Hawkeye Defense Saves the Day

The Iowa defense came to play on Saturday and that’s a good thing, because the offense did more harm than good for half of the contest.

Iowa spotted Michigan a 7-0 lead after their first play, a Jake Rudock pick six, then the Hawkeyes missed one field goal and botched another attempt in the first half and at one time were down four turnovers…

Those are things that you rarely overcome in a college football game unless you’re playing against an FCS school, much less a program with a proud tradition like Michigan.

I chose the word tradition intentionally, because Michigan is a shell of their former selves. This is not a great Michigan team and is barely an average team in 2013, much less comparing them to the historic Michigan standard.

That said, Iowa teams just don’t typically overcome those turnovers and missed opportunities…but this Iowa team did.

Iowa gained 408 yards on the coldest ever football game in Kinnick Stadium, including 239 through the air, but it was the defense who led the way. Michigan gained just 158 yards, had just nine non-penalty first downs and gained just 60 yards rushing.

Anthony Hitchens had one of his best games as a Hawkeye as he absolutely erased Michigan ball carriers. He was relentless in the blitz and his forced fumble late in the game might have saved it, as the Wolverines were nearing field goal range at the least. He stripped it and recovered it near the boundary.

This game still had a great number of flaws, many of the same flaws that have been frustrating Iowa fans all year, namely the confusion as to why Greg Davis calls the plays he does at the times he does.

I think we’ve all seen enough naked bootlegs in or near your own endzone. I think we’ve all seen enough Mark Weisman on the outside zone plays.

To that end, Iowa actually used Jordan Canzeri and Mark Weisman in tandem, featuring plays for each that suited their skill set. It looked great and I hope we see more of that next year as Canzeri is a weapon that needs to be used often. He’s Iowa’s best shot at breaking a big play and he needs his reps.

Jake Rudock really struggled for much of the day, throwing three interceptions in the loss. But he flushed many of those bad plays and made some good ones down the stretch. Tevean Smith is climbing the ladder as a go-to guy for next year, finishing with five receptions for 87 yards including a 55-yard touchdown grab. He caught the ball around 15 yards downfield and it was a beauty of a catch, then he outran the Michigan secondary in for the score just 1:25 into the second half and Iowa had new life after trailing 21-7 at the break.

It wasn’t pretty, but it rarely is for Iowa. Wait, let me amend that statement; the offense is rarely pretty and it wasn’t on Saturday…but that defense…oh that defense was a thing of beauty. When you sneak peak ahead to next year, Iowa will return all of it’s defensive linemen it finished the season with and they will be better. The Hawkeyes will miss the linebacking corp to be sure, but Desmond King has been a revelation at corner and Jordan Lomax has some reps under his belt, too. Tanner Miller moves on but I think Iowa figures out a way to be OK there. Lowdermilk could move to free and someone else play strong, too.

On this day, the Iowa defense played it mostly straight in the first half and brought the heat in the second half. The heat is what was necessary because Michigan has wilted against pressure all year and did on Saturday, too.

Iowa moves to 7-4 with the win. I picked them 6-6 before the start of the year so they have exceeded my expectations. They’ve likely played their way out of a bowl game in Texas and their three most likely destinations will be the Buffalo Wild Wings (Tempe), Gator Bowl or Outback Bowl. They have to win next week for the Outback to come into play, and this is all assuming Minnesota loses its last two games against Wisconsin and Michigan State.

  • jeffbucik

    With all its warts, Jon, don’t you agree this is our most satisfying win in a really long time? The offense struggled overall, sure, but for crying out loud, they came back from 21-7! You do one thing here that I hate you and all pundits for: “Yeah, we beat Michigan, but not a REAL Michigan team!” Damn you, Jon! It’s 22 guys in those blue and yellow uniforms and those stupid helmets! IT’S MICHIGAN. When Michigan beats us, nobody ever says, “Well, OK, but this isn’t an Iowa team in the best traditions of Evy and Hayden, etc.” I DEMAND YOU REPUDIATE THAT EVIL REMARK! … Seriously, though, two of Jake’s three pics were pretty tough. The first one is on his O-line. If he doesn’t get rid of that ball, he’s got a safety. The third one was short and on the ground; the Mich defender just made a great play. Anyway, do you agree with me that Jake and the receivers look like they’re starting to get this catch-and-run procedure? The offense certainly ought to be better next year. Everybody’s back. Maybe Brandon will even think about giving us another year, though I’m not sure that would be my advice if I were his father. Go Hawks.

    • westsidebill

      Jeff:

      Jon is right about Michigan – it’s one of their poorer teams in their history.

      The Rudocks picks were ugly – 2 shouldn’t haven’t even been thrown and the third was telegraphed HS-style. His lack of arm strength also floated WAY too many balls with and against the wind, which really makes me wonder if Iowa will be able to cover for that deficiency in the future or not. In today’s college game you need to be able to at least threaten folks with the deep ball and have some semblance of a passing game in cold weather. It’s a fact.

