• Travis Thornburgh

Game Recap: Michigan Wolverines

Initial Takeaways:

- The Iowa offense had a ton of opportunities and just didn't execute when it needed to. The offense had the ball inside the Michigan 40 yard line six times and only scored once. - Despite his 3 interceptions, Nate Stanley was one of the bright spots for the offense, accumulating 260 passing yards. One of the other bright spots was Iowa's 3rd down efficiency early, converting 5 of their 8 1st half third down opportunities, one of which was a conversion of a 3rd and 22.

- The Iowa defense was spectacular. They limited Michigan's success on the ground, and forced Shea Patterson to beat them. They allowed one long drive in the 1st quarter, and held Michigan scoreless for the final three quarters.

- Iowa has some question marks on the offensive line following this game. Allowing 8 sacks is never acceptable and corrections will need to be made following this one.

- Early on, this game started to feel like a game where the defense was going to have to score for Iowa to win. They weren't able to do that and the offense couldn't come up clutch.

- Iowa should come out poised and angry against Penn State after losing this game, which was winnable until the very end. It;s also worth noting that all of Iowa's goals are still in front of them. The Big Ten West is still firmly within reach and the playoff committee won't leave out a 1 loss Big Ten champion this year. This is no time to panic.

Views From the Corner of Kinnick

Last Saturday's game can be summed up in a singular statement: a winnable game full of missed opportunities. The offense played well between the 30's and the defense did more than enough to win the game. Ultimately, the offense didn't make enough plays.

The Iowa defense came out firing, forcing a stop on Michigan's first possession, but things changed in a hurry for the Hawkeyes. On the first play from scrimmage for the offense, Mehki Sargent fumbled the ball and the Iowa defense was faced with a short field. The defense bowed, forcing a three and out and a field goal. The ensuing Iowa possession saw Iowa go three and out and punting the ball back to Michigan. Michigan answered with the big blow of the day, driving 70 yards in 6 plays and punching it in on the ground for the only touchdown either team would score. After the touchdown, Iowa would go three and out before the two of the next three drives would result in the teams trading interceptions. Late in the 1st quarter, Iowa put together its only scoring drive, a 61 yard, 14 play drive to set up a Keith Duncan field goal. The teams would continue to trade punts until Iowa's last possession of the 1st half, where Nate Stanley threw his 2nd pick of the season. Iowa's defense forced a 58-yard field goal attempt from the Wolverines that they missed as the first half expired.

The second half saw more of the same, with Nate Stanley throwing his third interception of the game on the first drive of the second half. The four possessions that followed the interception, two by each team, all resulted in punts before Michigan missed a field goal with around 11 minutes left in the game. Iowa put up a fight, mounting two different 8+ play drives in the final 7 minutes, but came up short, failing to convert a 4th and 10 on which saw Stanley forced to throw a left handed pass to give Tyler Goodson a chance to convert.

When it was all said and done, Iowa exited Ann Arbor with their first loss of the season, on what was likely one of the ugliest offensive performances in recent years. Iowa only scored three points, allowed Nate Stanley to be sacked 8 times, and had 4 total turnovers. Iowa also committed 8 penalties for 60 yards, with 3 penalties and 25 of those yards coming after Iowa had a 1st and 10 at the Michigan 25 yard line with 5:24 left in the game. If there was something that could go wrong for the Hawkeye offense, it seemed like it did. There was a tipped pass that resulted in an interception, two uncharacteristically bad decisions by Nate Stanley, and a nearly non-existent run game that netted only 1 yard.

Despite the ugly performance, there is hope for this Iowa offense. On multiple drives, Iowa moved the ball between the 30's, pushing the ball inside the Michigan 40 yard line on six separate drives, failing to score on five of them. If you remove the 65 yards that the offense lost sacks, Iowa had a decent day running the ball, with 66 yards on 22 carries. Although not a spectacular performance, those 65 yards may have made a difference in turning those empty drives into field goals.

