Michigan falls at Iowa 24-16Published 5:03pm Sunday, November 6, 2011
By SCOTT MCMAHON
Special to Daily News
For the Michigan football team, its past two visits to Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa have ended in heartbreak.
Two seasons ago, quarterback Denard Robinson threw a game-clinching interception with under a minute to play to seal the loss for Michigan.
The Wolverines’ 24-16 loss this year at Iowa had a different kind of heartbreak, as controversy centered on the game’s final drive.
After a 19-yard Roy Roundtree reception to the Iowa 3-yard line, Robinson and the Wolverines had 16 seconds and four tries to punch the ball in to set up a game-tying two-point conversion attempt. Following a first down incompletion, Robinson lofted a pass in the back of the end zone for wide receiver Junior Hemingway. At first glance, Hemingway appeared to make a tremendous one-handed catch for a touchdown, but officials ruled the pass incomplete, saying the ball was not fully controlled throughout the process of the catch. Officials reviewed the play and upheld the ruling, as replays and game announcers seemed to side with Michigan.
Shaken but not done yet, Robinson went back to the air and nearly completed a pass to running back Vincent Smith in the end zone. On fourth down, with two seconds left, Robinson passed left to Roundtree on a slant pattern that was broken up by an Iowa defender, ending the Wolverines’ chances at a comeback.
For No. 15 Michigan (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten), the inability to overcome the late deficit capped off a game of offensive frustration and missed opportunities.
The struggles came early for the Michigan offense, as their first two drives ended in three-and-out punts, in which the team accumulated just ten yards total. The Wolverines’ third drive was a different story, as sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for 35 yards and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to put Michigan on the board. However, holder Drew Dileo dropped the snap on the extra point attempt, leaving the score 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Two second quarter turnovers by Robinson stifled any chance to bring the Wolverines any closer. Robinson’s fumble inside his own 40-yard line set up a Brad Herman touchdown reception, and Robinson’s interception inside the Iowa red zone prevented Michigan from scoring before the half.
Michigan’s slow start opened the door for the Iowa Hawkeyes (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) to claim a quick lead. Junior quarterback James Vandenberg and sophomore running back Marcus Coker led the Hawkeye offense to a quick 7-0 lead on their first drive of the game, when Coker fought his way to a 4-yard touchdown run. The Hawkeyes almost broke the game open on their next drive, but the Michigan defensive line stopped Vandenberg on a 4th and 1 quarterback sneak that ultimately set up the Wolverines’ first scoring drive.
After a third quarter that only featured a 32-yard Brandon Gibbons field goal, Iowa led 17-9 at the beginning of the final quarter of play. With their lead and ball, the Hawkeyes seemed destined to defeat the Wolverines for the third straight season, a feat that Iowa had never accomplished in their history. Marcus Coker increased that lead to 24-9 with a 13-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Michigan, however, responded with an immediate touchdown drive of their own, with Robinson hitting tight end Kevin Koger with a 7-yard touchdown pass to make the score 24-16.
After exchanging the ball twice, Michigan began their final drive with 2:15 left. Vincent Smith’s first-down run went for 11 yards, but was originally ruled an 82-yard touchdown run. Officials called the play back after review, ruling that Smith’s elbow had hit the ground, ending the play. Robinson still managed to drive the Wolverines down the field, before his final four passes fell incomplete to end the game.
Robinson finished the game with 17 completions on 37 attempts, good for 194 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Junior Hemingway led Michigan in both receptions and yards, totaling 5 catches for 64 yards.
The story for Michigan offensively, though, was their inability to establish a rushing attack. Iowa’s defense, which had been largely ineffective against the run, held the nation’s ninth-ranked rushing offense to just 127 yards, almost half of the Wolverines’ season average entering play on Saturday. Newly appointed starter Fitzgerald Toussaint collected just 58 yards, while Robinson ran for only 55.
Iowa drove to victory primarily behind the efforts of Marcus Coker, who gathered 132 yards on 29 carries, with two touchdowns. Quarterback James Vandenberg completed 14 of his 21 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown, with nine of those passes going to star wide receiver Marvin McNutt. The nine receptions for McNutt went for 101 yards and set a career high for catches in a game.
For Iowa, Saturday’s win now makes them bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season. The Hawkeyes will try to improve their chances in the Legends Division of the Big Ten Conference when they welcome the Michigan State Spartans to Kinnick Stadium next weekend.
Saturday’s loss drops Michigan out of a first-place tie in the Legends Division, which tit shared with Michigan State and Nebraska.
Michigan will try to rebound on the road next weekend against the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Tags: Michigan football