Rose Bowl in sight, Iowa still fights to forget finish against Michigan State

LOS ANGELES -- After every game it plays, no matter the ramifications, Iowa employs a 24-hour rule.

The Hawkeyes get one day to look back -- in joy, satisfaction, disappointment, anger, regret. Get it all out, because when the 24 hours end, it’s time to move on.

Depending on whom you ask, the rule, put into practice in the wake of Iowa’s 16-13 loss on Dec. 5 to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, was either difficult to follow or completely unrealistic.

“Doesn’t matter if we would have won the game,” Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard said, “you’ve still got to put it behind you.”

Easier said than done. The Hawkeyes’ first loss in 13 games this year booted them from contention for the College Football Playoff. And the game ended in excruciating form as Michigan State used 22 plays -- the longest such drive nationally this season -- to cover 82 yards in 9:04, scoring with 27 seconds left on its sixth third- or fourth-down conversion of the possession.

“That’s the perfect way to end a game,” said Stanford’s All-America left tackle, Kyle Murphy.

He would think that.

The memorable ending, which propelled MSU into the playoff, left Iowa in a state of disbelief. The Hawkeyes received a fantastic consolation prize with a berth in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Friday against the Cardinal (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET). But Iowa players struggled to forget the last game.

They still struggle to cope with the 22-play drive. Never mind the 24-hour rule. It’s been 24 days. The MSU hangover may, in fact, impact Iowa in the Rose Bowl -- as a motivator or perhaps something more detrimental.

“Well, you know, it’s just one of those things,” defensive end Nate Meier said Monday. “It was pretty hard, because we’d come so far.”

Meier said he harbored personal regrets for failing to sack Michigan State’s Connor Cook when the opportunity existed on a first-down scramble halfway through the possession.

“I thought I kind of messed it up for everybody,” Meier said.

Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell watched the last drive multiple times, including once, alone, on his iPad, one day after it happened.

“You’ve got to understand what you did wrong,” Jewell said. “I just had to find out. I couldn’t just wait a day. I needed to know now what I needed to do.”

Jewell said he learned that small details doomed the Hawkeyes. There were no major errors from the Iowa defense. Michigan State managed no play longer than 15 yards and just two that covered more than 10 yards. It earned every inch -- not that it makes the Hawkeyes feel any better.

What bothered Jewell most, in fact, was the 1-yard run by L.J. Scott to reach the end zone.

“It’s hard to let go,” Jewell said.

Iowa broke from team activities to take final exams after the defeat. When practices resumed, coach Kirk Ferentz gathered team to watch film of the title game.

“There was some salt in the wounds,” Iowa left tackle Boone Myers said. “No one really wanted to see it. But you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to dissect the tape. It was probably good for us.”

That’s debatable.

“You can’t really think about what could’ve been -- should’ve, would’ve, all that,” said Cole Croston, the Hawkeyes’ right tackle. “What happened, happened, and we all have to live with that.”

Stanford, with its 18th-ranked rushing attack behind superstar back Christian McCaffrey and a star-packed offensive line, no doubt, would take great pride in using Michigan State’s final drive as a road map to success against the Hawkeyes.

“Going to the Rose Bowl,” Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson said, “that’s motivation enough” to fully move past the finish in Indianapolis.

Is he right? We’ll find out Friday.