IOWA CITY – Until Saturday, redshirt sophomore right tackle Jake Long hadn’t played a snap all season. Instead, he had been relegated to the sideline on crutches, nursing what he described as a severe leg injury.

But on the last play of Michigan’s dramatic overtime win at Iowa, it was Long who Michigan coach Lloyd Carr trusted to get penetration on Iowa’s defensive front. On third-and-goal from inside the one-yard line, quarterback Chad Henne handed the ball off to Jerome Jackson, who went between Long and right guard Matt Lentz for the game-winning score.

Though they trusted him for the last, most important play of the game, the Michigan coaching staff didn’t give Long the start. After all, he just started practicing last week. Before then, he had only been able to work out on a specialized exercise bike that helped him develop his upper body and his one healthy leg.

“I came in three times a day and worked hard,” Long said. “Then I started practicing this week. I’m a hard worker, and I knew it would pay off.”

Redshirt junior Rueben Riley, who has started most of this year’s games in place of Long, started against the Hawkeyes. Long didn’t come in until the third series of the game. On that series, Michigan ran three straight runs and picked up the first down.

“I didn’t understand why he went in when he went in,” Henne said jokingly about Long not starting the game. “I thought Rueben was fine, but he has two broken hands. What can you do with that?”

After the first down, the Wolverines decided to throw the ball. Lining up across from Long, Iowa defensive lineman Mike Follett didn’t have a chance. Long took a step back and casually pushed Follett upfield and away from Henne, who eventually tucked the ball and ran for three yards. When asked for an honest evaluation of his performance, Long said he was pleased.

“I think I did pretty well,” Long said. “I messed up a few times, but nothing really major. It felt great.”

He split snaps with Riley, but, when he was in the game, Long looked as if he was back to his old form. On the first series of the second half, he hit defensive end Bryan Mattison, stood him straight up and toppled him right onto his back. The Wolverines gained five rushing yards on that play.

“With Jake in there, it was exciting to see him play and get after it,” Henne said. “He was kind of pumping up our offense, and it was just great to have him back.”

At the time when Long suffered what Carr called a “freak injury” back in August, the trainers thought it would take Long until at least Nov. 12 to make it back into the game.

But his quick return isn’t the first time Long has impressed his coaches and teammates – it’s something he’s been doing since coming to Michigan three years ago.

“He’s a rock on the right side and definitely, to get him back – a reliable guy who plays hard and is tough – that helps our offense tremendously,” left tackle Adam Stenavich said.

Breaking Wood: With star defensive end LaMarr Woodley nursing an arm injury, Michigan had to look to other players – both younger and older – to fill in on the defensive line.

Fifth-year senior Pierre Woods, who was also Michigan’s special teams captain, got the start in place of Woodley but was inconsistent for the first quarter. Woods, a pass-rushing specialist, looked like just that – he pressured Iowa quarterback Drew Tate and got into the backfield but had trouble helping the Wolverines contain sophomore running back Albert Young.

Coming out in the second half, Woods and the Wolverines focused on stopping the running game.

“We knew we had to do it,” Woods said. “If they were going to keep running, they were going to control the time of the game. – They were controlling the game in the first half, and we just had to stop the run.”

But it wasn’t just Woods chipping in. A number of other guys were able to step up and get some playing time in one of the most important games of the year. Sophomore Tim Jamison also filled in for Woodley, giving Woods a breather on running downs. And Jamison forced the ball loose on a hit he laid on Tate in the second quarter.

Eleven different Wolverines played on the defensive line during Saturday’s game. At one point during the game, Woods, freshman Terrance Taylor and sophomores Will Johnson and Alan Branch were all on the line together – not one of them started the season opener against Northern Illinois.

“It’s great for them to step up,” junior cornerback Leon Hall said. “It’s great for the whole defense. Because when you see them, you know they just want to play hard. So for me, it’s great to see them go out there and play and step it up.”

Notes: Michigan was penalized three times for 29 yards and Iowa was flagged 11 times for 94 yards. Even with all of Saturday’s penalties, Iowa is still the Big Ten’s least penalized team. The Hawkeyes have been whistled 31 times for 256 yards in eight games. – The win was Carr’s 100th at Michigan. He is the third winningest coach in school history, behind Bo Schembechler (194 wins) and Fielding Yost (165). – Entering Saturday’s game, Iowa had won 22 straight home games. – Iowa players urged fans to “black-out” the stadium to help give the Hawkeyes a 12th-man advantage.

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