The Good: Defensive Backfield
Iowa’s entire defensive unit, save maybe some criticisms for the defensive line, was stellar on Saturday, holding Shea Patterson to under 150 yards passing. In all, he went 14/26 for 147 yards, one interception, and zero touchdowns. Geno Stone was lights out, recording Iowa’s sole interception, as well as a pass deflection, and also made a tremendous tackle in the open field of Zach Charbonnet. Jack Koerner, who unfairly raises eyebrows when he gets a starting nod, had a forced fumble and pass deflection and was rarely (if ever) out of position. Even D.J. Johnson, who for some reason let a guy catch a 51-yard pass despite being right there, bounced back and locked things down.
Iowa’s line didn’t get the level of pressure they should on Patterson but thankfully, the defensive backfield shut down any semblance of passing game for the Wolverines.
The Bad: Road Nate Stanley
This is Nate Stanley’s worst performance on the road against a ranked conference opponent since…well…the last time Nate Stanley was on the road against a ranked conference opponent. In 2018 it was against Penn State, when he completed a pathetic 37% of his passes for 205 yards, threw for two interceptions and was sacked three times. In 2017 it was at Wisconsin where he completed eight (8!) passes for 41 yards, one interception and was sacked four times. His QBR against Wisconsin was 6.0. Six, point, zero.
Comically, this was statistically his best performance of those three games, as he threw for 260 yards and completed a more impressive 54.8% of his passes. Unfortunately, there were also the three interceptions and, oh yeah, the EIGHT sacks. Some of those weren’t his fault (which we’ll talk about), others, like the one where he had about 5 seconds to throw the ball away as he was running towards the sideline and decided instead to take the sack, were. Stanley turtles on the road in tough conference games and his decision-making is about a full two seconds slower. That was the case when he first started and unfortunately, that’s the case in his final year.
The Ugly: Execution and Adjustments
“We just didn’t execute out there” might be the understatement of the century when looking back on this game.
Iowa, a team that prides itself on discipline, was penalized eight times for 60 yards. I mean, just look at this drive in the 4th quarter:
- 1st & 10 at IOWA 44: (5:55 - 4th) Nate Stanley pass complete to Tyler Goodson for 31 yds to the Mich 25 for a 1ST down
- 1st & 10 at MICH 25: (5:24 - 4th) IOWA Penalty, Offensive Holding (-10 Yards) to the Mich 35
- 1st & 20 at MICH 35: (5:09 - 4th) IOWA Penalty, Offensive Holding (-10 Yards) to the Mich 45
- 1st & 30 at MICH 45: (4:29 - 4th) Nate Stanley pass complete to Tyrone Tracy Jr. for 5 yds to the Mich 40
- 2nd & 25 at MICH 40: (4:15 - 4th) Nate Stanley pass complete to Nico Ragaini for 6 yds to the Mich 34
- 3rd & 19 at MICH 34: (4:03 - 4th) IOWA Penalty, False Start (-5 Yards) to the Mich 39
- 3rd & 24 at MICH 39: (3:33 - 4th) Nate Stanley sacked by Cameron McGrone and Aidan Hutchinson for a loss of 12 yards to the Iowa 49
- 4th & 36 at IOWA 49: (2:52 - 4th) Michael Sleep-Dalton punt for 36 yds, punt out-of-bounds at the Mich 15
So, with over five minutes left in the game, Iowa was knocking on the door at Michigan’s 25-yard line and looking like they had an opportunity to tie things up. They proceeded to get called for two holds, backing them up to the 45-yard line, chipped their way back to the 34 and then got called for a false start. The false start and what happened after it shine a light on lack of adjustments by the offense. Iowa was getting called for holding because of: 1) A Michigan-related Big House conspiracy; and 2) The vaunted Iowa offensive line was simply getting beat. Iowa’s offensive line got manhandled this game, especially the tackles, who couldn’t deal with the speed of Michigan’s edge rushers.
When Iowa got called for the false start, it fortunately stopped a play where a Michigan defender shot (I believe) the B gap and was running untouched to Stanley. Had the play been live, Stanley would’ve been sacked. But here’s the kicker: Michigan ran the very same blitz the next play and Iowa didn't do anything about it. Whether it was a blown assignment or failing to put a RB in the backfield to block, Michigan blew up that drive with a 12-yard sack and took the Hawkeyes out of field goal range.
It’s another game of Ferentz-ian football where Iowa teetered on the razor’s edge but ultimately lost. Sargent fumbling the ball on the very first Iowa play was telling. The Hawkeyes ended up turning the ball over four times on Saturday, ending with a -3 turnover margin. If you play razor’s edge football with a -3 turnover margin you simply cannot win. And Iowa didn’t.