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Iowa football: Defense struggles mightily in loss at Michigan

[ 0 ] November 17, 2012 |

ANN ARBOR, MICH. — Apparently, Iowa left its defense in East Lansing, Mich. It hasn’t shown up much the past five weeks and wasn’t there on Saturday in a 42-17 loss to No. 23 Michigan.

“Defensively, we didn’t have any answers to their attacks,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That became pretty apparent, pretty quickly.”

Michigan (8-3, 6-1) rolled up 513 yards on Iowa (4-7, 2-5) and scored touchdowns the first six times they had the ball.

Iowa’s B.J. Lowery tackles Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon during their game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Nov. 17, 2012. (David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

“We just came out there and we showed piss-poor effort,” senior Micah Hyde. “We gave away too many big plays.”

It was the fifth loss in a row for Iowa — the program’s longest losing streak since 2000. The loss also officially knocked the Hawkeyes out of the bowl picture.

Iowa won’t finish bowl-eligible for the first time since 2000 and won’t play in a bowl for just the second time in the last 12 years.

“It’s disappointing anytime you don’t go to a bowl,” Ferentz said. “That’s simply decided on field by winning. You don’t make it, you don’t make it … you go back to work.”

The Hawkeyes have been trying to find solutions to fix a defense that has given up 31.8 points and 482.6 yards per game the last five weeks. A defense that had been among the league’s best after the first six games.

“It does hurt to see teams each week putting up yards on us like that,” junior linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “We’ve just got to find a solution.”

Game statistics, scoring summary and chat replay

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner — a receiver a few weeks ago — torched Iowa for 314 passing yards and 37 rushing yards. He had six touchdowns.

The player he replaced, Denard Robinson, was on the field for the firsts time in three weeks, taking snaps at quarterback, running back and receiver. He finished with 98 rushing yards and two catches for 24 yards.

But it was Gardner who played with the Hawkeye defense like a cat with a ball of string. He averaged 17.4 yards per completion. Michigan was 9-of-12 on third-down conversions, and two they missed ended up being fourth-down conversions.

Iowa players head to the locker room following their 42-17 loss to Michigan at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Nov. 17, 2012. (David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen)

“We had a couple breakdowns in coverage, they had a good game plan,” junior linebacker James Morris said. “They knew what we were going to be in.”

Michigan had five plays of 30-plus yards on the day. A few came courtesy of help from the Hawkeyes.

On 3rd-and-17, Gardner hit Roy Roundtree for a 37-yard TD thanks to a broken coverage to make it 14-7. And it wouldn’t be the last blown coverage.

“You can’t have that against a good team like this,” Hyde said. “You can’t beat a team when you do it like that.”

Junior safety Tanner Miller gave a laundry list of reasons why the Iowa defense looked like Swiss cheese.

“I think a lot of it was what we weren’t doing,” Miller said. “There was a whole handful of things, metnal errors, missed assignments, blown coverages, missed tackles, whatever it was.

“And there were some where they were executing. We had guys in position to make plays and they just executed a little bit better and made those plays.”

And the Hawkeyes don’t have an offense that can compete in a track meet.

“That’s not the type of game we want to play,” sophomore running back Mark Weisman said. “Offensively we just want to do what we can out there, play physical, that’s our type of game.

Weisman did return for the first time in three weeks, and had 63 yards on 16 carries and an 11-yard touchdown catch.

Junior tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz also had his best game as a Hawkeye with 8 catches for 99 yards. Redshirt freshman tight end Henry Kreiger-Coble had a 16-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.

Tight ends had 11 catches, running back six, and receivers just two. Senior Keenan Davis didn’t have a catch for the first time in 25 games.

“That’s something we’ve always hoped to do,” Ferentz said of involving the tight ends. “I think the difference is we ran the ball better after the catch.”

The Iowa defense was a little banged up. Sophomore Quinton Alston started for a banged up Morris at middle linebacker and redshirt freshman linebacker Travis Perry got the nod over Big Ten tackle leader Anthony Hitchens.

And while Morris eventually came in and took over, the coaches later ended up playing five different safeties. Tanner Miller and Nico Law got the starts, but Collin Sleeper, Tom Donatell and John Lowdermilk all saw time.

“Not much was working clearly,” Ferentz said. “We didn’t have many answers once they go it going. It was an opportunity to play some guys, see what they do.

“Try to asses everything and see what gives us our best chance this coming week.”

It will be all hands on deck in a short week. No. 16 Nebraska comes to Iowa City on Friday to play in Kinnick Stadium for the first time since 1999.

“We’ve just got to find the best man in,” Kirksey said. “That’s what we’re working on right now.”

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Ryan Suchomel: Reach Ryan Suchomel at 339-7368 or rsuchomel@press-citizen.com. View author profile.

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