Michigan first-half observations: Wolverines start fast, Iowa hangs in

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — There’s been good, there’s also been plenty of out-of-sync play in the first half for Michigan in the Big Ten championship.

The Wolverines (11-1) lead Iowa 14-3 at Lucas Oil Stadium after two big-play touchdowns in the first quarter, first from Blake Corum and then on a pass from running back Donovan Edwards to Roman Wilson. But a couple poor decisions on punt returns have put Michigan’s offense in tough spots.

Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson scores in the first quarter to put Michigan up 14-0.

Iowa (10-2) entered the game leading the country in interceptions with 22 and added another against Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara late in the first quarter. Freshman QB J.J. McCarthy threw an additional pick on a Hail Mary to close the half. But the Hawkeyes’ offense has been its Achilles heel all season and has been struggling. Iowa is 1-of-9 on third down.

More: Watch: Highlights from Michigan vs. Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game

Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who set the program single-season sack record with 13 last week after recording three against Ohio State, now has 14 after a sack of Iowa's Spencer Petras late in the half.

This is the 11th Big Ten Championship Game and Michigan’s first appearance. The Wolverines are seeking their first Big Ten title since 2004 and a win will send them to a College Football Playoff semifinal. Michigan is No. 2 in the CFP rankings.

Offensive burst

After a three-and-out to start the game, Michigan rebounded with two big-play scores to build a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

The Wolverines entered the game with 10 scoring plays of more than 50 yards and added two more in the first against Iowa. Corum scored on a 67-yard run and then Wilson scored on a 75-yard pass from Edwards.

Corum had tremendous blocking on his touchdown run, including from McCarthy. McCarthy ran alongside on the Michigan sideline and managed to block two players.

Wilson got his third touchdown of the season on a bit of trickery with Edwards hitting Wilson in stride.

The Wolverines entered the game with 59 plays of 20 or more yards and also added a 29-yard gain from A.J. Henning on a reverse in the first quarter.

Cleaning up the defense

Michigan’s defense has held Iowa to a field goal — Caleb Shudak missed on a 33-yarder on the Hawkeyes’ first drive of the game — but has had a couple costly defensive penalties.

Dax Hill was called for pass interference on third down on the Hawkeyes’ first possession giving them the ball at the Michigan 17-yard line. It was David Ojabo’s stop of Tyler Goodson’s for a 3-yard loss that forced the field goal Shudak missed.

A more egregious penalty was Taylor Upshaw getting called for an unsportsmanlike penalty after Petras threw an incomplete pass that would have made it fourth-and-8. Upshaw got in Petras’ face and was called for the penalty. Iowa did not score on the drive.

Return game issues

Henning has made a couple questionable decisions on punt returns in the first half, which have put Michigan in challenging positions.

In the second quarter, Henning called for a fair catch at the Michigan 8-yard line and then on the next punt, called for fair catch on the Michigan 3-yard line. The Wolverines went three-and-out on both possessions.

Against a defensive-minded team like Iowa, this is hardly ideal field position for the Wolverines.


Twitter: @chengelis