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Posted on Fri, Oct 9, 2009 : 3:15 p.m.

Night moves: Michigan heads into a hostile environment at Iowa

By Dave Birkett

Rich Rodriguez knows all about night games, good and bad.

In 2006, his West Virginia team lost its bid for a perfect season in a road thriller under the lights at Louisville. The Cardinals, as if enchanted by the moon, scored on fumble and punt returns less than three minutes apart in the third quarter to swing momentum in their favor.


Michigan defense tackle Mike Martin makes a tackle earlier this season. Martin said he's looking forward to playing a night game on national television. (Photo: Melanie Maxwell |

Two decades earlier, Rodriguez had one of his most memorable wins as a player at West Virginia, beating Penn State at night in a game for the ages. Mountaineer fans celebrated by building a bonfire in the middle of the street - just down the block from Rodriguez’s house.

“They were burning couches and chairs and tables and lawn furniture and everything,” Rodriguez said. “I saw all the smoke. That was pretty memorable."

Michigan will play its first night game since 2007 today against Iowa at rowdy Kinnick Stadium (8 p.m., ABC). The Wolverines (4-1, 1-1) are 22-10 all-time at night, winning 11 of their last 13.

While players are looking forward to the experience - “I think everyone likes to play under the lights. High school, college, pros, whatever,” Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin said - Rodriguez said it's a challenge he can do without.

“It’s a long day,” Rodriguez said. “Certainly the anxiety builds.”

With eight extra hours to kill before kickoff, Rodriguez said Michigan will move some of its regular Friday night meetings to Saturday morning.

Players will take part in a game-day walk-through in their hotel ballroom before bussing over to the stadium, and offensive tackle Mark Ortmann said many will spend the day watching games on TV, re-watching Iowa film or taking short walks to stay limber.

“Not arm-in-arm, but even on home games, Saturday mornings, a handful of us will go take a walk around campus,” Ortmann said.

Unlike home games, Michigan will play in a decidedly hostile environment for the second straight week.

The Wolverines (4-1, 1-1) played their worst first half of the season in last week’s loss at MSU, and Rodriguez said he expects just as unfriendly an atmosphere today. Along with the electricity of a night game, today is homecoming for the 5-0 Hawkeyes, one of two remaining unbeatens in the Big Ten.

“Whatever (fans do for) the six or seven hours, or nine hours before the game, they seem to be more prepared for the game at night then they do sometimes those noon kickoffs, if you know what I mean,” Rodriguez said. “So I’m sure their student section and some of their fans will be extra juiced up, if that’s the right word.”

Michigan will be plenty juiced itself.

A second straight loss would all but eliminate the Wolverines from the conference race - no team has won the Big Ten title with two losses since Michigan, Northwestern and Purdue shared the crown in 2000 - and Rodriguez said his team is eager to prove that last week’s offensive and defensive struggles were a fluke.

Michigan ran for just 28 yards on 28 carries last week, and defensively the Wolverines spent half the game on the field for the second time this year.

“That was one that we maybe could have had but we didn’t get so it moves on to the next one,” Rodriguez said. “The challenging part for us is that we got to go on the road again against I think a top-10 team in their environment that’s playing very good football. We know we’ll have to crank it up and play a lot better or it could be a tough night.”

Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.



Sat, Oct 10, 2009 : 3:42 p.m.

It's very easy calling Iowa's defense "mediocre." Who did they play in that stretch of 33 quarters? In fact, going back to last year, they almost lost 3 games in that stretch. Am I also supposed to believe OSU's defense is any better because of their b10 record? We all know what happens to them when they step out of conference! Include a USC or a Florida (or for God sakes, somebody)in those 33 quarters and I'm there. Who knows, maybe Iowa will get their turn on Jan 1st against USC and then we'll see what they're about. If this were a Jr/Sr laden team on the defense side of the ball for UM, this wouldn't even be a game.....Go Blue!


Sat, Oct 10, 2009 : 1:54 a.m.

I hope the right side of the OL plays better against IA? This game could go either way, it could be close with even an upset UM win or it may be an IA blowout. I think our team will be hungry for a win and will play well, but may come up short at the end. IA 24 UM 20.


Fri, Oct 9, 2009 : 8:53 p.m.

walmart, Why the name walmart? Did you go to State? Can only fans that went to State cheer for State? Not that anyone who didn't go there would cheer for them, but is that a mandate for cheering for them? Don't hate on Michigan just because hundreds of thousands of people who didn't go there cheer for them. By the same standard, if you are a Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, or Pistons fan, did you play for them? I did graduate from Michigan, but I was a fan long before I went there and know that you don't have to go there to be a fan. Maybe you should tell all of the five year old Spartan fans (all one of them) that he needs to wait to go to school there before he can actually be a fan. In other words, 'walmartwolverine' is a juvenille, baseless Spartan term made by juvenille fans like you...who hopefully graduated from there before opening his mouth.


Fri, Oct 9, 2009 : 7:55 p.m.

I believe RR needs to feel a sense of urgency for the win, as well. I don't know about all of them on the field at the same time, but he definitely needs to go all out for this one. As for Iowa having a "mediocre" defense, I'm not quite sure where you got that from. They have not allowed a rushing TD in 33 quarters. That type of defense is the reason Michigan has to play a special game to win. It would be nice if OUR defense played a great game for once, too.


Fri, Oct 9, 2009 : 7:28 p.m.

I know health is an issue with this team (which makes this post meaningless if it is a problem) but this is a game I would like to see Brown, Minor, Forcier, and Robinson all on the field at the same time. I'm hoping RR feels a sense of urgency with this game and "sells out" to get the win. One, we lose our 2 top senior RB's after the year. Two, putting all our playmakers on the field takes the focus off Forcier a little bit. And three, UM gets a few rushing touchdowns against Iowa's "mediocre" defense. Imagine Brown split out, Robinson in motion in the slot, Forcier faking the handoff to Robinson, and Minor goes for 40 yards right up the middle. RR needs put this offense into overdrive or "crank it up" and give the rest of the b10 teams on the remaining schedule a scare. Go Blue!