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Three Up/Three Down: Michigan Rolls Into Iowa City, Leaves With A Win

Michigan came into Iowa City, took care of business from the jump and headed home 5-0.

Michigan is now 5-0 after taking care of Iowa in Iowa City. The Wolverines jumped on the Hawkeyes in the first five minutes of the game and never looked back. Were it not for a rare bad punt by Brad Robbins, Iowa may not have put up any points on the entire day. At the end of regulation, it was 27-14 and Michigan is still rolling. Here are some things that stood out.

Three Up

Opening Drive Efficiency

In a game like this, it was very important for Michigan to start fast and that's exactly what they did. Michigan started the first drive of the game on the 25 after a touchback and proceeded to methodically move down the field and right into the end zone. The drive was 11 plays, 75 yards and ate up just over five minutes of game clock. The drive was seven runs and included an effective mix of Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards, JJ McCarthy and even Ronnie Bell, who capped the drive off with a 16-yard touchdown run on a reverse. McCarthy went 3-of-4 for 27 yards on the march down the field. 

Michigan had an opening-drive script that it felt good about and it worked to perfection. Iowa's defense had been giving up just over 5 points per outing all year and hadn't even given up a single rushing touchdown. Michigan eclipsed the point mark and got into the end zone on a rush within the first five minutes of the game. It set the tone for the entire day and helped U-M march on to victory.

Offensive Line Dominance

A big reason why Michigan was able to do just about anything it wanted to was because of the offensive line. Corum once again went over 100 yards and, if not for McCarthy's 21-yard loss on a fumble, Michigan's average yards per carry would've been north of 5 yards. Even though the production was there, it's not always about the numbers. Even from way up in the press box it was easy to see the push the offensive line was getting regularly. Michigan racked up 18 first downs in the first half, a lot on the ground, and finished the game with 24, nearly doubling up Iowa. In the days leading up to the game if felt like a contest Michigan could win up front and they definitely did that.

JJ McCarthy Is Getting Better Fast

We all know about McCarthy's arm talent, athletic ability and overall approach to the game of football, but today we witnessed the growing maturity, patience and offensive understanding in a big road game against a defensively tough team.

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He did miss another deep ball, but he was extremely sharp on just about every other throw in Iowa City. He didn't try to do too much like we saw a couple of times against Maryland and he was very patient and completely content with checking down and taking what the defense gave him. Because of that, tight end Luke Schoonmaker had another nice game with 4 catches for 45 yards. Running backs Donovan Edwards and Blake Corum also combined for 6 catches. At the end of the day, McCarthy didn't blow the box score up with a bunch of touchdown throws, but he did toss one and he was solid. His 18-of-24, 155-yard performance verifies that.

Three Down

Junior Colson In Pass Coverage

This is a pretty specific thing but it was noticeable a few times during the first half especially and makes sense considering Colson's youth and lack of experience in space against a tight end-centric team. On at least two different occasions, Colson got sucked up on a play-action pass and failed to get enough depth once he realized it wasn't a run. The first one resulted in a modest completion, while the second one could've been much more damaging had Spencer Petras not sailed the ball over his tight end's head. This is something that Colson will naturally get better at, and today it didn't hurt U-M, but he has to be a little more disciplined in those situations.

Going into a shell almost hurt Michigan

I'm not going to harp on it too much because Michigan stood up and got a stop on 4th down near the 5-yard line with a little over 5 minutes to play in the game, but the offense went into a shell for much of the second half and it gave Iowa a little bit of life late when frankly, they were lifeless for the first 30+ minutes. I understand that the offensive line had been really good, and Blake Corum was basically unstoppable in the first half, but running into a stacked box on 3rd and 1 late in the third quarter takes me back to a time when Michigan wasn't handling business like they should. 

Iowa's offense is so bad that it didn't bite Michigan today, but better teams, with more explosive offenses and more team speed could've made what seemed like a sure win in the first half a heartbreaking loss down the stretch.

Gave Iowa life in the 2nd half

This point obviously builds on the previous one but some of it was also just football. Punter Brad Robbins, who is usually outstanding, shanked a punt giving Iowa the ball on the Michigan 44-yard line. Eight plays later, the Hawkeyes were in the end zone. Bad punts happen, but Robbins' rare miscue came at a really bad time and gave Iowa momentum heading into the fourth quarter.

As outlined above, Michigan also seemed to take its foot off the gas too much. The offensive line was getting it done, and Corum was eating up yardage, but Michigan should've been using its speed advantage as often as possible. Instead, a three-and-out after Iowa's first touchdown gave the Hawkeyes a chance to go down and make it a one possession game. Their offense failed them, but it could've put Michigan in a precarious spot with quite a bit of time left in the fourth quarter.