The Wolverines ran into Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium to face the Hawkeyes in an attempt to secure an important 10th win overall and their 6 th in the Big Ten this season. The Hawkeyes blocked their aspirations as the Michigan Football team did not perform to its season’s standard in Iowa City.
At the beginning of the season, it was thought this would be the second of three tough mandatory road wins necessary to accomplish M’s goal of participating in their first Big Ten East/West Championship game. Only one of the three teams regarded as pre-season toughies, have now been demolished. MSU has been downed, but Iowa was a point better, and that leaves a regular season must win over Indiana, and a must win over you know who.
Long ago it was thought that if the Wolverines downed either of the Spartans or the Buckeyes it would be an entirely successful season. Not anymore. The whole college football enchilada is still in view, but only in view, not yet in reach or in hand. The acceptable margin of error has shrunk with this loss, and the complications have increased. Now they must conquer the offensive minded Hoosiers plus the fabulous Buckeyes at their Columbus home to realize Championship dreams. Those dreams are still achievable, but a little more improbable, after the loss to the Hawkeyes.
HAWKEYES: As this season unfolded the Hawkeyes struggled, and Wolverine chances of a win in Iowa City seemed improved. This season has been more than a little rough on the Hawkeyes, but the Wolverines helped the Hawks forget their woes Saturday as the Hawks ruined the Wolverine’s attempt at a ten game winning streak. That 10th win will have to wait a week for another attempt.
The Hawks had won just 4 overall, and had managed only 3 Big Ten wins. After Saturday against the Wolverines, Iowa had only four Big Ten wins.
If pre-season expectations for the Hawkeyes were accurate, they had sorely underachieved to this point in the season, but they made up for that Saturday.
Even so, they were not overlooked and under estimated by the Wolverines. M knew that there would be a hostile and raucous crowd, with some having all day to prime their enthusiasm for redeeming their season in prime time by whacking the Nations 2nd or 3rd ranked team. The target on the Wolverine’s back had enlarged each game.
The Wolverines also knew that Kinnick had not been kind to the Wolverines on more than one occasion in the past. They also they knew that despite a 41-14-4 pre-game record in the Wolverine’s favor, the Hawkeyes would be determined to win, would be motivated to win, and would be well directed to win by the Head Hawkeye, Coach Kirk Ferentz. And so it proved.
What had seemed an improbable task away from home when the pre-season began, seemed achievable in many fan’s minds as the game approached, but it turned out to not be achievable in fact, as the Hawkeyes played successful David and Goliath.
The play of the Hawkeyes had proved to date to be slow scoring offense attached to a sometimes ineffective defense. To say they had not played well recently was a pregame statement of fact. Unfortunately, none of this applied to Saturday’s game against the Wolverines. The game proved again that football is both a game of talent and emotion. The more emotional Hawkeyes won.
WILTON SPEIGHT WAS NOT AT HIS BEST: Last week he set a first half passing production record. He had improved every game he had started this year, until Iowa.
Prior to Saturday he had averaged 205.3 yards passing per game, had thrown for 2,053 yards through the first nine games, accounted for 15 TDs, and had only thrown 3 interceptions. He had completed 149 passes of 231attempts.
He added to those numbers Saturday against Iowa, but his play against Iowa was not a spectacular performance. He tossed 11/26 for 103-yards. He was some-times good, but not great over all He seemed just a little off. He overthrew two streaking, open receivers. Connections on one of those two throws would have won the game. He had an interception late.
It was a pass thrown into tight coverage, which hit Chesson’s chest, and bounced out his hands into the grasping hands of an alert defender. Fortunately, M’s Stribling shortly returned the favor by capturing a Hawk throw.
There had been a spate of Speight adulations sprouting recently, from coaches, fans, the Big Ten Channel, the media dedicated to Wolverine coverage, and some national coverage. They were all earned and well-deserved, as game by game Wilton had been improving, and becoming an extraordinarily adept quarterback. His play leveled out against Iowa. He still made some great plays, but the offense was not rock solid this time.
Saturday was a learning experience of a different and harsher kind. It was an experience of a kind that he had not had to endure yet this season. He will learn from it, and he will keep working. He will see better days, and compete effectively in the games yet to come.
Of course, he wanted to win Saturday. He said before the game that “we didn’t come this far just to come this far”. That still applies.
THE REST OF THE OFFENSE: The offensive line did not have a good day. While they made some nice plays, when the game was at stake late in the 4th, they could not move the ball to the sticks to secure a first down. That could have saved a victory.
There were no offensive wrinkles for Peppers and he was stopped for short gains, on plays the Hawks expected, and quickly diagnosed.
