INSIDE SLANT Iowa loss a costly one for Big Ten title hopes
The Wolverines will remember the first Saturday in early November as the point where their 2011 Big Ten title hopes got placed in the long shot folder. A clumsy 24-16 loss at Iowa has limited Michigan's chances of making the inaugural conference championship game to the "mathematically possible" category, but that's about as far as it can go.
The Wolverines turned the ball over too often and failed to score in four cracks at the end zone in the game's closing sequence, leaving them at 3-2 in the Big Ten and in need of much help to remain a contender for the Legends Division crown.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke has tried to keep his team motivated, knowing that a bid to a big-time bowl is still a possibility, despite the gloomy outlook in the conference race.
"It's still November, there's a lot of games left," Hoke said. "There's a lot of football to be played, there's a lot of things at stake."
Hoke readily admitted that his team under-performed on the road in what was essentially a must-win showdown with the Hawkeyes.
"We didn't play Michigan football like we wanted to in the first half. We had an interception when we were driving to try to score at the end of the half; we dropped a snap on a PAT, which we can do 1,000 times and never drop it," he said.
"There's a lot to learn from the game, but I'm proud of these kids. I'm proud of how they fought. They kept swinging. We were not perfect by any means, but they stayed together, they fought together, and that's what Michigan football has been for years."
Safety Jordan Kovacs tried to hug that party line and keep the mood upbeat and forward-focused, despite the awareness of what was likely lost at Iowa was more than just a game. Michigan's expectations had skyrocketed along with the great start to the Hoke era, and now the Wolverines are in a fight to stave off mediocrity.
"You remember the taste," Kovacs said about the bitterness of the loss at Iowa. "You forget about it after tomorrow and improve, watch the game film, and it's on to Illinois next week."
--The Wolverines drove 79 yards in the final two minutes of the game at Iowa, then failed to convert on four passes from the three yard line.
--The Michigan defense stiffened in the second half of the game at Iowa, allowing only seven points over the final two quarters.
-- Turnovers killed the Wolverines in their loss at Iowa. A Michigan fumble was turned into an Iowa field goal, and on the next drive Michigan QB Denard Robinson was intercepted in the Iowa end zone, ruining a chance to get the Wolverines within four points by halftime.
KEEP AN EYE ON: TE Kevin Koger -- The rangy and athletic Koger has become a more frequent target in the passing game as defenses focus more on the Michigan wide receivers. Koger had 3 catches for 18 yards at Iowa, including a 7-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
LOOKING GOOD: QB Denard Robinson -- The junior from Florida continues to improve, throwing for 194 yards in the loss at Iowa and pushing his career total to 4,375 passing yards. Robinson had two touchdown passes in the game and also rushed for 55 yards.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The Wolverines lacked the ability to close the deal in their game at Iowa. That was evident in a review of the game, and Michigan coach Brady Hoke addressed the issue as he tried to pinpoint the primary reasons the Wolverines were unsuccessful in Iowa City. "There are always six to eight plays in a game that are really going to define the outcome, when you're playing a good football team and when you're playing a team on the road," Hoke said. "You can think back and there are six or eight of those plays that really determines who executed and who didn't."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was a dog fight, and we knew we were going to be in a dog fight all game. I'm proud of the guys and how they fought back, but it's a tough loss. We need to learn from it." -- Michigan junior S Jordan Kovacs on the loss at Iowa
--WR Junior Hemingway had 64 yards on five receptions in the loss at Iowa, moving him into the top 20 receivers all-time at Michigan.
--DL Craig Roh is emerging as a force along the defensive front for the Wolverines in his junior season. The Arizona native had his fourth sack of the season in the loss at Iowa.
--S Troy Woolfolk made his second start at the position in the Iowa game after moving over from cornerback where he has played most of his career. Woolfolk, who went through the position switch prior to the Purdue game, is expected to spend the rest of the season at safety.
--DB Delonte Hollowell, who had been expected to redshirt in this, his freshman season, made his debut at Iowa playing on special teams.
--RB Fitzgerald Toussaint left the Iowa game with an injury in the fourth quarter and did not return. His status for this week's game against Illinois has not been determined.
--OL Ricky Barnum, who has missed a significant amount of time this season with an injured ankle, did not travel to Iowa after reinjuring the ankle the previous week against Purdue.
--WR Drew Dileo, the holder on Michigan's kicks, mishandled a snap on Michigan's first touchdown at Iowa, resulting in a miss and a 7-6 deficit for the Wolverines.
--DB Greg Brown, a freshman early enrollee who played little this season, abruptly left the program the week before the Purdue game.
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