Nate Stanley failed to get any closer to the all-time mark for passing touchdowns in the game, but did accumulate 260 yards through the air. The big killer for Stanley on the day were the three interceptions he threw. The first was an ill advised throw deep down the right side into double coverage. Despite the bad decision, Tyrone Tracy Jr. nearly came down with the ball, nearly breaking up the interception in the process as well. The second was a combination of bad route running by Tracy and an overthrow by Stanley. The third and final interception came on the first drive of the second half, and was bad luck for Iowa, as the ball was deflected by the defensive back and landed in the lap of another Michigan defender. All three are throws that Stanley would love to have back, but none of them were inexcusable mistakes. Each throw gave the Iowa receiver a chance to make the play, and in a game like this one, you have to take those chances when the offense just isn't producing.

Stanley's performance should also have an asterisk behind it, as the offensive line play was not good. Alaric Jackson looked rusty and there seemed to be multiple miscommunications in the blocking assignments that allowed Michigan defenders free runs at Stanley. It is really tough to be productive as a quarterback when you have guys unblocked and running at your face all game.

The other side of the ball for Iowa was a totally different story. All day long, the Iowa offense put the defense in bad spots, giving Michigan short fields on those four turnovers and not spending much time on the field to give the defense a break. The defense didn't create as much pressure as I expected, but slowed down the Michigan running game, only allowing 120 yards, while only getting burnt once deep in the passing game. The defense turned in the type of performance that will win you 9 out of 10 games on any given Saturday. Unfortunately this was the one game that Iowa didn't win in that scenario.

A huge bright spot to come out of this defensive gem was the play of the defensive secondary. Early in the season, the defensive secondary has had some question marks due to injury, but those questions sem to be getting answered. D.J. Johnson seems to have settled in after his trial by fire at Iowa State and walk-on Jack Koerner has been impressive in relief of Kaevon Merriweather. Despite all the young talent in this secondary, Geno Stone has emerged as the star of this group.

It isn't often that I find myself remembering specific tackles that occur during the course of a game. I remember Adrian Clayborn's sack against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, I remember Jaleel Johnson's safety against Michigan in 2016, and I will remember Geno Stone's tackle in the 2nd quarter of this one.

The play came with around 10:30 left in the first half. Michigan ran an option to the left side that A.J. Epenesa sniffed out. Shea Patterson pitched it left to his running back, who had three receivers out in front that had cleared the way for an easy 3rd down conversion. Geno Stone had other plans. Stone came streaking in from at least 15 yards downfield and made an exceptional open field tackle that forced Michigan into a 4th and 7 situation. It was an impressive show of tackling fundamentals from Stone and likely kept the Wolverines from extending their lead to 14, as he had no additional help behind him. At the time, it was an impressive tackle. In hindsight, it kept Iowa in the game and gave them a chance to play the rest of the game only down a single score.

The special teams turned in another solid performance, with Michael Sleep-Dalton keeping Iowa out of bad defensive situations when he got a chance and the returners gave the offense solid starting field position all game long. Keith Duncan drove home his only field goal attempt, pushing him to 11 of 12 field goals on the year.

Ultimately, this game hurts because it was there for the taking. The Iowa offense just didn't make enough plays where they need to and wasted a spectacular performance by the defense. Iowa showed a decent amount of production in the middle part of the field, maintained decent offensive balance until late in the game, and showed the ability to convert 3rd downs early in the game. Four turnovers just won't get the job done against Michigan and only putting three points on the board won't get it done against very many teams. There are some things to build on, some corrections to be made, and many lessons to be learned. The most unfortunate part of this game, is that Iowa had a chance to win this one all the way down to the end and just couldn't get it done.

Travis's Player of the Game: Geno Stone - 4 Solo Tackles, 2 Assists, 1 Pass Deflection, 1 Interception

Up Next: The Penn State Nittany Lions 5-0 (2-0 Big Ten) at beautiful and historic Kinnick Stadium for the Black and Gold Spirit Game

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As always, On Iowa! and Go Hawks!

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About Travis

A lifelong Hawkeye fan and a 2017 graduate of the University of Iowa in Civil Engineering, Travis now calls Des Moines, Iowa home and continues to passionately follow University of Iowa athletics

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