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.