      In the meantime, it’s refreshing to see a comeback win after playing such sloppy ball. It’s always good to be the Wolverines – even when they’re not close to their best.

      • jeffbuck

        No, I don’t agree on taking credit away from Iowa because Michigan isn’t as great as some Michigan teams. They are Michigan and we won because we are better. Michigan has often been better than us and nobody denied them the wins. We beat Michigan, the Michigan that showed up today, the only Michigan. Case closed….

        • westsidebill

          That’s fine. Different minds, different opinions (one correct, one not…..).

  • Ryan

    Way to go hawks. What a great day for the D. Tavon had a huge day and JR showed a short memory though two of the interceptions were not entirely his fault. Carl Davis and Hitch showed great athletic ability today as they have all year. Can’t get over how much this D has improved. And to think the d line was the huge question mark coming into the year. Great depth as well. Now roll the huskers!

    • westsidebill

      It still sorely lacks a pass rush but has been fairly stout against the run. Should we have a pass rush next year from the front four, the integration of 3 new LB’s will be much easier.

      • jeffbuck

        The “lack of a pass rush” is by design. It is run/contain type of defense, not designed to tally sacks. The fact that we got a few, as well as misc. behind-the-line tackles, is a tribute to the terrible Michigan offensive line.

        • westsidebill

          The lack of pass rush isn’t always by design; it’s mostly out of lack of pass-rush talent. The “design” thing has been trotted out every time there’s limited pass-rush talent = too many times that last few seasons.

      • Ryan

        Perhaps I could play the highlight video of last years d line which would last all of 10 seconds. Trinca Passat and Davis have been very solid this year. Their is also depth at the position which is even better for the future.

  • Great D

    The defense has been great most of the year because Phil Parker has made adjustments and the kids have improved. The D throttled Wisconsin, for example, and except for an inept O, the Hawks would have had an easy win over the Badgers. Can’t say enough good things about the whole defense–scheme and all.

    The offense is almost the exact opposite. Still no discernible identity. Play-calling still seems like a grab bag, and the success of that game-clinching rollout pass to CJF proves, once again, why that play should be a staple, especially in the red zone.

    Rudock has played adequately for 3 or 4 games now. Maybe it’s because he’s banged up, but there’s no good reason Beathard hasn’t been getting some playing time. And if he doesn’t transfer, I’d have to question his judgment. I hope Beathard is getting plenty of 1st team snaps in practice so he’s ready for Nebraska.

    Anyway, it was a great show by the fans and a super performance by the defense. But today’s win will soon be forgotten unless it’s followed by a win over the hated boys from Lincoln. I hope Iowa shows that ABC national audience some real offense to go along with its great defense.

    • westsidebill

      Beathard might go or he might not; either way, I’d be keeping my eye more on Shimonek in the meantime. He’s GD’s guy from Texas; he’s a gunslinger and should he ever get a chance I believe he’ll surprise some folks.

      • louie

        nobody will play QB for us the next 2 years except Rudock.That’s the Ferentz way at every position.

    • jeffbuck

      Wearying on all the trashing of the Iowa offense. We scored more points than Michigan.

      • westsidebill

        The Iowa offense had 4 turnovers and was a roller coaster all day. They played well enough to win – which is always a positive. Don’t make it out to be any more or any less than it was = a victory.

  • westsidebill

    That’s a nice write-up Jon, but I think we are both waiting to find out the truth of this game from Willie Vonnegut.

  • louie

    the only player we will miss on D next year is hitchens .miller graduating will be big plus for defense.I think we will be better on D next year.since a lot of people said 6-6 was a good record this year with this schedule {which was actually not hard}Next year 9 wins or more or everybody is fired.

    • jeffbuck

      You don’t think we’ll miss James Morris? Or the three of them in general? We have one (1) linebacker coming back with significant game experience, to wit, Spearman, who has certainly not had a great deal. I agree as to Miller. He’s rendered us some service, but I do hope we can improve in that position.

    • westsidebill

      No, all 3 LB’s will be missed; I daresay that AT TIMES even Tanner Miller will be lost. All 3 LB’ers will be missed though louie.

  • jeffbuck

    “Beating Michigan never, never gets old.” An apt quote from one of the fans posting on Black Heart Gold Pants. That is the point here. It always sucks when we lose and nobody gives us the time of day. We won. Michigan sucks.

  • Coach W

    I don’t buy this “bad” Michigan crap. The fact is they were a 7-3 team. A team very capable of beating us, and a quality win for the team. Take time to celebrate the positives, instead of trashing the quality of the win or the offense. Is the offense flawed? Yes, but at the same time their were just as many good calls to outbalance the poor ones, yet the poor ones are always magnified. That is how calling offense is. Everyone loves the big play and expects you to call it, but a couple bad calls, and suddenly you don’t know what you are doing. I can tell you that on 3rd and long, that call to throw to CJ was the perfect play call. Take it for what it’s worth.

    • jeffbuck

      There you go, W.

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