Deja Vu. Iowa 30, Michigan 27

For the second time this season special teams breakdowns dug Michigan into a hole that a late game comeback couldn't get the Wolverines out of.

Things started well for Michigan. Before the first quarter was over the Wolverines were up 14-0.

And then the special teams woes began.

Iowa return specialist Ramon Achoa took the kickoff back 31 yards, with a 15 yard penalty tacked on for a late hit. Two minutes later the Hawkeyes scored, and at the end of the first quarterMichigan's lead was cut to 14-7.

Michigan answered at 14:50 in the second quarter, with a 47 yard field goal by Garrett Rivas hitting the crossbar and skipping over, upping the Wolverines' lead to 17-7.

Achoa took the resulting kickoff and this time returned it 37 yards, ultimately resulting in a 34 yard field goal by Iowa's Mr. Automatic, Nate Kaeding. The score at 11:46 in the second quarter: 17-10.

Michigan answered with a drive that ended in another Garrett Rivas field goal, this one for 26 yards. With 9:58 left in the half the score was 20-10. It was to be Michigan's last score until 3:43 was left in the game.

Despite an Iowa kickoff return that went to the Michigan 43, and another punt return by Achoa of 41 yards, the score held firm until 2:00 left in the half. Then Achoa returned another punt for 43 yards, with yet another late hit penalty tacked on at the end, and Iowa found itself starting at the Michigan 20. With 19 seconds left Iowa scored, and at halftime it was 20-17 Michigan.

In the second half the special teams 'bug' hit the punt unit. First a 'quick kick' type punt by Garrett Rivas was partially blocked but still got down the field for 40 yards. Iowa didn't score as a result, but instead tied the game after a John Navarre interception at 5:40 at with a 25 yard Keating field goal. 20-20.

Then at 4:08 left in the quarter a similar 'quick kick' type punt by Rivas was blocked, the Hawkeyes took over at the Michigan 15 -- resulting in a field goal to take the lead for good, 23-20.

Finally in the 4th quarter, for their final score, Iowa made a length of the field drive, going 79 yards to take a 30-20 lead with 5:16 to go. During the drive the Hawkeyes repeatedly picked on freshman Michigan cornerback Leon Hall, including for the touchdown pass to Achoa. Hall was in for the injured Jeremy LeSueur, who suffered a shoulder/arm injury on Iowa's first touchdown play in the first quarter.

At that point Michigan had had the ball seven times in the second half, had punted six and thrown an interception once, and had gone three and out five times.

Michigan started after the ensuing kickoff at the 14 yardline, and suddenly the Michigan offense came to life, scoring on a 41 yard touchdown pass from John Navarre to Braylon Edwards with 3:43 to go. It was 30-27. Michigan promptly stopped The Hawkeyes and got the ball back at their own 27 with 3:43 to go. Like at Iowa two weeks earlier, the stage was set for a comeback victory -- but after making two first downs their final drive stalled at the Hawkeye 44 and the ball went over on downs. Game over: 30-27 Iowa.

Final game stats: John Navarre completed 26 of 49 passes for 389 yards and two touchdowns (both to Braylon Edwards) and an interception. Not a bad day overall, although like at Iowa he did not pull it out for the Wolverines at the end of the game. And Chris Perry ran 24 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. Also not a bad day. And Michigan outgained the Hawkeyes overall, 463 yards to 295. But then there were those especial teams. Iowa had 193 total return yards in nine attemps (an exceptional 21.4 yards per attempt, including the above mentioned four for 30+ yards) compared to Michigan's 120 in eleven attempts (10.9 yards per attempt). And the Hawkeyes averaged 44.2 yards punting in nine attempts compared to Michigan's 35.5 in the same number of tries, of which two were the unusual 'quick kickers' and one (a tenth attempt, another 'quick kick') was blocked. And while we're at it. Michigan went '-minus one' in turnovers again, after already entering the game tenth in the Big Ten in 'net turnovers'.

As former Michigan staffer Mark Ouimet said going into this game, special teams and turnovers would decide it. And it would be the battle of the kick returners. So it was -- and Iowa's came out on top.

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