(Ed. note: Haven't read any of your many - many - thoughts or comments on the game, since I was lucky enough to be at the Big House for today's tilt. It was pretty damn impressive.)
So, about that fourth quarter... For three quarters, the Iowa defense almost perfectly lived up to its "bend but don't break" mantra: Michigan outgained Iowa in every category but the one that really mattered (the scoreboard), where Iowa led 28-7. Michigan had moved the ball down the field at times, but they'd done so by playing the way Iowa's defense often allows: by dinking-and-dunking for short bursts between the 20s. After a game-opening drive where the Wolverines methodically moved the ball downfield and scored, they had seven drives through the next three quarters (until the drive that straddled the third and fourth quarters and led to their second TD). Of those drives, two ended in three-and-outs, two ended in turnovers in less than five plays, one long-ish drive ended in a punt right before half, and two drives that dinked-and-dunked all the way into Iowa's red zone ended in a blocked field goal and a fumble. Against an offense as potent as Michigan's, that's a pretty successful day at the office.
Unfortunately, in the fourth quarter it all went to shit as Tate Forcier shredded Iowa's defense with the aid of some blown coverages, lackluster pressure, and, to be perfectly fair, some mighty impressive catches from Michigan receivers. So... what was that? Was it a one-off performance by a defense that was a bit worn down and facing an absolutely dynamic offense? Or was it a harbinger of things to come and a sign that perhaps the Iowa defense isn't as watertight as we want to believe? Hard to say. On one hand, Iowa's cornerbacks have definitely struggled at times this year and that should be a concern going forward. On the other hand, few offenses Iowa will face from here on out are quite as high-powered as Michigan. And, from a schematic standpoint, it should be a relief to get a pair of opponents who will likely be a bit more straightforward in their attacks the next two weeks (more worrisome: both Michigan State and Wisconsin appear to have offenses that are clicking pretty well right now), but this does make us a little more nervous about the impending jNW game, since Dan Persa is like Tate Forcier except, you know, frighteningly accurate and less prone to running around when pressured like he's been doused in gasoline and the onrushing defensive linemen are all carrying torches.
Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood. Hey, Michigan, our Robinson is better than your Robinson. OK, maybe not... but he was more productive on the day, with 204 total yards of offense (143 yards rushing, 61 yards receiving) to Denard's 201 yards of offense (96 yards passing, 105 yards rushing). Yes, we realize D-Rob missed the better part of a quarter and a half -- the point was to highlight the fact that A-Rob had yet another really tremendous performance: 31 carries, 143 yards rushing, 4 catches, 61 yards receiving, 2 TD. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season (and in one of the two that he failed to reach the century mark -- Penn State -- he had 95 yards), as well as his third multi-TD game of the year. And two weeks after setting a career high with 28 carries, he set a new career high, with 31 carries. His performance have been superb and his durability has been remarkable (KNOCK ON ENTIRE AMAZON RAINFOREST), but there's no question that he could use a little help out there, if only to keep him fresher in the fourth quarter when Iowa wants to bleed clock. And it's hard to see him making it through the next two games against the brutally hard-hitting Wisco and Sparty defenses without needing a breather or three.
But speaking of the offense... On one hand, the conservative approach was unsurprising, given the offensive history under Ferentz and O'Keefe and the fact that against a team as prone to self-destruct and make mistakes as this Michigan team, it's somewhat sensible to limit risk and prevent them from getting opportunities for cheap points. On the other hand, it made the fourth quarter utterly nerve-wracking. Balance is well and good in theory, but sometimes the old Hayden Fry maxim "scratch where it itches" might be a better idea. Going into the game, we know Michigan's pass defense was a twenty-two legged grease fire; there was little we saw today that challenged that perception. When Iowa threw the ball, they had great success -- and it's hard to believe that they couldn't have had even more if they'd kept at it.
No Tarp? No problem. Nominal starting middle linebacker Jeff Tarpinian was again absent, but senior Troy Johnson filled the void -- and put together quite a stat line: 13 tackles, one pass break-up, and one interception. The latter two plays were pretty damn vital; the break-up denied Michigan vital yardage (and possibly a first down) just a few plays before the blocked field goal, while the interception sealed the victory. The last time Johnson got a start, he won B10 Defensive Player of the
Year Week (against Minnesota last November); with the stat line he assembled today, he put himself in consideration for the award this week.
D to the J to the K. Finally, a standing ovation for Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who put together a magnificent day: 4 catches, 70 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one absolutely crucial block on A-Rob's 26-yard catch and run that set up Michael Meyer's late field goal. His final catch (the 19-yard TD that put Iowa up 35-14) pushed him past Tim Dwight into first place on Iowa's career receiving yards. He now has 2274 yards to Dwight's 2271 yards. He's just six receptions away from breaking Kevin Kasper's career receptions mark (157). The career touchdown mark (21, shared by Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes) remains unlikely (he has just 14), but if he has a few more days like this... For the record, it was DJK's fifth straight game with at least four catches and his fourth straight game with a touchdown catch; he's having one hell of a senior season. And though it didn't get counted in his official stats, DJK's block to help A-Rob on his big 26-yard reception near the end of the game was a great example of doing the little things well.