ANN ARBOR, MICH. –
With everyone from the donor guys to the managers whooping it up, Bob Sanders and Jonathan Babineaux stood in the back, along the brick wall that surrounds Michigan Stadium.
As the clock wound down on No. 13 Iowa’s 34-9 thrashing of No. 8 Michigan, the two stood in the back, content to watch the video on the stadium scoreboard. They were quiet. Too quiet.
It all became clear with less than a minute left.
Sanders and Babineaux hung by the trainer’s table with the bucket of Gatorade on it. While equipment manager Greg Morris distracted Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, Sanders and Babineaux made their move.
Ferentz took the whole drink, ice and water down the back of his black jacket, all over the back of his beige khakis.
“The perfect plan,” Sanders said with a smile. “We got him good, too, didn’t we?”
Iowa got Michigan good Saturday.
Quarterback Brad Banks threw three touchdown passes and reserve running back Jermelle Lewis gained 105 of his 109 yards in the second half to lead the Hawkeyes (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) to the top rung of the Big Ten, snapping a seven-game losing streak to Michigan (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) and handing the Wolverines their worst loss at Michigan Stadium since 1967.
The score was Iowa’s largest margin of victory in Michigan Stadium since a 37-14 victory in 1958. Iowa is 5-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1990, which, coincidentally, was the last time the Hawkeyes won at Michigan.
Iowa’s defense really got the Wolverines good.
On Michigan’s fourth play, defensive tackle Colin Cole sacked Wolverines quarterback John Navarre, knocking Navarre out of the game. He missed only one play, but Navarre wasn’t the same.
“You could tell,” Cole said. “He wasn’t setting his feet, he was always looking around, thinking about who’s coming next. He wasn’t the same.”
The Hawkeyes racked up five sacks and had countless hits on Navarre. But that tells only half of what was a three-hour submission hold on Michigan’s offense.
The Wolverines rushed for 22 yards on 20 carries. That’s 1.1 yards a carry. They had 171 yards offense, including a miniscule 71 in the second half. With 59 offensive plays, that’s 2.9 yards a play. They held the ball for 21:33, nearly 17 minutes less than Iowa. That’s not enough time.
And that’s getting them good.
“I guess I don’t have enough experience to say that I can look into someone’s eyes and say that they’re beaten,” defensive tackle Jared Clauss said. “But you could see their energy level wasn’t there. We were jumping around, having a good time. We all wanted to get sacks. I didn’t see it with those guys.”
Iowa’s offense got Michigan good, too, at the beginning.
The Hawkeyes scored on their first two possessions, going 80 yards on their first drive and scoring on a Banks-to-C.J. Jones tunnel screen. Iowa’s second drive reached Michigan’s 6-inch line, but died and ended as a Nate Kaeding 19-yard field goal, giving Iowa a 10-0 lead with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
The Wolverines stiffened and got back in the game.
Last season at Kinnick Stadium, the Hawkeyes pushed Michigan around only to give up a blocked punt for a touchdown. Saturday, punter David Bradley fumbled and was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty to set up the Wolverines at Iowa’s 1.
Tailback Chris Perry scored on a 1-yard run to pull Michigan within 10-6 at halftime.
“We could’ve lost it after that, but, you know, we’re not the same team we were last season,” said tight end Dallas Clark, who caught five passes for 68 yards. “Last season, that play got in our heads. This year, we put it out of our heads.”
After Michigan pulled within 10-9 on Adam Finley’s 40-yard field goal, Iowa’s punt team got one back.
With Iowa strong safety Bob Sanders in his grill – as the kids say these days – Michigan punt returner Markus Curry bobbled and fumbled a Bradley punt. Iowa safety Scott Boleyn recovered to set up the Hawkeyes at Michigan’s 16.
Banks hooked up with Jones for a 3-yard TD and a 17-9 lead with 8:57 left in the third.
“I thought the biggest play of the game was the fumbled punt,” Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr said. “That was the turning point. After that, we couldn’t get anything going.”
That’s when Iowa’s offense came back to life and Michigan’s defense melted like the green custard that passes for a field at Michigan Stadium.
With leading rusher Fred Russell on the bench with a hand injury and junior Aaron Greving AWOL, Lewis put his stamp on the game. He was the main cog in the two clinching drives, both of which ended in Lewis touchdowns.
“You know, maybe it doesn’t matter who runs the football for us,” said Lewis, who posted his second 100-yard day this season. “As long as the line is blocking like it does, it doesn’t matter who runs it. You just follow the blocks.”
Iowa rolled up 399 yards offense. Banks completed 18 of 29 for 222 yards and had another 53 yards on seven carries. Lewis spurred a ground game that finished with 177 yards.
“Everybody did a little something today,” Banks said. “We tried to get everybody a touch. Everybody did a little something with their turn.”
Ferentz didn’t break into Rose Bowl hyperbole, a prudent move with three games left. But it’s time to start weighing the
hows and what ifs of a possible trip to Pasadena.
Bottom line: The Hawkeyes need Ohio State to lose. There’s nothing they can do about that. Iowa doesn’t play Ohio State
this season. The Buckeyes cleared a significant hurdle Saturday by beating Penn State.
Of course, Iowa needs to keep winning, but if the Buckeyes also keep winning, the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl would go to OSU on a better overall winning percentage. That didn’t seem to matter Saturday, a day Iowa cleared a significant hurdle of its own.