A Transylvanian gloom settled over the Big House around noon yesterday. Dark, chillingly damp, with a forboding mist. And Count Ferentz imposed a Draconian reign of terror upon Michigan all afternoon, as the Iowa Hawkeyes drained the life out of the Wolverines and imposed the worst home defeat upon a Michigan team that I can remember in my 33 years as a season ticket holder.
I'm sure you all watched or listened to the game, so I will spare you all of the gory details.
But in this reporter's opinion, here were the key elements that led to the downfall of mighty Michigan on this horrifying day.
1. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards led the Wolverines in the receiving with five catches, but he had as many or more drops as catches in the first three quarters of the game -- all in key situations. As former Assistant Recruiting Coordinator Mark Ouimet said in his Iowa Preview, "Iowa is going to score." It was also assumed that Iowa would give the Michigan running game trouble since they were #1 in the conference in run defense. Therefore it was essential, as Mark said, that "Michigan ... have success through the air" in order to win in a shootout. In key situations yesterday, Michigan quarterback John Navarre went to tight end Bennie Joppru and Edwards. But Edwards couldn't hang onto several Navarre passes this day, one a long 'bomb' in the third quarter that would have gone for a touchdown while Michigan was still in the game.
2. The Michigan offensive line could not handle the Iowa pass rush. In his preview, Ouimet also said, "The offensive line has to pick up Iowa's blitzes. Iowa will come at Michigan. They will take the initiative, go after the quarterback, try to make big plays." But instead Iowa sacked Navarre six times, all in the second half. In particular, the left side of the Michigan offensive line, where Courtney Morgan was substituting for the injured Adam Stenavich, got beat all day. Even when not getting sacked, Navarre was hurried constantly, and actually stood up well under the pressure. He was sub-.500 at 14 for 33, but the pass rush, and but the Edwards drops, were the reasons.
3. The Michigan defense simply stopped tackling midway through the third quarter. Iowa was only leading 10 to 9 when Marcus Curry dropped a punt on Michigan's 15 with nine minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. But when the Michigan defense took the field, their energy, their 'blood' had somehow been drained from them. They played 'zombie defense' the rest of the way as Iowa blew by them for 24 points in the last quarter and a half.
4. The one hopeful glimmer on this dreary day: after Phillip Brabbs missed an extra point in the second half, Michigan turned to punter Adam Finley to attempt a 40 yard field goal in the 3rd quarter -- and he delivered with yards to spare. Oh yes, and Finley also punted well again, averaging 43 yards per try.
So what does Michigan have to do to spring back to life at this point? Let's see: block better, tackle better, catch better, and run the football better. Wow, that's a lot. Fortunately for the Wolverines, MSU comes into the Big House next week in WORSE shape, by far, than Michigan.
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