Senior cornerback Greg Castillo was in the right place at the right time on the final play of the game, intercepting a pass that deflected off the outstretched hands of Iowa defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat and intended receiver Keith Mumphery.
Castillo got both hands on the ball, then re-gripped it for the interception.
“It was pretty tough (to catch after two deflections),” Castillo said. “I really concentrated.”
Castillo briefly started to run, then realized the game would be over as soon as the play ended and went down to the turf on his own.
“It took a little bit to process,” said Castillo, who had his first career interception in Iowa's previous game, two weeks ago against Minnesota.
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said the Spartans were stunned by the sudden turn of events.
“The ball was thrown a little high, and (Mumphery) got his fingers on it and tipped it,” Dantonio said. “If the ball is a half-inch shorter it's probably a catch and a first down. But the ball gets tipped right to the defender standing there.
“As promising as things look, it can change immediately, and it's tough. When you're on the sidelines it's very difficult to handle.”
Meyer stays steady
Iowa's Mike Meyer, who entered the game ranked fourth nationally in field goals made per game, tied a career best by converting four field goal attempts.
He improved to 14 of 15 for the season, which included making his last 13 tries. He connected from 27 and 42 yards in the two overtime periods in Saturday's 19-16, come-from-behind win at Michigan State.
“Mike Meyer has grown so much the last six to eight months,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He's a guy we count on and he really delivered today.”
Meyer, also good from 23 and 28 yards on a rainy day in East Lansing, Mich., is 42 of 52 for his career in field goal attempts.
The junior from Dubuque, Iowa, now has 213 points, ranking ninth on Iowa's career scoring list.
Cotton proving to be big-play threat
Wide receiver Jordan Cotton made another big play Saturday, returning a second-quarter kickoff 82 yards for an apparent touchdown.
The touchdown was negated because of a block-in-the-back penalty by backup tight end Ray Hamilton — a meaningless penalty for shoving the kicker, who had no chance of catching Cotton and who appeared to be trying to coerce Hamilton into making contact. Hamilton took the bait.
Still, Cotton's return gave Iowa the ball at midfield and set up a Meyer field goal that got the Hawkeyes on the board and cut the deficit to 10-3.
Cotton, a junior from Mount Pleasant, Iowa, caught a 47-yard touchdown pass in Iowa's last game, a win two weeks ago over Minnesota.
Iowa offense saves its best for last
Saturday's biggest play might have been James Vandenberg's 35-yard completion to Keenan Davis on second-and-26 from Iowa's 16-yard line. It keyed Iowa's game-tying touchdown drive that made it 13-13 with 55 seconds left.
The late scoring drive also included a 37-yard run by Mark Weisman that carried to the Michigan State 8. Those two plays accounted for 72 of Iowa's 257 total yards — 28 percent of the offense.
“At halftime, I can't imagine what those stats looked like,” Vandenberg said. “That final series was probably the story of the game. We started out first-and-25 with not a lot of time on the clock, and we hadn't done much to that point.”
Bits and pieces
Ferentz won his 100th game as Iowa's coach. He's 100-68 with the Hawkeyes and 112-89 overall, counting his time at Maine. ... Defensive lineman Joe Gaglione recorded his team-leading fourth sack of the season in the first quarter. His nine tackles are a career high. ... Vandenberg was intercepted in Iowa territory on Iowa's first possession, marking the first time the Hawkeyes failed to score on an opening drive this season. ... Saturday was the first time since the season opener that the Hawkeye offensive line has allowed a sack.
— Rob White