Defense Stands Tall
Nov. 5, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa --The University of Iowa defense, labeled by the media as beleaguered and much-maligned, held its ground. The Hawkeyes kept 13th-ranked Michigan out of the end zone four times from the three yard line over the final 16 seconds to claim a 24-16 victory on Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium.
Sophomore defensive back B.J. Lowery was the next man in the UI secondary, and he produced. Lowery broke up Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson's fourth down attempt to Roy Roundtree in the corner of the end zone as time expired, giving the Hawkeyes their sixth victory of the season and securing bowl eligibility.
"We showed a lot of heart down there," said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. "It's almost better that the game ended that way because that was a tough circumstance certainly.
"The guys really had to play good team defense, something we've struggled at at times. We have not been the most sound at times, and that's given up some big plays. It was good to see our guys make them earn it and great to come up with stops at the end."
But it wasn't easy.
Trailing by eight points, Michigan took over at its own 18 yard line with 2:15 remaining. UM running back Vincent Smith rumbled 11 yards up the middle to the 29 yard line. Without a whistle being blown on the play and Smith's knee never touching the ground, he got up and sprinted 82 yards for a touchdown. The sold out crowd of 70,585 let out a gasp of relief when the play was overturned when his elbow was ruled down by instant replay.
The instant replay played to Iowa's advantage a second time when UM wide receiver Junior Hemingway's one-handed catch in the back of the end zone on second down from the three was ruled and confirmed as being out of the end zone.
"I've got the worst seat in the house," said Ferentz. "It looked, from where I was standing, like he came down on the white and then seeing the replay it made me feel a little better."
The Iowa defense produced for 60 minutes, limiting a Wolverine offense that entered the game averaging 441.2 yards to 323. Michigan ranked 10th nationally with 245.4 rushing yards per game; Iowa held them to 127 - 118 below its average.
The Hawkeyes finished with 302 yards of total offense. Junior James Vandenberg was 14-of-21 for 171 yards with one touchdown. Sophomore Marcus Coker had a workman-like 132 yards on 29 carries with two scores, and Marvin McNutt, Jr., had nine catches for 101 yards.
Seniors Jordan Bernstine and Tyler Nielsen both tallied double-digit tackle totals, finishing with 15 and 13. Nielsen stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with one sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and recovery and a quarterback hurry.
The UI defense set the tone early by forcing a three and out on the Wolverines opening possession of the game. From there, the Hawkeye offense did their part.
Iowa covered 76 yards on six plays to take the 7-0 lead. On third and eight from the 26-yard line, Vandenberg found Keenan Davis on a crossing pattern for a 44-yard gain to the Michigan 30 and a 20-yard completion to McNutt on the next play to move to the 10.
Then it was all Coker. The sophomore bulled his way 6 yards on first down before barreling his way into the end zone from four yards out on the next play.
The UI defense forced its second straight three and out on the following possession, but Michigan returned the favor, forcing the Hawkeyes into a turnover on downs when Vandenberg's quarterback sneak came up short on fourth and one.
The Wolverines capitalized on the field position, driving 61 yards for the score. The UM rushing attack piled up 34 yards on eight rushes, before Robinson tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald Toussaint for the score. A bobbled snap by holder Drew Dileo on the PAT made the score 7-6.
Iowa put its second touchdown on the board in its first possession of the second quarter. Coker burst through for a 27 yard gain on first down to put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Later in the drive on third and seven from the Michigan 34, McNutt dropped a sure-fire first down reception.
The Hawkeyes rolled the dice, and they converted on fourth down when Vandenberg threaded a needle through heavy traffic to Kevonte Martin-Manley for an 8 yard gain to move the chains. A C.J. Fiedorowicz 9-yard reception moved the ball to the 1, and a play action pass on the very next play sucked in the UM defense, leaving senior tight end Brad Herman wide open in the corner of the end zone for the score.
The Hawkeye defense produced the game's first turnover on the ensuing possession. After moving the ball to midfield, Nielsen came untouched up the middle on a blitz, where he forced a fumble and recovered on the Michigan 31.
Iowa went for pay dirt on first down on a McNutt reverse pass, but it wasn't there. He gained 7 yards on the rush, but the team couldn't move the chains. The Hawkeyes put points on the board via a Mike Meyer 43-yard field goal into the wind to make the score 17-6.
With 2:11 remaining in the half, Trent Mossbrucker was called upon to execute a squib kick. The play back fired, as Michigan recovered and advanced the ball to the 49-yard line. Robinson guided the Wolverines down to the 13 via a 16-yard completion to Hemingway and a 19-yard scramble.
On second-and-eight from the 11, Robinson tried forcing a pass to Roundtree inside the five. Iowa junior Micah Hyde got a hand on the attempt for a deflection, and sophomore Christian Kirksey corralled the ball in the end zone, to end the Wolverine threat.
After stopping Iowa on its opening possession of the second half, Michigan put three points on the board courtesy of Brendan Gibbons' 32-yard field goal. On third and 10 from the 20, the Hawkeyes brought the house, and it hit home. Safety Tanner Miller came free and drilled Robinson from the blind side, forcing the ball to float in the air, where Smith caught it for an insignificant 5 yard gain.
The Hawkeyes used an 11 play, 62-yard drive over 5:27 to make the score 24-9. It was McNutt left and McNutt right on the series. The senior had a 15-yard reception on third down where he reached back for the reception to advance the ball to the 32. Vandenberg then connected with his favorite target for 6 yards to the left and 4 yards to the right down to the 24.
Coker rushed 7 seven yards to the 13 on first down before Vandenberg sailed a pass out of the end zone on second down. On third and three, Coker ran 13 yards untouched into the end zone following the right side of his offensive line.
Michigan showed its quick strike ability on its next possession, going 57 yards in 2:49. Robinson, who reentered the game after being dinged up on Miller's blitz in the third quarter, ran for 21 yards and completed 4-of-5 attempts, including a 7-yard touchdown strike to tight end Kevin Koger.
Taking over possession with 7:53 remaining, Iowa got off to a good start with a 24 yard pass and catch from Vandenberg to McNutt on first down. Following a Davis drop on a quick slant, Coker ran for 9 yards on second down, but he was bottled up on third down. The Hawkeyes lined up to go for it on fourth-and-one, but were whistled for a false start, forcing them to punt.
Both offenses stalled on the next two possessions, setting up Michigan's final drive from its 18 yard line with 2:15 remaining.
Iowa's attention now turns to Michigan State, who the Hawkeyes host next Saturday in their home finale. Game time has yet to be announced.