Oct 4, 2003
IOWA CITY, IA — When the lights came on inside Kinnick Stadium, Iowa turned them out on Michigan, as the Hawkeyes came back from a 14-point deficit in the first quarter to defeat the Big Ten rival Wolverines 30-27 Saturday.
Iowa made the last half of their homecoming contest as dramatic as they could.
They equalized the Wolverines and then took a three-point lead in the third. And then the Hawkeyes added a touchdown to make the game 30-20 in the fourth, but came close to losing it after Michigan quarterback John Navarre made a 41-yard pass to Braylon Edwards to cut Iowa’s lead back down to three.
However, the Hawkeyes held Michigan on their last possession, and between the crippling Hawkeye defense and the deafening sell-out crowd noise, Michigan quarterback John Navarre couldn’t put together a final saving play and ended with three incomplete passes and the loss.
The win puts No 19 (ESPN/USA Today) Iowa back into contention for the Big Ten title after a disappointing loss last week to unranked Michigan State. The Hawkeyes improve to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in the conference, while No 11 Michigan falls to 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten.
It is an unlikely victory for the Hawks, whose secondary had difficulty limiting Navarre’s receiver options. In fact, Michigan had 463 yards of total offense, compared to just 295 from Iowa.
“Special teams were just critical for us. We’re not good enough to win if we’re not great on special teams. Fortunately, our guys have bought into it. It was a total team effort, and that was a big phase for us today. If we’re going to beat a team like Michigan, we’re going to have to come through on special teams.”
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
But that fact doesn’t bother Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
“We’re not a statistic team. We’re not going to be a statistic team this year,” he said. “We knew in January that wouldn’t be the case. But I also know that we’ll get better offensively. We took a major step today.”
Indeed they did, as quarterback Nathan Chandler went 17-for-34 for a career-high 195 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Chandler and pre-season All-America standout running back Fred Russell also found a play action combination that managed to frustrate the Wolverines’ defense, who had been preparing to shut down the team’s running game.
Chandler and Russell acted for a handoff but made big pass plays two times, including a 23-yarder to Erik Jensen, on Iowa’s fourth possession of the game. The plays equalled a touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the first, when Chandler, who was down on receivers, rolled out of a tackle at the 15-yard line and made a 6-yard run for the Hawkeyes’ first score of the game.
The play action worked until Michigan caught on after halftime. However, the team managed to turn the device again to their favor, as Michigan, now expecting the pass, suffered two 11-yard runs by Russell in the third quarter that set-up Nate Kaeding’s equalizing 32-yard field goal.
Later in that quarter, Russell broke free for a huge 34-yard run from Iowa’s 25-yard line to the Michigan 41, which signalled the near-end of the Michigan defense. Russell had 26 carries for 110 yards, and improves to 136-for-726 on the season.
“That’s one of the underestimated aspects of having Fred on your team,” said Chandler, who improves to 70-of-124 for 821 yards on the season. “If you hand it to him, you can make big plays, but you can fake it and pretend like you’re going to hand it to him and it opens up some big plays in the passing game.”
“That’s one of the underestimated aspects of having Fred on your team. If you hand it to him, you can make big plays, but you can fake it and pretend like you’re going to hand it to him and it opens up some big plays in the passing game.”
Iowa quarterback Nathan Chandler
Russell agreed that the combination was crippling.
“Our play action kills teams,” he said. “They’re so concerned about stopping the run, but they don’t know we have other weapons. It feels real good. They didn’t shut me down this year.”
But the Wolverines did almost have the Hawkeyes in their hands in the first quarter.
After three uneventful drives by both sides, Michigan got the game started on an eight-play drive that crossed 51 yards. Navarre had four pass plays, including a 20-yarder to wide receiver Jason Avant, which set up a 5-yard run by Chris Perry for the touchdown.
The Wolverines got the ball back just a minute later and Navarre made two passes to wide receiver Braylon Edwards, one for 36 yards and the other for 14, to make the lead 14-nil with just four minutes remaining in the quarter.
The deficit, which the Hawkeyes encountered early on against Michigan State last week, had the entire team worried, including coach Ferentz.
“Obviously, things did not go right to script early,” said Ferentz. “We didn’t plan on being behind 14-nothing. That was the nightmare part of it. We’re not a great come-from-behind football team. The guys made some plays today. They played together.”
But the Hawkeyes came back thanks to three field goals by Nate Kaeding and special teams’ action that couldn’t be challenged.
Head Coach Kirk Ferentz watches his team come back in the third quarter of their 30-27 victory over Michigan Saturday
“I can’t tell you how big of a win this is for our football team, and how big this game is for me and my career,” Kaeding said. “It is on a whole host of levels — going into a bye week, coming off an awful loss, two nationally-ranked teams, and being on ABC national television. However you look at it, it is a big game for us.”
Aside from Kaeding’s usually remarkable performance, the kicker has gone 8-for-8 in field goals on the season and has yet to miss an extra point, punter David Bradley kicked nine times for 398 yards, averaging 44.2 yards per punt.
Also, Iowa receivers managed 61 yards off of Michigan punter Adam Finley and 108 yards from kick-off returns, compared to 42 yards off of punts and 75 yards off of kick-offs by Michigan.
“Special teams were just critical for us,” Ferentz said. “We’re not good enough to win if we’re not great on special teams. Fortunately, our guys have bought into it. It was a total team effort, and that was a big phase for us today. If we’re going to beat a team like Michigan, we’re going to have to come through on special teams.”
The Hawkeyes are idle next week before travelling to Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 18, to take on the nationally-ranked, currently undefeated, defending national champions Ohio State University.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com