By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Freshman Keith Duncan’s game-winning 33-yard field goal propelled the University of Iowa football team to a stunning 14-13 walk-off victory over No. 2/3 Michigan on Saturday night in front of a sold-out Kinnick Stadium.
Iowa’s defense set up the game-winning drive with a three-and-out with less than two minutes remaining. Michigan’s Kenny Allen booted a 41-yard punt, where senior Desmond King’s 8-yard return gave the Hawkeyes possession at midfield.
A 15-yard personal foul facemask penalty was tacked on at the end of the return, giving Iowa a first-and-10 from the Michigan 36. Junior Akrum Wadley caught a 10-yard screen pass on first down and senior C.J. Beathard scrambled for an 8-yard gain on third-and-7, setting up Duncan’s heroics.
With three seconds remaining, Michigan iced the North Carolina native before Duncan split the uprights to send Kinnick Stadium into pandemonium.
“I am proud of our football players, team, and staff,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “A week ago at this time none of us were having much fun; it was a long ride home from State College.
“Once we got to game time, it was a matter of our players believing in themselves, their teammates and playing with the heart it takes to compete every snap. That’s what it took tonight.”
The victory makes Iowa bowl eligible for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons, moving the Hawkeyes’ record to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in Big Ten play. The loss was Michigan’s first of the season; the Wolverines were one of three top-four ranked teams to fall on the same day for the first time since 1985.
It was Iowa’s first home win over a ranked opponent since 2011 against No. 13 Michigan and the program’s first win over a top-five opponent since 2010 against No. 5 Michigan State.
The Hawkeyes spotted the Wolverines a 10-0 lead. Allen connected on a 26-yard first-quarter field goal before the Wolverines followed a Miguel Recinos missed field goal and took the ball on a 72-yard touchdown drive. Ty Isaac found the end zone from 7-yards out.
Senior punter Ron Coluzzi infused the Hawkeyes with energy with a 54-yard punt that was downed on the 2. After an incompletion on first down, senior Jaleel Johnson blew up the Wolverine line to stuff De’Veon Smith for a safety, making the score 10-2 with 6:31 left in the second quarter.
The Hawkeyes found the end zone on their final drive of the first half, going 52 yards over seven plays. Wadley accounted for 40 yards on the drive, which included a 3-yard touchdown pass on a screen pass, catching the ultra-aggressive Wolverines in an all-out blitz.
“Akrum came up with a lot of big plays; he’s a slippery guy,” said Ferentz. “The way they play defense, there’s not much wiggle room in there. Sometimes he made something out of nothing.”
Iowa’s two-point conversation attempt failed when Adrian Falconer dropped a slant route, but the Hawkeyes had a pulse, trailing the third-ranked team in the nation, 10-8, the break.
The Hawkeyes forced the game’s first turnover on the opening kick of the second half when Khalid Hill returned a pooch kick 13 yards to the 33, but he coughed the ball up on a hit by sophomore Jack Hockaday. Iowa was in business when Brady Ross recovered the fumble, giving the Hawkeyes a short field at the Michigan 43.
Iowa pounded its way into field goal range with its rushing attack with back-to-back Wadley 12-yard runs moving the Hawkeyes to the 20. The drive ended with a 25-yard Duncan field goal, giving Iowa a 11-10 lead with 9:55 remaining.
After gaining just 15 yards and being held without a first down in the third quarter, Michigan grabbed its final lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Wolverines were set to punt on fourth-and-4 from midfield, but the drive was extended when a roughing the snapper penalty was called on sophomore Brandon Snyder. Four plays later, Allen hit a 51-yard field goal to put Michigan on top 13-11 with 9:35 to play.
The defenses traded turnovers on consecutive fourth-quarter drives. Freshman Manny Rugamba, who made his first career start in place of injured Greg Mabin, intercepted Michigan’s Drake Harris for his second career pick.
The Wolverines followed suit. On first-and-10 from midfield, Beathard underthrew sophomore Jerminic Smith off play action. Michigan’s Channing Stribling came up with the interception at the 16.
Iowa’s defense pinned back its ears and did what it did all day, forcing a three-and-out — its fifth of the game — with the game in the balance. The Hawkeyes limited Michigan to 201 yards — 296 below its average — including 98 rushing yards on 35 attempts. The Wolverines finished 35 points below their season scoring average.
“The longer it went the more our guys felt, ‘Hey, maybe we can do something,'” said Ferentz. They kept believing in themselves and trusting each other.”
The Wolverines had just 77 total yards over the final two quarters.
Johnson was a one-man wrecking ball in the middle of Iowa’s defense, finishing with a career-high nine tackles, including six solo stops. He had two tackles for loss and a sack in the game. The Hawkeye defense finished with eight tackles for loss, collectively, and had two sacks and six pass breakups.
The Hawkeyes’ offense wasn’t pretty, but did enough against the nation’s top-ranked defense. Wadley accounted for 167 yards of Iowa’s 230 yards. He had 115 rushing yards on 23 attempts, and caught five passes for 52 yards with a touchdown.
Beathard finished 8-of-19 for 66 yards with one touchdown, but he led Iowa on his sixth career fourth quarter game-winning drive.
Iowa returns to action Nov. 19, traveling to Champaign to face Illinois in its regular-season road finale. Kickoff time will be announced Sunday.