By Don Lund
I sometimes have to choose from a couple of headlines to start the story.
For Saturday’s 24-21 win over Michigan, I thought either “OH MY-MY” or “COMEBACK CITY.”
I asked one of my homeboys, Tad, who is from Sioux City and was at his first Hawkeye game, to pick one and he went with the “COMEBACK CITY.”
Good call, Tad.
I’m not sure why, but when the score was 21-7 at half Saturday at frigid Kinnick Stadium, I had a flashback to 1997, when Tim Dwight and Tavian Banks were seniors for the Hawks.
Tim Dwight returned a punt for a touchdown right before half and Iowa led at Michigan 21-7. The Wolverines outscored the Hawkeyes 21-3 in the second half and won, 28-24.
I thought, “Why can’t the Hawks do the same thing?”
Well, they sure did. Led by a shutdown defense, a jacked-up offense and Mike Meyer’s 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Oh, what a difference a year makes.
Last year, Michigan dominated the Hawkeyes, 42-17.
The Wolverines had 513 yards of total offense. Saturday, they had 158.
Last year, Devin Gardner, the Michigan quarterback, had 314 yards passing. Saturday, Devin had 98 yards passing.
Last year, Michigan had 199 yards rushing, averaging 5 yards per carry. Saturday, Michigan had 60 yards rushing averaging 2.1 yards per run.
With that said, I have to start with the defense this week.
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens had the play of the day. He not only stripped the ball from Devin Gardner late in the fourth quarter with Iowa leading 24-21, forcing a fumble, but recovered it and the Hawkeyes could run out the clock.
Anthony and James Morris were all over the field as the two combined for 16 tackles and four tackles for a loss.
There are some good linebackers in the Big Ten, but I would be happy if James, Anthony and Christian Kirksey were on my team.
The interior defense, made up of tackles Carl Davis, Louis Trinca-Pasat, Darian Cooper and Jaleel Johnson could not be run against inside.
The best thing about that is all of them will be back next year.
Michigan only managed to convert 4-14 on third downs.
“The defense kept us alive,” said Iowa’s head coach Kirk Ferentz.
Those three-and-out possessions saw Iowa have the ball for over 33 minutes while Michigan had possession for a little over 26 minutes.
Since it was the coldest day on record for a game at Kinnick, Michigan’s defense was worn down in the second half.
It was so cold that I had to take the camera inside between pictures to warm it up.
Freshman Desmond King and B.J. Lowery each had two pass breakups on big plays.
Desmond should make someone’s freshman All-American team.
“I think the biggest thing, I think we grew up a little bit today,” said coach Ferentz. “Some of the younger guys caught up with the seniors a little bit and that was good to see.”
When your quarterback throws three interceptions, like Jake Rudock did Saturday, it’s hard to win football games.
Michigan got the ball first and punted to Iowa after four plays. Iowa had a first down on its own 13.
On the first play from scrimmage, Jake throws a wounded duck from the goal line, Michigan intercepts, and scores from 7 yards out.
I’m thinking, “Are you serious?”
Jake’s second interception resulted in a Wolverine touchdown but the cool quarterback didn’t panic.
“We were never thinking ‘Abandon ship’,” said Jake. “We were thinking ‘Back to work.’”
You have to have that mentality playing quarterback.
Jake threw a nice 5-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Fiedorowicz in the first quarter and a beautiful 55-yard touchdown pass to Tevaun Smith to start the third quarter but his best pass was in the closing minutes of the game.
Iowa faced third and 10 on the Michigan 47 with less than two minutes left and Michigan had no timeouts left.
Jake faked a run to Mark Weisman going left, rolled to his right and found C.J. Fiedorowicz along the right sideline for a 12-yard gain.
Game… set… match!
For the season, Jake has passed for 2,155 yards, 16 touchdowns and is completing 60 percent of his passes. He also has 12 interceptions so he has some growing to do.
Tevaun Smith had a breakout game with five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
Tevaun showed great hands and good speed every time he caught the ball.
It was good to see Mark Weisman back on track. The 6-0, 235 pound junior had 88 yards, averaging 5.2 per carry.
Mark’s 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was vintage Mark. He ran over a Michigan defender on the 3-yard line before crossing the goal line.
It was straight up the middle and Iowa tied the game up at 21.
“The offensive line and tight ends did a good job up front,” said Mark. “There is usually one guy that I have to hit on my own.”
Boy, did he hit him.
Mark also broke off a 22-yard run after Anthony Hitchens forced the fumble.
Iowa had a first down on its own 31 with 2:12 left in the game and Mark shot off through left side for a huge gain.
Mark has been a little nicked up the last couple of games, so it was great to have that bye week to heal up.
Jordan Canzeri had some nice runs and finished with 50 yards, averaging 4.2 per carry.
C.J. Fiedorowicz finished strong in his last game at Kinnick with three catches and one touchdown.
C.J. should be a solid NFL prospect.
Mike Meyer missed a 36-yard field goal in the first quarter that could have been costly.
Mike came through in the fourth quarter with the game winner from 34 yards out with winds gusting from the northwest at 20 miles per hour.
Connor Kornbrath only averaged 37.5 yards per punt, but on a windy day he did a good job of hitting line drives that carried.
“I give credit to our senior class,” said coach Ferentz. “They’ve done a wonderful job and our juniors have been great, too. They’ve been really committed and they’ve worked hard. It’s all about the older players showing the younger guys the way. It’s something the seniors can remember the rest of their lives.”
Three straight wins at Kinnick over Michigan… nice!
Iowa travels to Nebraska this Friday. A better bowl game is assured. They are sitting at 7-4... can they make it 8-4?