When a punt ended up near the Michigan goal line, M lined up and tried to run Smith out of the end zone. The OL opened no hole and allowed penetration. Smith was stopped short well into the end zone for a safety. Losing by one point, the two points were critical, and it got the Hawks fired up. It was a turning point. With under 1:54 minutes left, M’s Channing Stribling made an interception that I thought would seal Iowa’s fate. But as in a previous game, the Wolverines could not manage a first down late, and was forced to punt, with nothing less than the game at stake. The Wolverines produced 201-yards of offense, with a paltry 98-yards rushing.
THE DEFENSE COULDN’T STOP THE HAWKS WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE: The defense held Iowa to one TD. That TD was aided by an M personal foul. Iowa had 66-yards passing, and 164-yards passing.
Near the end of the game, an unbelievable call on a Michigan player for a face mask penalty, greased Iowa’s ability to make the slide into winning FG range. A Wolverine player’s hand slid across the Iowa players mask but the mask was not grabbed. There’s a lot of things I don’t understand in this world, and that face mask call remains one of them. While they made many nice plays, M’s defense failed to stop Hawks late in the game when the heat was on. The Hawks had 230-yards of offense, with 164 on the ground.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Kenny Allen’s field goal kicking was superb. Allen’s punts averaged over 40-yards. He misfired on one KO, striking it out of bounds. He hit two field goals: one for 23-yards, and one for 51- yards. Jabrill Peppers had a nice KO return for 16-yards, plus a punt return for 9-yards.
The M kick off receiver team fumbled on M’s opening drive of the second half. An engaged M blocker brushed the runner, and the ball was suddenly loose and was recovered by Iowa. It was a short kick received by a fullback.
The first quarter contained some oddities. Two consecutive Michigan roughing the kicker penalties spelled doom to a drive. A failed fake punt failed when the kicker tripped rolled head over heals and got bumpeld a little on the helmet of the Hawkeye. It was judged targeting and M’s Devin Bush was expelled for the game.
M v Iowa: M deferred, and the two teams traded punts.
About mid quarter, M finally got rolling, but stalled as several incompletions put the ball on the ground. Kenny Allen put it through the uprights from 26-yards out, and it was three to zip.
Iowa went on an 11-play jaunt but missed a 46-yard FG.
M’s Jake Butt nabbed an 8-yard pass. Peppers, Smith and McDoom rushed for short yardages, Chesson caught a 29-yarder, and Darboh a 5-yard pass. Ty Isaac swept into the end zone on a very nice 7-yard run. The Wolverines were up 10 to zip. It was M’s drive of the day, covering 72-yards in 9 plays.
The Hawks produced a punt of 54-yards to the Michigan 2. This had consequences as Smith was lined up deep in the end zone, and after the snap was tackled there for a safety (two points). The offensive line did not get the needed push, and Smith was stopped dead in his tracks in the end zone. M had to kick to Iowa so the lost a player and the ball to a so-called targeting incident.
Iowa moved from its own 48, starting with a 27-yard pass, and a 7-yard screen. A Michigan personal foul assisted the drive. A three yard pass afforded 6 points, but the two point conversion failed.
At the half it was Michigan 10-Iowa 8.
There was reassurance in the minds of many M fans knowing that their offense would receive to begin the second half. A fumbled KO return trashed those thoughts as the ball fell into the possession of the Hawks. The Hawkeyes got the ball at the M 43.
They then moved to the M 25 with several short runs, but a run stopped for a loss and an incompletion stopped them cold. A 25-yard FG ensued and it was Wolverines 10, Hawkeyes 11.
The Wolverines did not score in the third quarter, so that is how the quarter ended.
In the next Wolverine possession, Evans and Smith had short gains. Jake Butt made a great catch on an off angle pass for 17-yards to earn a 1st down. After a couple of short passes, Allen punted but the holder was roughed, and the ball was at the Hawks 36. Smith had two rushes for nine. Higdon lost 6-yards. Allen hit the longest FG of his career to finish the Wolverines scoring. The Wolverines had 13, and the Hawks 11.
A Wilton pass to Chesson was intercepted, and Michigan’s Stribling returned the favor.
Michigan could not move the ball and punted.
With the call of a face mask penalty on the Wolverines the Hawkeyes proceeded into FG range. The die was cast by the assistance of that nefarious FM call on the Wolverines. The 33-yard Iowa FG put the winning points on the board and it was 13-14 Iowa.
The Wolverines will regroup and be better than ever.
Except now there is a narrower window to a Championship game because they now have to beat Ohio State, on their premises, to stay even. The path would have been easier to enter Columbus undefeated.
Bring on Indiana and Go Blue!