Reports came out before the game that Iowa was going to be without one of their starting corners, Greg Mabin. This wasn't ideal, but true freshman Manny Rugamba had played well when he saw time on the field. Rugamba got the start and took advantage of every opportunity. He found himself lined up with either Jehu Chesson or Amara Darboh, both of whom are two of the better receivers in the entire conference.
Manny was in on four tackles, recorded three pass breakups, and even had a late interception to give the Hawkeye defense even more confidence than they already had. Manny proved why he's been playing all year long as a true freshman.
The other unsung guy was Anthony Gair. He entered the game early after starting strong safety, Miles Taylor left the game due to injury. Gair played like a man possessed. He was in on seven tackles and even recorded half a tackle in the backfield along with Rugamba. Gair stepped up and gave the Hawkeyes a needed boost at the safety spot.
I don't think I've seen him run that effectively since he stepped on campus. The junior ran the ball 23 times for 115 yards including five catches for 52 yards and a score. The offensive line was tremendous, but Wadley's ability to make people miss at the second level was unreal. He was making All-American defenders like Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers look like they were stuck in the mud, he was that good.
He led the Hawkeyes in rushing and receiving. He totaled 167 yards on the night while the rest of the team came in with 63. He was so much fun to watch and looked like he took his game to another level.
If he's going to continue to run the ball like that and bring what he brings to the table in the receiving game he's going to need 20+ touches a game and is going to be a big time problem for teams going into next season when he'll be the primary option at running back.
Just What Doctor Ordered
There is no doubting that this season hasn't gone as expected for the players, coaches, and fans. Iowa was coming off a season in which they went 12-2 and expectations were high heading into this season. Things got ugly when they lost their third game of the season to the FCS Champs. The Hawkeyes then went on to lose to Northwestern and Wisconsin at home and then Penn State on the road. Confidence was not oozing out of the Iowa locker room. But that didn't matter. This game was just what Iowa needed. With the exception of Akrum Wadley, the offense was fairly ugly. The defense was disruptive all night long and that resulted in just over 200 total Michigan yards. Iowa needed this win as it almost turns the season back around a bit. It is possible for the Hawkeyes to finish 9-4 if they knock off Illinois, Nebraska, and whoever they play in their bowl game.
A couple things stuck out for me here. Desmond King did a good job in both return games. He gave Iowa a nice little return that set up the game winning field goal and was able to get a facemask call on a Michigan defender to give the Hawkeyes another 15 yards. The Iowa punter, Ron Coluzzi, despite the trip, fall, and barrel roll was absolutely wonderful. He pinned the Wolverines deep in their own territory which led to the Iowa safety that got them on the board. His six punts averaged 47 yards with his long coming in at 54 yards. He's been a gem the entire year.
Lastly, how about the true freshman kicker, Keith Duncan. He drills two field goals, one from 33 yards out to beat a potential college football playoff team. That is a spot that not many true freshman can probably handle. Duncan handled like a pro and has received the highest praise from his teammates, especially Coluzzi, who without a doubt helped keep Duncan's nerves in check on that final kick.
This is still the one area that was hard to watch. Beathard finished 8/19 for 66 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. Five of his eight completions were to Akrum Wadley and were of the screen pass nature. Iowa was dealing with an experienced secondary, so throwing the ball was going to be a challenge, but I didn't think it'd be this bad. The one shot they took down the field was intercepted late in the game. Jerminic Smith caught two passes for 10 yards and Riley McCarron caught the other one for four yards.
The Hawkeyes need to rediscover the pass game a bit because who knows if they'll be able to survive more games passing for less than 100 yards a game. Look for Iowa to effectively pass the ball around the field next week against Illinois.