The mood amongst the large gathering of Michigan fans who made the trip to Iowa City was one of concern and annoyance. I spent a large portion of the night looking at others in Maize and Blue shaking my head in disbelief. Iowa’s only viable path for winning a game against a vastly superior Wolverine squad was unfolding in front of our eyes. The evening turned on a punt, which had to be Kirk Ferentz’s dream scenario. Late in the first half Ron Coluzzi pinned Michigan at their 1 yard line. Two plays later a ridiculous safety turned an annoying 10-0 lead into a contest. Iowa then scored again to make the score 10-8 at halftime. Ferentz and his Hawkeyes had the exact game they needed: a slop fest.
The Iowa offense put up 9 points through 58 minutes of play. Michigan’s lead was just two at that juncture thanks to the offense’s worst outing of the year. Speight had uncharacteristically misfired on one open deep shot after another, any of which would’ve sealed the game. Chris Evans averaged 6.5 yards per carry on 8 touches, but was noticeably absent in the final drives of the game. In spite of the offensive struggles, Michigan’s defense made the play that should have closed out the game. Taco Charlton hit CJ Beathard as he released a deep pass and Channing Stribling intercepted the under thrown ball on Michigan’s 16 yard line. With 1:54 left in the game, Michigan’s offense trotted on to the field 10 yards away from pulling out a win on the road and headed to 10-0. They were just 10 yards away.
This team had been in this position before. Against Michigan State in 2015, the Michigan defense came up with a huge stop and the offense took over with 1:47 on the clock. Again, 10 yards away from sealing a win. Twice in the last two seasons the team has failed to pick up 10 yards when it truly mattered to seal a football game. Understand that many many factors contributed to this loss and this is not to short change any of them. BUT, despite the poor offensive play and the truly appalling officiating the Wolverines had the ball and the lead with under two minutes to go. Victory was in their grasp and it slipped away.
The Final Offensive Series
Let’s take a look at that final offensive series starting with 1st and 10 on the Michigan 16 yard line.
Eddie McDoom is circled and DeVeon Smith is the RB. Desmond King (#14) and Bo Bower (#41) call out the formation and the defensive backfield adjusts for the sweep. Based on how this play unfolded it wouldn’t have mattered which running back (Smith, Higdon, Evans, or Isaac) was receiving the carry. Here’s why:
McDoom motions across the formation like a jet sweep. Iowa’s defense responds to this by doing the exact opposite of what we’ve seen in previous weeks. The corner responsible for McDoom does not go flying across the formation in pursuit and the linebackers do not shift at all. Instead, the safety comes up to take McDoom and everyone else stays home.
If McDoom gets the ball I think there is a decent chance he gets the corner. Instead Smith is plowing into two unblocked linebackers and King. Any yardage gained here is a miracle as four offensive players are blocking against seven defenders.