As Michigan began Big Ten play, its offensive weapons continue
to develop. But the part of its arsenal that shined the brightest
was on the other side of the ball.

While the offense turned in 27 points, the Wolverines’
defense forced five turnovers on Saturday, leading them a 30-17 win
over the Iowa Hawkeyes. Michigan ended its two-game losing streak
against Iowa and won its conference opener for the 23rd consecutive
year.

The barrage of takeaways allowed Michigan (1-0 Big Ten, 3-1
overall) to take a 16-7 halftime lead that it would not relinquish.
Seventy-nine of 117 of Michigan’s points this season have
come off turnovers.

“If you force five turnovers, you’re going to
win,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said.

Because both teams gave the ball up a combined seven times
— Michigan lost two fumbles — the game had little sense
of flow.

The Hawkeyes shredded through the Wolverine secondary on their
opening drive, which was highlighted by a personal foul on Michigan
cornerback Marlin Jackson that kept Iowa on offense and a diving
touchdown catch by Ed Hinkel. But Hinkel would lose the ball
following a reception three possessions later after getting hit by
linebacker Lawrence Reid. Michigan safety Ernest Shazor recovered
the fumble, and the Wolverines would capitalize.

On the next play, quarterback Chad Henne threw a deep fade on
the sideline intended for Braylon Edwards, but in the path of
heralded Iowa corner back Jovon Johnson. The 6-foot-3 Edwards
snatched the ball right atop of the 5-foot-9 Johnson and proceeded
to scamper for the 58-yard touchdown and a 10-7 Michigan lead.

“I don’t know how Braylon caught the ball,”
Carr said. “The ball was perfectly thrown, but I thought the
defender had pretty good position. Some way this guy found a way to
catch it and score a touchdown.”

Iowa (0-1 Big Ten, 2-2 overall) gave up the ball again on the
third play of the ensuing possession. Iowa quarterback Drew Tate
overthrew his pass intended for Clinton Solomon and cornerback Leon
Hall, who replaced senior Markus Curry in the starting lineup, laid
out and caught the errant pass.

Despite Tate’s two interceptions and one fumble, he
didn’t believe that the miscues came from a lack of
preparation.

“It was just them being athletes,” Tate said.

Henne found Edwards again on the very next offensive play for
Michigan in the middle of the field against zone coverage, where
the wide receiver showed his athleticism by running past multiple
defenders all the way to the Iowa one-yard line. Henne ran the ball
in the endzone for his first-career rushing touchdown. Garrett
Rivas missed the extra point off the left upright, so Michigan was
up 16-7.

Edwards terrorized the Iowa defense the whole game, finishing
with six catches for 150 yards. But while Edwards has gotten
receptions all season, the freshman quarterback implemented the
rest of his receivers into the game better than ever before. Henne
completed three mid-range passes to Jason Avant — who
previously had been virtually nonexistent in the offense —
before completing one pass to Edwards.

Henne seemed to feel more comfortable in the offense, especially
in the pocket, completing 16-for-26 passes for 236 yards.

“(Henne’s) continuously getting better and better
and better,” Edwards said. “He played with poise today.
He came out there and just made plays. Whenever we needed a third
down, he set his feet and was calm. If it wasn’t there
sometimes, he threw the ball away, which is another step in the
right direction. He’s getting better every week, and
that’s all we can ask for.”

Iowa drove 79 yards on its first possession of the second half
to kick a field goal and come within six, but turnovers on three of
its next four drives would end its chances. Tate would fumble the
ball in the backfield, where it was recovered by Scott McClintock
at the Iowa 23. The Wolverines then used two offsides penalties and
two Mike Hart runs up the middle to go up 23-10.

On the next play from scrimmage, Hall recovered a fumble by Iowa
running back Jermelle Lewis. Hart almost scored his second-career
touchdown a couple plays later, running the ball to the Iowa two,
but the freshman fumbled the football.

It was the one blemish on what was the second spectacular
performance by Hart in as many weeks. Hart ran hard up the middle
all game, normally taking a couple Hawkeyes with him wherever he
went. He finished with 26 carries for 99 yards. Although he’s
been in class just a few weeks, Hart felt from the beginning that
he could play and excel early in his career.

“I thought I could, that’s the mindset I came in
here playing with,” Hart said. “I’m getting a lot
of playing time right now, but hopefully I’ll stay
consistent.”

But the Wolverines would make up that missed touchdown
opportunity when nickelback Grant Mason leaped in front of Solomon
and forced the fifth Michigan turnover. He then ran the ball 25
yards before defensive lineman Roy Manning threw the stumbling
Wolverine into the endzone for Michigan’s final score.

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