BY THE NUMBERS
11 — Consecutive bowl-eligible seasons for Iowa
6 — 100-yard rushing games for Iowa RB Marcus Coker this year
6 — Iowa wins at Kinnick Stadium this year, one more than in 2010
3 — Consecutive games Iowa has beaten Michigan, a first in series history
112 — Receiving yards needed by Marvin McNutt (2,505) to overtake Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (2,616) to hold Iowa’s record
A — College football is a funny game. Sometimes, it even leaves you laughing.
A — Useful tight ends, a useful fullback, a useful defense … and a very useful victory.
A — Iowa football is like Iowa’s weather. If you wait seven days, it all changes.
DIVISION TITLE HOPES ALIVE
At 3-2 in the Big Ten, Iowa sits in a three-way tie with Nebraska and Michigan for second place in the Legends Division, one game behind Michigan State (4-1). Iowa plays host to the Spartans next week at Kinnick Stadium.
If Iowa wins out, it claims the divisional title and play in the inaugural Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. A loss next week virtually ends the Hawkeyes’ title hopes.
“I guess right now our focus is on November,” Iowa center James Ferentz said. “We’ve got one in the bank. You can try and look at it big picture, but we’re really wasting our time. We’ve got to make sure we’re focused on this next three weeks and the next task at hand is Michigan State.”
Iowa LB Tyler Nielsen has fought through an ankle sprain and a broken left hand this season to play a key role in Iowa’s defense. Nielsen sacked Michigan QB Denard Robinson, forcing a fumble and Nielsen then recovered it at the Michigan 31. The play led to a 42-yard Mike Meyer field goal.
“It was just a nickel blitz, and I came and it just worked out,” Nielsen said. “It was kind of like slow motion when I saw that ball rolling out. The first thing I was thinking was, ‘Get on it, no matter what.’”
Nielsen finished with 13 tackles, including seven solo stops, and had two tackles for loss.
Michigan traveled 79 yards on 14 plays in 2 minutes, 15 seconds to nearly force overtime. Twice instant replay was used, and both times the outcome favored Iowa.
On the first play from scrimmage, Michigan running back Vincent Smith burst up the middle for an 11-yard gain. Smith hit the ground, but kept his balance and broke away for an apparent 82-yard touchdown run. Replay showed Smith’s elbow and knee touched the ground, which sent the ball back to the Michigan 29.
The Wolverines moved the ball to the Iowa 3-yard line and had four chances at scoring a touchdown. Michigan passed on all four plays.
The second-down pass was hauled in by receiver Junior Hemingway in the back of the end zone. Hemingway caught it one-handed in the back of the end zone, but replay showed the ball slipped through his hands and hit the ground.
On third down, Nielsen forced Robinson into an errant pass, which was deflected by Iowa safety Tanner Miller. On fourth down, Iowa cornerback B.J. Lowery deflected Robinson’s pass, which was intended for Roy Roundtree. Lowery stuck his right arm, which is covered by a cast, in front of Roundtree on a slant pattern.
“I had no clue (what route Roundtree was running),” Lowery said. “He ran it, I reacted, play was made.”
Iowa defensive end Dominic Alvis will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Alvis, a sophomore, started eight games this season for Iowa.
“You hate for any player to deal with something that’s going to require surgery and rehab and all those types of things,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s a young guy that’s been working really hard and playing a lot better and improving each week.”
Alvis had 30 tackles this season, including 3.5 for loss.
Iowa’s 22-21 loss to Minnesota last week served as motivation for the team this week. Nielsen said he wanted to get the “bad taste” of defeat out his mouth, while James Ferentz gave credit to the team leaders for putting the team back on track.
“Those guys did a great job of really just making sure our focus this week was on Michigan and that we weren’t going to get beat twice by Minnesota,” Ferentz said.
Iowa plays host to Michigan State, the only Legends team without at least two Big Ten losses. But the Hawkeyes have won seven straight against Michigan State at Kinnick Stadium, dating to 1989. Iowa also has won two straight in the series.
But history doesn’t resonate with today’s Iowa players.
“We’re going to have to bring it again, even better than we played this week to come out with the victory,” Nielsen said. “Hopefully we can keep going and things will work out all right.”