Final drive falls 3 yards short as Iowa bruises Michigan football team's Big Ten hopes, 24-16
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Michigan made it interesting.
But in the end, the Wolverines' road to the Big Ten Championship game became all but impassable.
Denard Robinson led the Wolverines within 3 yards of a game-tying score with 16 seconds left, but four late passing attempts fell incomplete, handing Iowa a 24-16 victory and dealing a major blow to Michigan's hopes in the Big Ten Leaders Division.
"That's why you play 60 minutes of football," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said after the loss. "I didn't think we, as a team, played as well as we could (have) and should (have) throughout the game.
"We've got to do a better job of coaching, preparation, all those things."
Michigan is 7-2, and more importantly, 3-2 in the Big Ten. With Michigan State's 31-24 win over Minnesota on Saturday, the Wolverines sit a game back of the Spartans for the division lead with three games to play.
Michigan could win its final three games against Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State, and still fall shy of a division crown.
"We have three more games and that's all we can worry about," Michigan senior defensive tackle Mike Martin said. "We can't tell the future, we just know we have the next game at Illinois.
"That's all we can think about."
After two first-half turnovers put the Wolverines in an early hole, Michigan found itself trailing 24-9 with 10:42 to play in the fourth quarter when Iowa sophomore running back Marcus Coker, the Big Ten's leading rusher entering the day, capped an 11-play drive with a 13-yard score.
Then the excitement began.
Robinson, who missed a third-quarter series with an arm injury, led Michigan on a rapid eight-play scoring drive that was capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Koger, making it a one-score game with 7:53 to play.
Iowa had two chances to ice the game, but the Hawkeye offense couldn't kill the clock, eventually punting and setting Michigan up with the ball on its own 18 with 2:15 remaining.
Lightning appeared to strike for the Wolverines on their first play when running back Vincent Smith squirted out of a hole and sprinted 82-yard for an apparent touchdown.
The play was reviewed, though, and Smith's arm was ruled down at the Michigan 29.
But Michigan wasn't finished, as Robinson continued the drive, connecting on five passes and eventually moving the Wolverines to the Iowa 3-yard-line with 16 seconds to play.
Junior Hemingway then appeared to be the hero, catching a heave from Robinson in the back of the end zone, but he was ruled out of bounds.
The officials reviewed the play, and opted to let the ruling on the field stand.
"I don't have a great seat," Hoke said with regard to his opinion on the Hemingway ruling. "I know one (official) in the back thought (it was in bounds) and the other guy thought (it wasn't."
Hemingway made his feelings about the call known on Twitter, saying: "I caught that 1 no If ands or buts about it!!!! #GoBlue all day."
It would be as close Michigan would come, as Robinson threw an incompletion to Smith before having a last-second pass to Roy Roundtree broken up by B.J. Lowery as time expired.
Robinson finished 17-for-37 passing with 194 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Michigan sophomore running back Fitzgerald Toussaint ran for 58 yards on 16 carries before leaving the game with an injury in the third quarter.
The Hawkeyes improved to 6-3, 3-2 in the Big Ten, and now have their first-ever three-game win streak over Michigan.
"I think the whole defense was ready (for overtime)," Michigan junior safety Jordan Kovacs said. "But it didn't work out like that."
With Iowa up 17-6 at the halftime, Michigan began to show signs of life on its first drive of the second half, moving the ball deep into Hawkeye territory before settling for a 32-yard field goal by Brendan Gibbons to make it a one-score game.
All wasn't positive on the drive, though, as Robinson was buried on a third-down play by Iowa's Tanner Miller, knocking him out of the game with an apparent right arm injury.
The Michigan defense then answered with a stop, but sophomore quarterback Devin Gardner was unable to muster anything offensively in place of Robinson, leading to an empty possession for the Wolverines with 1:09 left in the third.
The Hawkeyes took advantage, embarking on another physical, clock-eating drive. Iowa's 11-play, 62-yard march was finished off by an untouched 13-yard scoring run by Coker, giving the Hawkeyes a 24-9 lead with 10:42 remaining.
Iowa finished with 302 yards of total offense, led by Coker's 132 rushing yards and two scores.
Though Michigan's conference championship chances took a severe hit, Hoke emphasized the importance of moving forward.
It's still November. Michigan has three games remaining. And that's all he cares about.
"There's a lot of football to be played and a lot of things at stake," he said. "And we've got 24 seniors who are going to play their last three guaranteed games at Michigan.
"We're always going to coach for them and we're always going to play for them."