By Andy Andersen
The gales of November seem to be building for the Michigan Wolverines Football team (now 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten). On Saturday Iowa’s Hawkeyes seized control of the football game early and never let go of it.
An inconsistent defense let the powerful and talented Hawkeye running back Marcus Coker advance the ball effectively from time to time over most of the game, but especially in the first half. Coker lugged 29 times for 140-yards and 2 TTs. The defense did rise up at time and keep Michigan in the game.
M’s offense seemed to be desparately seeking a comfort zone to overcome its own mistakes. They just couldn’t measure up to the level of performance needed to subdue the energized Hawkeyes.
Even with the emergence of Fitzgerald Toussaint as the primary running back and his contributions Saturday, the offense does not seem to be progressing as to points scored as the season advances and as the defenses get tougher, but Fitz had a fine game, hauling 66 time for 58-yards
The Wolverines made Iowa’s heretofore seemingly ordinary B1G Ten defense look very unordinary.
Coach Hoke on missed opportunities: “There are always six to eight plays in a game that are really going to define when you’re playing a good football team, when you’re playing a team on the road. You can think back and there are six or eight of those plays that really determines who executed and who didn’t.”
The Michigan offense helped create some of those plays and helped Iowa more than they wanted to.
Coach Hoke on the miscues against Iowa “We didn’t play Michigan football like we wanted to in the first half. We had an interception when we were driving to try to score at the end of the half; we dropped a snap on a PAT, which we can do 1,000 times and never drop it. There’s a lot to learn from the game, but I’m proud of these kids. I’m proud of how they fought. They kept swinging. We were not perfect by any means, but they stayed together, they fought together, and that’s what Michigan football has been for years.”
Denard laid the ball on the ground. It looked to me the ground seperated the ball fron Denard’s hand as he scrambled, maintaining his balance by putting his ball hand on the ground where it separated. He also threw a red zone interception. It was a tipped ball, and looked to me, but not to the officials, to be pass interference. Unfortunately, in such cases only their opinion counts. And wasn’t there pass interference on the last play of the game?
It would not be accurate to lay this loss all on the likes of Denard or Drew, although their mistakes did contribute (or could have in Drew’s case) to the sad trip home from Iowa City. It was very much a team loss.
Denard Robinson on postgame emotions “They are everywhere. We had some ups and downs. We kept fighting, and that’s one of the good things that we did, but we came out slow. We need to do way better in the first half.”
There were two strange plays in the game that were notable, both fairly late in the game. The first was a long run to an apparent 82-yard TD by Vincent Smith who appeared to be tackled after a short run, fell on Hawkeye tacklers, scrambled off them and sped for what seemed to be a long TD. A review determined his elbow touched and he was ruled down with no TD. That was probably a good call.
The next one was part of Michigan’s last push to score just before time ran out at the end of the game. Hemingway made an outstanding one handed catch of a Denard pass in the back of the endzone, and fell out. It should have been six. Now all the Wolverines would need is a two point conversion to tie. Replays seemed to me to show a catch. There must not have been overwhelming evidence to overturn the ruling on the field of no TD. Nasty call!
Kevin Koger on the last drive: “I think it’s a testament to Coach Borges’ play calling. I thought he called some phenomenal plays and put guys in a position to make plays and they did. The last couple plays were chaotic, but he made the right call. Junior (Hemingway) was out of bounds, but we still need to put the ball in the end zone.”
After the Hemingway out of bounds pass Michigan’s subsequent passing attempts to score failed. First down at the three and four incompletions. With the wheels of Denard available????? Does this indicate a banged up Denard? The 79-yard drive that got them to the three, never turned into an 82-yard drive. The Wolverines outgained the Hawks 323-yards to 302, but were never in control of the game.
Before all that, there was also an errant kick off late in the game that gave the Hawks excellent field position after it went out of bounds.
The defense let 17 opponent points happen in the first half. The offense compounded this by making the mistakes already mentioned. They could not move the ball in the first half outside of a second quarter drive that got M’s sole 1st half TD. After digging the first half hole, they could not climb out.
A tremendous effort by Denard and Company to tie the game late ended in frustration as noted above. Michigan’s luck ran out with the clock.
Denard Robinson had 194-yards passing on 17 of 37 plus 55-yards on the ground. He consistently overthrew long passes, and those statistics speak for themselves. Devin Gardner was one of one for 2-yards. He was sprinkled into the mix at suprising times. It appears that this usage may be hindering rather than helping, from a production standpoint, if not from a continuity standpoint. Devin had a nice run for a first down.
Junior Hemingway dropped a couple early passes which added to the malaise in the first half, but later had some outstanding catches. Others also dropped passes.
To start the game Michigan elected to receive, stalled and punted. Iowa took the lead for good driving for 6. PAT good. M-0, Iowa-7. M responded with a 12-play,61-yard drive. Denard scrambled and hit Fitz in the end zone. PAT failed M-6, Iowa 7. Then the Hawkeyes got a TD and hit a field goal. The half ended 6-17.
M’s defense started out with a bang in the second half. Roh and Heininger and Roh had sacks. Mike Martin also had one. Gibbons hit a 32-yard field goal. M-9,Iowa-17. Coker finished M off with an 11-yard TD run. M-9, Iowa 24. A 7-yard pass to Koger completed a 57-yard drive. M 16, Iowa 24. And that was it.
Even with all that was at stake: a tie for the Legends Division lead, the respectability that accompanies eight wins with three games left, being able to prove that they can win away from home, and to prove that they were not stuck at a three win B1G season as they were last year, they could not get the job done. With all that reward they could not win away from home. Another season with only three wins in the B1G appears a real possibility now. Consider injuries here and injuries there, and three tough B1G games remaining.
Of Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio, it certainly seems that the Illni provide the best opportunity for going to four B1G wins, but that game is at Illinois and therefore iffy for that reason alone, if not for other reasons.
Fortunately, Nebraska and Ohio are at home. Nebraska seems an extreme challenge, even at home. That leaves Ohio. Unfortunately, they seem to be improving.
How will the Blue react to Saturday’s loss ? Coach Hoke: “It’s still November, there’s a lot of game(s)left. There’s a lot of football to be played, there’s a lot of things at stake. Number one, we’ve got 24 seniors who are going to play their last three guaranteed football games at Michigan. We’re always going to coach for them and we’re always going to play for them.”
Here’s wishing them nothing but good luck, and here’s hoping November doesn’t turn out to be a stormy month for Wolverines’ Football.