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KEYS TO THE GAME IN REVIEW: IOWA VS MICHIGAN

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Look guys, Iowa listened to us this week!

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Hey there friends of The Pants, how’re those hangovers doing? I think I speak for most of us when I say...holy shit. I (and most every Iowa fan) completely missed the mark on this game. No complaints here.

The Hawks showed off a renewed intensity that was a relief to see—and quite overdue. Nonetheless, I’m still so high up on cloud nine that I’m not even going to worry about that tardiness in the slightest. So let’s focus on our keys from Friday THAT IOWA ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISHED.

Ugly it up

Make it ugly and get lucky.

Check.

Iowa never had a chance in a high scoring game (granted, I didn’t think they had a chance, period), and the defense responded accordingly with its best performance of the season. Jaleel Johnson probably played himself into the NFL Draft and the Hawkeyes received surprisingly strong contributions from Manny Rugamba and Anthony Gair in the back end after losing Greg Mabin and Miles Taylor to injury.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The energy and passion exhibited by the defense was refreshing, especially on the heels of its showing in Happy Valley the week prior. This was Hawkeye defense at its finest: setting the edge and swarming to the ball, making plays and firing up the crowd. The players and coaches both deserve a ton of credit for establishing and executing such an effective gameplan—praise be, praise be.

And yes, the Hawkeyes were on the receiving end of some luck too (it’s about freaking time). A couple of ill-timed penalties, turnovers, and mental errors plagued the Wolverines in this game and ultimately helped tip the scales in Iowa’s favor; and I couldn’t be happier.

Run the damn ball

Double check!

Iowa broke out for 164 yards on the ground (necessary, considering the general ineptitude of the passing attack). Now, the Hawks only averaged 3.3 yards per carry, but considering the caliber of this Michigan defense and the meager rushing outputs in Iowa’s losses, this category was a huge win.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

The coaches finally recognized the need to involve Akrum Wadley more in space and were repaid tenfold with his 167 yards on 28 touches. To put that in perspective, if you remove Wadley’s production, Iowa gained a mere 63 yards. Frankly, Wadley looked like the only Hawkeye offensive player who could match Michigan’s athleticism and playmaking ability—props to the coaches for realizing that and building an offensive attack around it (dissecting why it took until November to implement this is a topic for another day).

Win the turnover battle

Would ya look at that, we’re 3/3!

The Hawkeyes benefitted from two huge takeaways: a Michigan fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half which led to a Keith Duncan field goal and an outstanding interception by Manny Rugamba early in the fourth quarter which likely kept points off the board for the Wolverines.

For their part, the Iowa offense also managed to take care of the ball save for a Beathard interception on an under-thrown deep ball (I’ll admit it: I thought the game was over at that point). Ultimately the Hawks managed to keep one of the more opportunistic and aggressive defenses from picking up big, momentum-swinging plays.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Prediction

The fact of the matter is, this will probably be another game where Iowa fans feel compelled to change the channel by halftime. Prove me wrong Hawkeyes.

Michigan 48, Iowa 10

And prove me wrong they did. The overall shock and undiluted joy that came from this win reminds me of why I love this crazy sport and this (oftentimes frustrating) team. I doubt I’m the only one who needed that reminder in a big way heading into Saturday.

Helmet Stickers

There’s no doubt several Hawks deserve singling out for their performances, so how about some bonus content? First up:

RON COLUZZI

Somebody buy this man a beer. Even in a game that featured the most punter thing to ever happen (actually there were a couple of them, all in one quarter), Coluzzi still managed to leave his mark on this game in a big way besides just providing laughs. His 54-yard punt downed at the 2 set the table for Jaleel Johnson to go beast-mode and his well-executed pooch kickoff led to a turnover and field goal from Keith Duncan. All told, Coluzzi had 6 punts for a net of 47 yards (with three inside the 20) and zero touchbacks. That’s everything you could ask of your punter and more.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Akrum Wadley

What more can be said about this guy at this point? Suffice to say I cannot wait to see Wadley as the featured offensive player next season. His versatility and ability to make plays in space was absolutely invaluable to the Hawkeyes in this game; plus I could watch highlights of those jump cuts and jukes and spin moves all day long.

Jaleel Johnson

As I said before, Jaleel Johnson probably played his way into the NFL Draft on Saturday. He rose to the occasion and made his presence felt in the interior in a huge way (honorable mention to Faith Ekakitie, who I thought was more disruptive than I’ve seen in his four years). Johnson further cemented himself as one of the more talented defensive tackles of the Ferentz-era.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Looking ahead

With only Illinois and Nebraska left on the schedule, Iowa has an opportunity to change the narrative (at least somewhat) of its season down the stretch. Win the next two and actually show up in a bowl game and this season becomes easier to swallow. Disappointing still, sure, but ultimately not as far off of expectations as it appeared a few weeks ago. If the Hawkeyes execute at this level the rest of the way, though, I don’t see that result as all that unrealistic. We can only hope.