Rapid Reaction: No. 4 Michigan overpowers Iowa early, survives Kinnick Stadium to get to 5-0
Michigan made it clear in the first 7 minutes Saturday that it had no intention of dying at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes made it clear in the fourth quarter that the Wolverines weren’t going to escape without a fight.
Unlike 5 of the past 6 top-5 ranked teams to visit Iowa City, the Wolverines weren’t fazed by the raucous home crowd or the nation’s best scoring defense.
No. 4 Michigan (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) carved up the Hawkeyes’ defense with ease on its opening drive, built a 20-point lead and held on for a 27-14 victory.
Iowa’s much-maligned offense went 3-and-out in less than 2 minutes on its first possession and never really did get much going until late in the third quarter. Spencer Petras was 10-of-17 for 124 yards through 3 quarters, and had already been sacked twice. The ground game had contributed 31 yards to that point. Petras’ numbers were only that good because of a surge at the end of the third quarter that set up the Hawkeyes’ only points to start the fourth quarter.
Before the late excitement, Iowa was subjecting its fans to the putrid offense that has become the norm in 2022. And the offense went out with a whimper, as the line gave up 2 sacks and 2 QB pressures that gave Petras no chance. He was at 21-of-31 for 246 yards after a touchdown pass with 8 seconds left in the game. The late surge was too little, too late.
Petras completed 2 passes for first downs in one of Iowa’s brief offensive flurries in the first half, but then missed on 3 straight as a smattering of boos arose in the stands.
Iowa (3-2, 1-1) entered the game ranked 131st in total offense, leading fans to question 17th-year head coach Kirk Ferentz and his son and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. The main issue is that Iowa hasn’t been able to attract a QB talent like Michigan’s JJ McCarthy, a 5-star recruit last year who was making his first road start.
But the veteran Petras got hot late, finding a rhythm with wide receiver Nico Ragaini and others to rally the Hawkeyes. The charge ended when Iowa couldn’t convert on fourth down deep in Michigan territory.
The Wolverines’ opening drive of the game included only 1 third down, as McCarthy went 3-of-4 on easy throws and the run game averaged 7.3 yards on 7 carries. Receiver Ronnie Bell capped the 5-minute drive with a 16-yard end-around.
Blake Corum, coming off a 243-yard rushing performance against Maryland, carried 4 times on the opening drive and carried the bulk of the load for the Michigan ground game as the day wore on. But Donovan Edwards returned after missing the previous week to complement Corum. The 1-2 punch combined for 130 yards through 3 quarters, with Corum already in triple-digits with 101.
Michigan’s offensive line proved worthy of its reputation as one of the best front 5s in the country, although the yards were harder to come by late in the game.
The only things that really slowed Michigan down in the first half were McCarthy tripping over a lineman’s foot for a 5-yard loss and later overthrowing Roman Wilson on a deep ball would-be touchdown. Iowa stiffened enough to force 2 field goals, and thus theoretically was still in the game at the break, down 13-0. But considering the offense had produced only 91 yards, 5 first downs and no third-down conversions, it didn’t look good.
At the break, Michigan had 131 rushing yards, with Corum leading the way with 79. Iowa had 23 — 18 from Leshon Williams and 5 from Kaleb Johnson. McCarthy was 13-of-18 for 105 yards; Petras was 6-of-10 for 68.
McCarthy displayed zip and accuracy on his short and mid-range throws that Petras only sporadically could come close to matching. The Michigan sophomore, who entered the game as the nation’s most accurate passer (80%), finished this game18-for-24 (75%) for 155 yards and a touchdown.
When Iowa failed to force a turnover or make a momentum-swinging special teams play in the first half, the writing was on the wall. The Hawkeyes cannot win without those elements against any remotely decent opponent.
Michigan’s ground game, which entered averaging 234.3 yards per game, posted a strong effort in its first real test since being held to 91 yards by Georgia in its CFP semifinal loss.
McCarthy, in his 4th start, played another solid, steady game, but didn’t do anything super-human and continues to fly under the radar in the Heisman race. He did sprint to the right edge and then hit Edwards in the back of the end zone to extend his team’s lead to 20-0 in the third quarter. That’ll probably be the clip that makes the highlight shows and Twitter threads.
If his efficiency remains high and the Wolverines remain undefeated, the 6-3, 196-pound prototype QB might sneak into the Heisman conversation late in the season. He still has not thrown an interception as a starter.
Up next for Michigan
The Wolverines travel to Indiana for a noon ET meeting with the Hoosiers (3-1, 1-0 pending their result at Nebraska). Michigan will be looking to improve to 26-1 in the series since 1967 and set up a showdown with Penn State the following Saturday in Ann Arbor.
Up next for Iowa
The Hawkeyes will take their inept offense and stingy defense on the road to take on Bret Bielema and Illinois (4-1, 1-1 after pummeling Wisconsin) in a Saturday evening tilt.