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Michigan: Five things we learned

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Michigan's Chris Evans finds a hole in the Iowa defensive line on Saturday night.

An offense typically is as good as its quarterback: Wilton Speight, who appeared to suffer near the end of the game an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder which he said is fine, had “an off night.” Those were his words, and he was right. “The passing game wasn’t really clicking and that starts with me.” He was 11-of-26 for 103 yards and had an interception, but his misses were bad — overthrows, underthrows, and he didn’t get a ton of help from receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson at key moments. It was Speight’s first real road test, and he will have to study harder if he wants a passing grade at Ohio State.

On the run: Michigan’s running game, behind a four-tailback rotation, built up a reputation in recent weeks against some pretty lousy defenses — Rutgers, Illinois and Maryland have three of the Big Ten’s bottom four defenses. In that four-game span, which included a road game against Michigan State, a middle-of-the-pack defense, the Wolverines averaged 304 yards rushing. So rushing for 98 yards against Iowa deviated from what had become the norm, and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher why freshman back Chris Evans, who averaged 6.5 yards a carry, didn’t get more opportunities than his eight carries.

Just for kicks: Kicker Kenny Allen has had his share of ego bruising this season, but he has been consistent of late. Against the Hawkeyes, he made both field-goal attempts, the second a career-best 51 yards with 9:35 left in the game that regained the lead. He also had two punts inside the 20 — Iowa started one drive from its 12-yard line and another from the 15-yard line. Relying on his leg a few weeks ago in a clutch field-goal situation seemed iffy, but now, he seems to have found his edge and might be the team’s most consistent player these days.

Not so special: Special teams are sometimes an afterthought and often prove costly. Back-to-back roughing-the-kicker penalties, a kickoff return fumble and 10 men on the field for Iowa’s final field goal attempt were symptoms of something greater for the Wolverines in their loss to Iowa. Who does this get pinned on? That’s easy — coaching.

Flunking the first test: There is something to be said for challenging schedules that take a team out of its comfort zone early. Michigan opened the season with five consecutive home games and had ventured out of state only once this season before traveling to Iowa for a night game. Yes, the Wolverines played Rutgers at night, but the Scarlet Knights haven’t exactly struck fear in anyone. Kinnick Stadium has always been a tricky place to play, add that it was at night against a team that swept through the Big Ten West a year ago, the ingredients were there. Michigan absolutely needed a test like that, but the Wolverines would have been better served to have had that earlier in the season.