After fifth-year senior kicker Kenny Allen booted a career-long 51-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to put the Wolverines up, 13-11, and after senior cornerback Channing Stribling picked up an interception with under two minutes remaining, it looked like the Wolverines had the game in the bag.
But the Hawkeyes got one more chance, and they made it count. Hawkeye kicker Keith Duncan hit a 33-yard chip shot as time expired, and Iowa pulled off a stunning 14-13 upset Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa’s defense was able to hold the Wolverines to just 98 rushing yards, the first time all season they have been held under 100.
“There were some wrinkles, they played well, they played hard, they set the edge extremely well,” said Michigan coach Harbaugh of the Hawkeyes’ defense after the game. “They tackled well and played good coverage.”
Just before Allen’s made field goal, it seemed as if the Michigan football team was sleepwalking. It had converted on just five of its attempted third downs. But then redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight had a rare scramble for four yards, and then he completed just his 10th pass of the game to senior tight end Jake Butt, who picked up 17 yards for a first down. The Wolverines would still be forced to punt three downs later, but they caught a break on the play.
A roughing-the-center penalty on Iowa gave Michigan the ball back on the Hawkeyes’ 36-yard line just after Speight overthrew an open Darboh streaking toward the end zone, ultimately setting up Allen’s dramatic field goal.
But the tide would change again with just less than four minutes to play.
Speight threw a bullet to Chesson, who was streaking along the right sideline, but the ball was snatched away by Iowa cornerback Manny Rugamba for a momentum-shifting interception.
Stribling matched the pick soon after, but with the Wolverine offense unable to find a rhythm, it was not enough to carry Michigan to victory. Michigan went three-and-out, and Iowa got the ball back with 1:23 on the clock.
“We didn’t make enough plays to extend drives and convert first downs, and we missed some deep throws,” Harbaugh said. “Give Iowa credit, they tackled, they blocked, they played a very good football game, so congratulate them and move on.”
Michigan managed only a field goal in the first 20 minutes of play, but Iowa couldn’t even muster that. On a drive that stayed alive after punter Ron Coluzzi improbably drew two straight running-into-the-kicker penalties on fourth down, kicker Miguel Recinos missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.
With both teams struggling as the first half progressed, it seemed like the Wolverines might escape. On Michigan’s third drive of the game, fifth-year senior wide receiver Jehu Chesson caught a 29-yard pass down the center of the field to Iowa’s 20-yard line. It set up for redshirt junior Ty Isaac’s seven-yard touchdown run that made it 10-0, Michigan.
The Hawkeyes finally did get on the board, though, after Coluzzi pinned the Wolverines on their own 2-yard line with a 54-yard punt. Iowa defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson hit senior running back De’Veon Smith in the end zone for a safety on the second play of the ensuing drive.
An unnecessary roughing call on redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Bryan Mone gave the Hawkeyes a first down on Michigan’s 9-yard line with just under three minutes until the break. It proved to be a costly error, as running back Akrum Wadley found open space to catch a 3-yard touchdown pass.
The second half didn’t start any better than the first for the Wolverines. On the punt return, fifth-year senior tight end Khalid Hill fumbled the ball on the 15-yard line right in front of the Iowa sideline, and the Hawkeyes were able to take the lead off of a 25-yard field goal.
For the first time all season, Michigan trailed in the fourth quarter.
“One of the things we had to do was make sure that they didn’t score,” said senior safety Dymonte Thomas about the second half’s defense. “If they don’t score, we win.”
The Hawkeyes handed the Wolverines their first loss of the season, damaging Michigan’s hopes of a College Football Playoff appearance. It may have taken until mid-November, but the Wolverines proved to be mortal.
After the game, Harbaugh was asked how hard it was to go undefeated.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “But not insurmountable.”
With just two undefeated FBS teams left in the nation, Saturday proved just how difficult it is.