Methodical, consistent, and on a mission. Those were the qualities exhibited by the visiting team inside on Saturday afternoon. Michigan had not won a game inside Kinnick Stadium in 17 years. The Wolverines ended that streak against Iowa with a convincing 27-14 win. Iowa falls to Michigan at home, unable to pull within striking distance of another top-five upset. The difference in this one for the Hawkeyes was a lack of turnovers gained and an offense that continues to be inept. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Michigan had run 56 total plays compared to Iowa’s 32. The Hawkeyes managed a couple of fourth-quarter scores to make the final score look more competitive. However, it was Michigan’s that showed they could string long drives together against a tough defense for a win in their first road test of the season.
Serious Concern on Offense
With just under six minutes remaining in the game, Iowa had just strung together a 78-yard drive that began on their own 17-yard line. Michigan forced a fourth and two in the red zone, leaving Iowa with an obvious decision to go for it. A touchdown in this situation would have cut the deficit to 6 points. Iowa’s call out of the huddle, however, was a one-yard out route to the tight end. The ball was underthrown but still caught, for a gain of one yard. Turnover on downs.
Take away the handful of drive-killing penalties and lack of explosiveness on offense shown on Saturday, it’s these kinds of questionable calls that spark serious concern with the offense. A first down conversion on this play would have given the Hawkeyes a fresh set of downs at Michigan’s four-yard line. An ensuing touchdown may have changed the entire course of the game. However, a one-yard pass route was called in the huddle when two yards were needed.
Defense Does Their Job
Hawkeye linebackers Seth Benson and Jack Campbell had solid games. The two combined for 25 tackles and half of the team’s tackles for loss. They helped hold Michigan’s Blake Corum to 133 yards on 29 carries. It sounds odd to say “hold” in that sense, but that 4.6 yards per carry was his lowest of the season. Corum had just one touchdown that he scored very late in the game after it was already out of reach. In general, the defense did a solid job keeping him from breaking off big plays and forcing Michigan to put together long drives.
The Wolverines had five scoring drives, with four totaling 11, 13, 13, and 10 plays, respectively. In the Big Ten Championship game last year, Michigan had multiple long-scoring plays on Iowa that made for very short drives. Those kinds of burst plays can be detrimental to the confidence of a defense, and Iowa did a solid job of limiting that on Saturday. Instead, they forced them to piece together long drives. Michigan actually had just two rushes of more than 15 yards. They were for 16 and 20 yards, respectively, and both resulted in touchdowns.
Iowa Falls to Michigan at Home
It’s unfortunate that with a defense as stout as Iowa’s, they aren’t able to complement it with a consistent offense. The Hawkeyes had three drives resulting in negative total yards. Also, just three of their 10 offensive drives ended inside the Michigan 40-yard line. One of those was a competitive touchdown, one was a garbage-time touchdown, and the other was the questionable one-yard pass on fourth and two.
Iowa travels to Champaign next Saturday to play a very good Illinois team. The Fighting Illini have not allowed a touchdown inside their home stadium this season. They also have one of the top defenses in the conference. This next matchup for Iowa will be a season-defining game. At 3-2 on the year, the Hawkeyes have some daunting road trips coming up. The fight for bowl eligibility will begin next weekend in Champaign.