Momentum in a conference championship game is crucial to success, and the Hawkeyes lost it after a missed 33-yard field goal on their first drive of the game. Michigan took over inside their own 20-yard line and scored a quick touchdown, and responded with another. Two of Iowa’s first three drives went into the Michigan red zone, but only three points came out of it. The Michigan offense took advantage of the Hawkeyes missed opportunities and never gave Iowa a chance to get back into it. The Wolverines win the Big Ten Title 42-3 for the first time since the 2004 season, as Michigan surges past Iowa in Indianapolis.
After forcing a Michigan three-and-out on the first drive of the game, the Hawkeyes took over on their own 26-yard line. Sam LaPorta hauled in two receptions for 36 yards and set Iowa up at the Michigan 17-yard line. Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz went into his bag of tricks and drew up a halfback pass to Monte Pottebaum in the end zone. It was slightly overthrown, and the Hawkeye drive stalled in the red zone. Iowa was forced to settle for a field goal. The majority of Iowa’s success in recent weeks had come from special teams. This time Caleb Shudak’s 33-yard kick sailed wide-right, and Iowa’s successful opening possession resulted in no points. Michigan took over at their own 20-yard line, stealing all of the early Hawkeye momenta.
Quick Wolverine Points
Following the missed field goal, the Wolverines run game made its appearance. Blake Corum broke a 67-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the Michigan possession. He found a wide-open hole in the defensive front and bounced it outside taking it all the way into the end zone virtually untouched. The touchdown was the longest rushing play allowed by Iowa’s defense all season. The previous longest rush allowed this season was for 28 yards. Corum’s score was also the longest allowed by Iowa since the 2014 season.
The ensuing Hawkeye possession was a quick three-and-out, and Michigan took over following the punt. They wasted no time and ran a trick play halfback pass to a wide-open Roman Wilson for a 75-yard touchdown. Iowa’s defense bit on the screen pass, and it left Wilson running behind the defense with no one within 10 yards of him. He took the ball untouched into the end zone, and Michigan shot out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The 75-yard pass was the longest pass play given up by the Hawkeye defense all season, and the longest since 2018. In back-to-back Wolverine possessions, they recorded the two most explosive plays against Iowa in not only this season but multiple years.
Iowa’s Red Zone Struggles
The Hawkeyes entered the Michigan red zone three times in the Big Ten Championship game and only came away with three points. On two of the first three drives, Iowa stalled out inside the opponent’s 15-yard line. Following Michigan’s two quick touchdowns, Spencer Petras and the Hawkeye offense answered with a 10-play, 71-yard drive that brought them to the Wolverine four-yard line. Petras connected with Charlie Jones for 28 yards on the drive. Once they were in the red zone though, Iowa could not generate any meaningful yards. The offense was forced to settle for three. Shudak cut the Michigan lead to 11 points with a field goal.
The scoreboard at the end of the first quarter did not look great, but the offense was moving the ball effectively. The offensive line was providing enough time for Petras in the pocket to put together these drives. Iowa had the ball for 10 minutes in the first quarter and ran 23 plays. Petras tallied nearly 100 passing yards and drove the Hawkeyes into the red zone twice. Of those two possessions, the Hawkeyes only produced seven total yards when inside the red zone. The shortened field was a problem all night against Michigan. It gave Petras less room to look for his receivers, and the Wolverine front seven was able to contain the run game.
The Hawkeyes brought the ball inside the Michigan 20-yard line one more time late in the third quarter down 21-3. At this point in the game, Petras had been replaced with Alex Padilla. He took over with his team down 18 points and orchestrated a 14-play, 60-yard drive into the red zone. The offense again stalled out, netting zero total yards inside the 20-yard line. The Hawkeyes turned it over on downs after opting not to kick the short field goal.
The stop was the Wolverines’ third and final defensive victory in the red zone. They held the Hawkeyes to just three points in three trips inside their 20-yard line. Iowa opting not to take the points and failing to convert on fourth down felt like the final blow. The Michigan defense played exceptionally well with their backs against the wall, and Iowa could not capitalize. On their 10 possessions that did not make it to the red zone, the Hawkeyes averaged just 10.4 yards per drive.
Michigan Surges Past Iowa in Indianapolis
The Wolverines finished the day with 461 total yards of offense. Their attack was balanced with 250 yards coming through the air, and 211 on the ground. Corum averaged 15 yards per carry on five touches. Hassan Haskins took the bulk of the load, finishing with 17 carries for 56 yards and a couple of touchdowns. They finished the game with a touchdown on three of their final four possessions, and Michigan surges past Iowa in Indianapolis. The defense made second-quarter adjustments following the quick Wolverine scores, but Michigan took off in the second half.
The Hawkeyes did set the single-season school record of 24 interceptions against Michigan. Jack Campbell and Jermari Harris each grabbed an interception, but neither turned into points. Much of Iowa’s success this season has come from converting turnovers into points, and that did not happen in Indianapolis. Michigan eliminated one of Iowa’s ingredients of success by preventing costly turnovers. That combined with their dominating performance offensively sprung the Wolverines to their first conference title in 17 years.
At the end of the day, only 20 FBS teams get to play football on the first weekend of December. The 10-win Iowa Hawkeyes were one of those teams. Although the outcome on Championship Saturday was not ideal, this team fought all year. They now have a chance to go out with a division title, upper-tier bowl game victory, and 11 wins.