IOWA CITY – On the turf, deep in the bowels of Kinnick Stadium, surrounded by a striped sea of black and gold, top-five teams often go to die.

There’s a magical quality to Kinnick, an aura that seems to catalyze stunning upsets: Entering Saturday, Iowa had defeated five of the last six top-five opponents that it faced at home, including a then-No. 2 Michigan football team in 2016.

Saturday, the fourth-ranked Wolverines waltzed into Kinnick conscious of its reputation, cognizant of the history. But they bucked the slogan – for a day, at least, Kinnick is where top-five teams survive.

Michigan (5-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) staved off the upset-minded Hawkeyes (3-2, 1-1), 27-14, to secure the program’s first win in Iowa City since 2005.

“Great, great feeling of winning and the thrill of victory,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “It’ll be a very happy flight back to Michigan.”

This isn’t a vintage Iowa team, but that doesn’t take away from what the Wolverines accomplished. The Hawkeyes tout a vaunted defense, as the unit allowed just 23 points across the first four games.

On the game’s opening drive, Michigan made a definitive statement. The offense marched down the field for an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped off by graduate receiver Ronnie Bell’s 16-yard touchdown scamper on an end around. Iowa looked hapless; Kinnick felt punctured.

“We did a good job of mixing up the plays, and that’s how you want to start a game,” Harbaugh said. “I thought it was a very impressive drive.”

Iowa’s offense – the worst scoring unit in the Big Ten – looked the part early on. In the first half, the Hawkeyes moved the ball past midfield only once. Michigan, meanwhile, doubled Iowa’s time of possession and secured a sound 13-0 halftime lead.

The second half began similarly. The Wolverines forced a quick Iowa punt and then steamrolled 67 yards into the endzone on another brutally methodical drive. This one ended in emphatic fashion, with sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy scampering away from a blitz and floating a touchdown pass for sophomore running back Donovan Edwards.  

Michigan’s 20-0 lead appeared insurmountable. The crowd, boisterous at kickoff, seemed lifeless.

“We weren’t gonna let up at all,” senior tight end Luke Schoonmaker said. “When you get up like that on a defense like this, you know they won’t be far behind in an environment like this.”

Sure enough, on a dime, everything changed.

Iowa cracked the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter, as running back Kaleb Johnson bounced outside for a two-yard score. Feeding off its reinvigorated fans, the Hawkeyes’ defense forced a three-and-out, handing the ball back to a suddenly competent offense.

Kinnick was alive, and so were Iowa’s hopes.

Down 13, the Hawkeyes had a legitimate chance to whittle the deficit to a one possession game. They stormed to Michigan’s six-yard line, confronted with a pivotal fourth-and-two. But a 13-play, 78-yard drive came to an underwhelming close: Iowa turned the ball over on downs, throwing short of the sticks and dashing dreams of a comeback.

“We faced a little adversity, but we didn’t flinch, we kept punching,” junior edge rusher Jaylen Harrell said. “Keep playing. Next play mentality.”

That mindset helped demoralize Iowa. As the final minutes played out, fans trudged for the exits, black and gold patterns giving way to barren metal bleachers. Kinnick, silent but for cheers from the Michigan sideline, seemed innocuous, far less daunting – just as the Wolverines intended.

Kinnick is known for upsets as much as its mind games; the visiting locker room is painted light pink, a calculated decision intended to mess with the opposition’s psyche. On the recommendation of graduate cornerback Gemon Green, Michigan players brought out pink towels with them to wave on the sideline, an ode to their temporary home.

“We always want to embrace everything they throw at us,” senior edge rusher Mike Morris said. “They have a pink locker room, thinking that it’s gonna be some type of adversity. I really didn’t notice it until we sat down and someone said it was pink. I liked the color.”

They liked the color, and they liked Kinnick, too. Because on this day, as junior running back Blake Corum staked the dagger with a 20-yard touchdown run, a top-five team lived. Michigan’s ambitions – and undefeated record – are still intact.