Hulett, Hesse
LB – Niemann, Jewell, Fisher, Hockaday, Mends, Perry, Bower.
DB – King, Gervase, Ward, Lomax, Mabin, Taylor, Jackson, Snyder, Fleming, Gair, Draper,
ST – Kidd, Koehn, Kluver, Recinos.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Here’s how the Hawkeyes lined up on special teams on Saturday.
Kick Return – King, McCarron, Cox, Kulick, Plewa, Kittle, Snyder, Hockaday, Bower, Perry, Falconer.
Kick Coverage – Koehn, Draper, Falconer, Snyder, Fleming, Hockaday, Ward, Perry, Bower, Riemann, Fisher.
Punt Return – Mostly punt safe.
Punt Coverage – Kidd, Kluver, Jewell, Hulett, Plewa, Ward, Snyder, Perry, Fisher, McCarron, Jackson.
EXTRA-POINTS: All of the Iowa Seniors went out onto the field for the pre-game coin toss…Akrum Wadley started the game at running back, went in motion and caught a screen pass on the opening play of the night…When Michigan State took a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter, it was the first time the Hawkeyes had trailed in a game since the second quarter at Indiana on Nov. 7, a stretch of just more than three and a half contests…Iowa finished 3 of 12 on third downs after going 0 for 9 last week at Nebraska. The Spartans converted 10 of 20 Saturday…The game set a Big Ten Championship game attendance record of 66,977…The Hawkeyes ran just 16 plays in the second half. Michigan State ran 52 plays…Jordan Lomax led Iowa in tackles with 10 while teammate Cole Fisher added nine. Josey Jewell added eight tackles and an interception to go with two quarterback hurries.