I started writing this post at Heiko's apartment before my laptop battery mercifully bailed out, giving me a few minutes to think on the drive home. Time heals all wounds, they say; this wasn't nearly enough time.
Michigan got an early gift when Jake Ryan's crushing hit on Iowa QB Jake Rudock on a play-action rollout—sound familiar?—led to a fluttering pass that Brennen Beyer intercepted and took back seven yards for a touchdown. The defense came away with two other interceptions in the game; Blake Countess baiting Rudock for his second pick led directly to the second Wolverine touchdown, a two-yard pass to A.J. Williams that Iowa had completely dead to rights until Devin Gardner comically stiff-armed Tanner Miller to the ground in the backfield.
Left to its own devices, the Michigan offense could muster just one more score in the game, a nine-yard pass to Jeremy Gallon to give them a 21-7 halftime lead.
The Wolverines finished with 158 yards on 57 plays (2.8 ypp); the Greg Davis-coached Iowa offense managed to tally 407 yards (5.5 ypp) despite freezing temperatures and a howling wind. At one point in the second half, Al Borges called for back-to-back reverses—the first one worked; the second predictably failed miserably. Iowa adjusted to Michigan's fake-bubble-based run game and that was all she wrote; the defense, down both starting linebackers by the end of the game, couldn't stop the inevitable comeback.
Eight three-and-outs. Eight.
Gardner fumbled on a draw play on Michigan's final offensive possession, their first turnover of the game; it was unfortunate, to be sure, but at this point it's pretty tough to blame the guy:
Gardner walked in holding his right arm in his pant loop. Like a self made sling. He's absolutely injured, just a question of how severely
— Everett Cook (@everettcook) November 23, 2013
I watch him play and feel no anger, just sadness. Michigan is left with no reasonable option but to put him out there despite the fact that he's obviously not close to the same player he was last year or at the start of this season, clearly hurt, and being put in a position in which few—if any—quarterbacks could succeed. Gardner gives this team the best chance to win; he's also battered, skittish, and quite possibly flat-out injured.
Crazy things happen in football, which is why we keep watching. It'll take something beyond any reasonable expectation of crazy for Michigan to even stay competitive in The Game on Saturday.