Michigan vs. Iowa: 10 Things We Learned in Wolverines' Loss
Dropped passes, failures on third down and a late fumble from Devin Gardner contributed to Michigan's 24-21 loss Saturday to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
Leading 21-7 at the half, the Wolverines were outscored 17-0 and bulldozed by Hawkeyes running back Mark Weisman, who despite a recent slump, showed why he's one of the Big Ten's best runners with a late touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Of course, there are lessons learned from Team 134's lethargic offering. We'll dive into them with this slideshow.
Ohio State Game Is Bowl Game
Now at 7-4 (3-4), Michigan probably won't get a glitzy bowl game.
Prepare for something in late December that's sponsored by a domain website or something. It won't be a BCS game, that's certain.
So, in essence, the season-ending squab with Ohio State now serves as the bowl game. In the past, "The Game" was the defacto Big Ten title bout. But that's not so these days, as the Wolverines will now have to get past the Buckeyes in order to even think of winning a conference championship.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke is 19-1 in Ann Arbor. But that probably won't be enough come Saturday when the No. 3-ranked Buckeyes come strutting into town.
Today Has a Double Sting to It
Not only did Michigan lose to an average conference contender, but it lost on the same day that its bitter in-state rival, Michigan State, clinched the Legends title.
The Spartans took care of Northwestern at Ryan Field while the Wolverines were getting bullied at Kinnick. For the hardcore Wolverine fan, seeing the Spartans flourish and earn a real shot at Ohio State makes next week's game vs. the Buckeyes look like a mere tune-up for the main event.
And it is. So it's perfectly natural to feel that way. Tough luck this season for Team 134; this squad was supposed to signify a changing of the times. Instead, it carries a clever year-based name and gets bagged on by the rest of the league.
Still Wasting Gifts
A week ago, Michigan got help during its 27-19 three-overtime win over Northwestern.
Bad punts and field position played prominent roles in the Wolverines' victory. They needed help, too. Nine points in regulation weren't going to cut it at Ryan Field.
This Saturday, Michigan was given gift after gift, but capitalized on only one—Brennen Beyer's pick-six on the first play of the game. It was the defensive end's first pick of the season.
Self-inflicted harm is magnified when a team can't make good on the gimmes. Interceptions won't always turn into six points, but they can turn into three. Getting one more score from a turnover would have been the difference for Michigan.
Iowa Wasn't Afraid of UM
The Hawkeyes let it be known that they weren't intimidated by Michigan by going for it on 4th-and-4 late in the first quarter.
Iowa was at Michigan's 36, a little too far to kick a field goal and a little close for a punt...but not really. Gambling with field position early in the game is a sign of confidence. Not only was Kirk Ferentz's call a slight dig at the Wolverines' defense, but it was a swipe at Michigan's offense.
Now, this isn't meant to assume that Ferentz had malicious intent. But from an observer's standpoint, it didn't look like he was too worried about the possible repercussions—which turned out to be a three-and-out by Michigan.
Later, and with the game on the line, Iowa went for it on 4th-and-1, this time calling upon the 6'3", 236-pound frame of Weisman to do the dirty work.
Weisman got the first and then followed it up with a game-sealing touchdown.
No fear from the Hawkeyes. Not Saturday.
Look at Him Now
In 2012, Gardner crushed Iowa with 314 passing yards and six touchdowns (three rushing, three passing).
Michigan won that game 42-17 and the mini-legend of Gardner was born through the keyboards of those who cover Wolverines football.
The Gardner from a year ago isn't close to the Gardner of today, which is a counterfeit version of the quarterback Wolverine fans were hoping for.
"Gardner is on his way to being a star," some wrote (maybe this guy...?).
His fourth-quarter fumble, with Michigan trailing by three and driving, cost his team the game. He didn't help matters by averaging 3.5 yards per completion, either. The Detroit News' Angelique Chengelis noted Gardner's postgame dejection:
Gardner was barely audible, extremely down: "I lost the game myself, I fumbled the ball when they trusted me to drive down and score."—angelique (@chengelis) November 23, 2013
Weather Was Somewhat to Blame
The conditions weren't great for a passing game.
Gardner and Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock frequently missed due to wind. Receivers with cold hands didn't make things easier.
But each guy had to deal with the same weather, which was a breezy, brisk 19 degrees at game time.
Rudock only threw for 227 yards. He threw three picks, too. But he found the end zone twice and completed 18 of 29 passes. Gardner threw for 98 yards on 13-of-28 passing.
Each guy can blame the weather. But only one couldn't deal with the conditions.
Rudock was the one who adapted. And his team won.
Secondary Continues to Fold
Although Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor each had a pick, the Michigan secondary regressed against Iowa.
The Wolverines secondary gave up the play that got Iowa back into the action, a 54-yard strike from Rudock to WR Tevaun Smith, who took the ball down the middle of the field on his team's opening drive in the second half.
Rudock completed at least five passes of 17 yards or better.
Michigan's secondary was caught sleeping and allowed Smith to move the chains on crucial fourth-quarter drives.
Jake Ryan Adds so Much to Defense
Whether or not he's fully healthy really doesn't matter at this point—as long as Jake Ryan is on the field, teammates will feed off his energy.
That was the case during the first play of the game when Ryan charged Rudock, tipped the ball and set up Beyer's pick-six.
It was one play, yes. But it does a lot for team confidence. If anything, the defense showed more life than the offense, despite giving up big passing plays and 171 yards on the ground.
Ryan hasn't been able to fuel his defense with his play on the field, but his energy is certainly a much-needed component.
One Play Summarizes Michigan's Season
Just wait a second...
Just need one more....arrghh!!!
Carl Davis' sacking of Devin Gardner late in the third quarter was Michigan's season in a nutshell. Gardner was on the brink of (hopefully) making something happen for his team prior to being barreled over for a big loss that set up another punt.
Gardner goes backward each week, and so does his team.
Michigan Loses a True Team Player
Thomas Rawls hasn't seen much action this year. For one reason or another, Rawls, who averaged a touchdown once per every 14.25 touches in 2012, hasn't received the snaps that some thought he had earned.
This year, the junior has three carries for 12 yards and a touchdown. He did it Week 1 and hasn't been heard from since, other than on special teams.
He was hurt on the opening kickoff and appeared to injury his right leg, according to Angelique Chengelis of The Detroit News.
appears like right leg issue with Rawls...he's just got in the passenger side of the cart—angelique (@chengelis) November 23, 2013
Rawls isn't the only guy on the team not getting playing time. He's one of many unsung contributors who makes Michigan football go round. Losing him won't necessarily impact the team's plans on offense, but it decreases depth at running back, which could come back to haunt the Wolverines down the road.
The severity of Rawls' injury has yet to be reported.
Per Chengilis' Twitter feeds during the game, Desmond Morgan and James Ross also required attention at some point during the loss.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81