ANN ARBOR - Asked to name the most positive element he could take from yesterday's lopsided loss to Iowa, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr appeared speechless, stared at the questioner and said, “The biggest positive is that we get another opportunity next week.”
That was absolutely the only affirmative item that Michigan could take from its 34-9 pounding by the Hawkeyes in Michigan Stadium before a crowd of 111,496. It was UM's worst loss here since 1967, when it was shut out by Michigan State, next week's opponent, 34-0.
Iowa controlled every facet of the game in all but eliminating the eighth-ranked Wolverines from the Big Ten title chase, a pursuit 13th-ranked Iowa (8-1, 5-0) continues to control. Ohio State is 4-0, and the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes will not meet this season.
Carr told his team after its victory at Purdue the previous Saturday that it could have lost and still competed for the Big Ten title, but he also told his players that he couldn't say the same thing if they lost to the Hawkeyes.
The reason? Iowa has to lose two of its three remaining games for Michigan (6-2, 3-1) to overtake the Hawks - and that's if Michigan wins out. Iowa's next two games are at home against Wisconsin and Northwestern, respectively. The Hawkeyes close the season at Minnesota.
“I don't think we caught the ball very well or protected the quarterback very well, and when you're also not running the ball it can't get any worse,” Carr said yesterday after Iowa broke its seven-game winless streak against the Wolverines.
Iowa came here leading Michigan in just about every statistical category worth a calculation, and that's the way the Hawkeyes left, actually adding to their margins.
Iowa outrushed UM 177 yards to 22. Yes, 22. Quarterback John Navarre was Michigan's leading rusher with 18 yards. Tailback Chris Perry, playing on an injured right ankle, gained just 14 yards in nine carries.
It was the first time a team had rushed for more than 100 yards against UM in Michigan Stadium this season. The Hawkeyes had 222 yards passing to Michigan's 149 for a total of 399 total net yards to 171.
“I can say with confidence that when we play our game we're a good team,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, “but we still have some challenges ahead.”
Iowa grabbed a 10-0 first-quarter lead that could have been 14-0 had it not been for an outstanding goal-line stand by the Wolverines late in the second quarter. That forced Iowa's Nate Kaeding to kick his 16th straight field goal this season, a 19-yarder.
Less than two minutes later, Iowa punter David Bradley dropped a snap on fourth down, recovering at the Iowa 3. Michigan scored two plays later on a plunge by Perry. Philip Brabbs missed the extra-point kick, and Michigan trailed 10-6.
That was borderline miraculous considering that the Wolverines never drove into Iowa territory in the first half, were outgained 219 yards to 100 and had just three rushing yards.
UM started the second half with a rush, with Navarre running for 39 yards, but had to settle for a 40-yard field goal by punter Adam Finley to make it 10-9. It was his first field goal attempt this season.
The Wolverines' defense held Iowa on the ensuing series, the Hawkeyes punted - and UM's Markus Curry fumbled the punt away at the Michigan 16.
Iowa would score on its next three possessions, wearing out Michigan's defense, which was on the field too long in the second half to be effective. UM's inconsistent and ineffective offense tried to run without a running game. Iowa's defenders teed off on Navarre, sacking him five times.
“When we got the field goal and trailed only 10-9 we couldn't have felt any better considering the way we had been playing,” Carr said. “Things were going well, we got the defensive stop and then came the turnover. It was tough sledding after that.
“That was definitely the turning point in the game, but there were a lot of other things too. Certainly you've got to be able to run, and we couldn't get first downs and sustain drives. Iowa played a tremendous game and did a great job in every phase.”