Nov. 17, 2007
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IOWA CITY — A usually turnover-proof Iowa football team threw two interceptions and lost a fumble during a 28-19 nonconference loss to Western Michigan on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. The Broncos improved to 2-0 all-time against Iowa, which is now now 17-2 versus teams from the Mid-American Conference.
It was the 30th consecutive sellout at Kinnick Stadium.
The Hawkeyes conclude the regular season 6-6 overall while the Broncos improved to 4-7. Western Michigan, a preseason MAC favorite and participant in the 2007 International Bowl, also snapped Iowa’s 12-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents.
“Western Michigan out-played us in all phases, particularly in the first half,” Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They played extremely well. They certainly deserved the win.”
The Bronco’s Brandon West rushed for 116 yards and had nine pass receptions for 93 yards leading Western Michigan to 489 yards of total offense. Iowa found itself in a 19-point hole after 28 minutes and obviously battled from behind all game while accumulated 397 yards, including a 249-yard passing performance by quarterback Jake Christensen, who tossed three touchdowns — one each to Trey Stross, Tom Busch and Brandon Myers. Running back Albert Young picked up 95 yards on 17 rushes and finishes the regular season with 968 yards. Bronco quarterback Tim Hiller matched Christensen’s TD production. Hiller completed 26 of 45 passes for 367 yards and three scores. He was not sacked; Christensen was floored four times.
“The bottom line was how both teams started,” Ferentz said. “One was ready and one wasn’t. That’s my job to get the team ready to go and we weren’t.”
Two long pass plays — one a 29-yarder on third-and-9 — were keys to the Broncos grabbing an early 6-0 lead. The third-down conversion was a completion from Hiller to tight end Branden Ledbetter that took the ball to the Iowa 32. After an incompletion, Hiller and West successfully executed a middle screen and West went into the end zone untouched from 32 yards with 3-minutes, 24-seconds elapsed in the first period. The extra point kick was wide right.
The Hawkeyes, who have been among the best in the nation at protecting the ball, committed a rare turnover on the ensuing kickoff. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos lost possession and Western Michigan recovered at the Iowa 30. Five plays later Bronco kicker Mike Jones made it 9-0 with a 30-yard field goal at the 9:09 mark.
Western Michigan put an exclamation point on its first-period domination when Jones booted a 23-yard field goal as time expired to take a 12-0 lead. The Broncos marched 75 yards on 14 plays in 5:16, thanks to five plays that covered more than seven yards and pass completions of 17 and 16 yards.
The statistics sheet after 15 minutes validated Western Michigan’s advantages. The Broncos picked up eight first downs (to Iowa’s 2) and out-gained the Hawkeyes 160-32.
“It’s disappointing for our seniors. It’s tough to lose the last game in Kinnick. I’m very, very proud of these great young men.”
UI Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
With 12:57 remaining in the second quarter, Iowa appeared to receive a momentum swing. A 36-yard punt by Iowa’s Ryan Donahue was ruled touched on the field by Western Michigan and recovered by Hawkeye long-snapper Daniel Olszta at the Bronco 22. The play was reversed after a booth review, but the Iowa defense held.
Western Michigan capitalized on another Iowa turnover to take a 19-0 lead with 6:52 left before the break. Bronco E.J. Biggers intercepted a Christensen pass in the end zone and returned it 38 yards to the Western Michigan 38 with 9:03 left in the period. Five plays and 62 yards later, Hiller connected with a wide-open Anthony Middleton, who raced in for a 35-yard touchdown at the 6:52 mark. The completion came on fourth-and-inches. Christensen’s interception came one play after a nifty 12-yard completion to Paul Chaney, Jr., which moved the chains on third-and-9 from the Iowa 43.
Mitch King and Donahue were involved in pivotal plays that eventually helped the Hawkeyes get on the scoreboard. On the defensive end, King deflected a pass on third-and-5 from the Bronco 19, forcing a punt. It was the first of two pass break-ups for King on the day. Iowa’s first scoring drive — an 11-play, 70-yarder — was extended when Donahue was roughed by Western Michigan’s Fernand Kashama, giving the Hawkeyes first-and-10 from the Bronco 36. Christensen then completed 4-of-6 passes and Iowa scored on an 11-yard completion to Stross with 1:21 left in the half. The PAT kick by Daniel Murray was wide left and Iowa trailed, 19-6.
Western Michigan wasn’t content with a 13-point lead at the break. The Broncos made the most of the final 74 seconds and completed a 38-yard pass from Hiller to Schneider Julien that put the ball on the Iowa 19. Western Michigan attempted a 37-yard field goal with 0:04 remaining, but it was blocked by Bryon Gattas.
The Broncos rolled up 290 yards of offense in the first half compared to 123 by Iowa. Despite the disparity in yardage, the Hawkeyes were still very much in the game and the blocked field goal provided somewhat of an emotional lift, although Western Michigan opened the second half with a 22-yard pass completion and a 23-yard run.
A trio of Iowa seniors stepped up on Senior Day to bring the Hawkeyes within a touchdown at 19-13. Defensive end Bryan Mattison blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt by Jones with 12:33 left in the third period. Iowa then went on an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive that featured Young (six carries, 45 yards). The scoring play was a 3-yard pass from Christensen to Busch at the 8:56 mark. Murray’s successful PAT reduced the Western Michigan lead to 6.
“It’s disappointing for our seniors,” Ferentz said. “It’s tough to lose the last game in Kinnick. I’m very, very proud of these great young men.”
The Broncos answered with two big pass completions giving them a 25-13 lead with 3:33 left in the third period. They converted three times on third down with pass receptions of 8, 14 and 38 yards, the final one a bobbling snag by Jamarko Simmons that took the ball to the Iowa 9. Two plays later Hiller tossed a 7-yarder to Middleton and the edge of the back of end zone for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion pass failed.
Young rushed four times for 35 yards with a long of 24 on the next Hawkeye drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Christensen to Myers. Murray’s PAT kick was under the crossbar and the Broncos were left clinging to a 25-19 lead with 12:14 remaining. The biggest play in the series was a 38-yard pass completion from Christensen to Johnson-Koulianos.
Time was becoming a factor and the Broncos kept the seconds coming off the clock. Mattison stopped the clock and the Western Michigan momentum with a bone-rattling hit on West that forced an incomplete pass on third-and-6.
With 6:28 left, Iowa regained possession, 75 yards from victory. But on the third play of the drive Christensen was intercepted by Desman Stephen and the Broncos had the ball on the Iowa 38 with 5:11 left. West, the Western Michigan workhorse, took the ball by land and air to the Iowa 12, where the Hawkeyes used their final timeout. Chris Kelly, the backup Bronco placekicker, clinched the decision with a 30-yard field goal with 1:13 left.
Even when they were behind by nine points with 65 seconds remaining, Iowa would not quit. On first down, Christensen swung a pass to Young who gained 37 yards to the Bronco 16. But the clock expired with the Hawkeyes on the Western Michigan 10.
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