The Hoosier’s rushed into Michigan Stadium with their expectations of victory soaring due to the formerly undefeated Wolverine’s one point miscue in Iowa City Saturday.
Before their tenth game stumble, the Wolverines had impressively forged nine consecutive wins, and held a Big Ten tally of six wins, no losses. They retained their national three ranking after that loss.
Saturday’s win over Indiana was a hard fought battle which was styled a “slobberknocker” by Coach Harbaugh afterwards.
This season the amount of attention centered on the team and Coach Harbaugh has been extraordinary. Some of it was sour grapes, but most of it was laudatory, both for the Wolverine’s, their high profile Coach, and for rising QB Wilton Speight.
Before Iowa, Wilton Speight led the Big Ten passers, but was disabled by a shoulder injury in that game.
Back up John O’Korn was not a spectacular passer in his first start as M’s QB Saturday. He produced only 59-yards passing on seven of fifteen passing as the offense relied heavily on the running game. How much of that was a result of the absolutely miserable weather conditions during this game, Harbaugh’s close to the vest play calling, or John’s abilities is impossible to divine.
The blustery winds even affected the goal posts as they sometimes trembled at their tops. Sleet and snow, light but persistent at times, became heavier at the end of the game when the field was blanketed in a thin cover of snow. The worst nature can offer, no. Was it bad enough to affect the comfort of the fans, and play on the field, hell yes.
Despite the tough loss against the Iowa Hawkeyes and having key injuries occur, the Wolverines are still in the hunt for a Big Ten Championship and more importantly still in control for a national title after three of the top five teams crumbled this past weekend. However, Michigan suffered their first loss which has left no room for error and must win out, possibly without their starting quarterback.
Kinnick Stadium was everything that we expected. It was very possible that they could have lost. But no one expected that they would be handed their first lost in Iowa City. Some even thought that it was our “first tough” road game (apparently playing in East Lansing is no big deal). With it being a night game, the underperforming Hawkeyes, who started 17th in the preseason AP poll rankings, played like they had nothing to lose and insisted to ruin our season with a last second field goal. After the game, senior captains defensive end Chris Wormley and John Mackey Award semifinalist Jake Butt greeted the media in disbelief but remained hopeful for the remainder of the season.
“When it comes down to it, we didn’t make the plays we needed,” Wormley said. “Plain and simple, they made more plays than us. A few things went their way. Looking at today, we’ll look back at the film, see what we did wrong, see what we did right. Figure out those things. But at the end of the day that we lost.”
“We left a lot of opportunities, a lot of plays out on the field today,” Butt said. “There were some big plays we left out on the field. We’re just going to have to look in the mirror, look at the film, and become better because of this. There’s really no excuse. There’s absolutely no excuse. We’ve got to be a lot better than we were today.”
Harbaugh stressed to the team after the game that it’s not over yet and that their goals are still ahead of them.
“Just keep going,” Wormley said. “We’ve got two more games left. We win those two, we’re right where we need to be. Just got to get those done. There’s a lot of things we left out there, a lot of things we could have done better. We’ll watch the film and continue to keep working.”
The fourth quarter was an absolute mess for the Wolverines’. Not only could they uncharacteristically stop the run but they would suffer multiple injuries as well. One being the heart of the secondary, Delano Hill who left the game with an undisclosed injury. Both Channing Stribling and Wilton Speight also injured their shoulders. It appears that Striblings’ injury is nothing too serious to be worried about but Speights’ shoulder has me a little concerned regarding the rest of the season.
There have been non-stop rumors of him being questionable for the Wolverines final home game against Indiana to him being declared out for the season. But Harbaugh is denying anything that is circulating around and currently saying that “its day-to-day thing right now”. We may not even know till the afternoon kickoff if he’s even able to play or not. To be honest, it’s sounding a lot like his decision when he announced the season starter before the opening game against Hawaii.
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) November 14, 2016
If Speight is out for this week, John O’Korn is likely to step in and showcase as to why he should’ve gotten the call as the starter. So, who the hell is O’Korn?
O’Korn started his freshman year at Houston, passing for 3,117 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2013 while leading the Cougars to an 8-5 record on the year. Even though his first year went well, his sophomore year didn’t go as planned. O’Korn then lost the job to Greg Ward Jr. after a 2-3 start his sophomore year. Houston would go 6-2 the rest of the way as O’Korn watched from the sideline. He then transferred to Michigan and had to sit out a year due his transfer which was made official in February of 2015.
— JOK (@JohnOKorn) February 5, 2015
Many people had believed that O’Korn might have been the better option for his ability to scramble out of the pocket and make big plays down the field. Quite frankly there is an argument for that case. O ‘Korn is a pro-style quarterback who fits the Michigan system better than the spread at Houston. But Harbaugh knows his quarterbacks and it obviously showed what separated the two QBs’ apart as Speight progressed every game and led the team to a 9-0 record before falling to Iowa.
“He watches film after practice probably more than anybody I have seen at the college level, which is weird for someone who isn’t asked to play as much as he does (because) he’s not the starter,” U-M co-captain Chris Wormley said Tuesday night after practice. “I guess doing that for the past 2-3 months, it’s going to help him out big-time, starting Saturday.”
It’s frightening to know that it is November and a new quarterback may be taking over the helm with two of the most important games remaining on the schedule. O’Korn is a hard worker and by the sounds of it has been waiting for his opportunity to come knocking at the door. He doesn’t have to play great this weekend. He must be consistent, smart and protect the football. If his teammates believe in him, so should we.
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.