After 4 games to start the season, Michigan was 4-0 and ranked #4 in the country. However, they had yet to play a game on the road. Their first road test was on the road at Iowa.
Kinnick Stadium has often been a house of horrors for top 5 teams. Prior to Michigan’s showdown at Iowa on Saturday, Iowa had beaten 5 out of the previous 6 top 5 opponents that had made the trip to Kinnick Stadium. One of those matchups was against #2 Michigan in 2016. Like many other opponents, Iowa came away with a 15-14 victory to hand Michigan its first loss of the season. Michigan was desperately trying to avoid that fate on Saturday.
Michigan started the game off perfectly, marching right down the field to take a 7-0 lead. They added a couple of field goals to take a 13-0 lead at halftime.
Coming out of halftime, Michigan forced Iowa to punt and then drove the ball right down the field to take a 20-0 lead. At the beginning of the 4th quarter, Iowa made things interesting by scoring a touchdown to cut the lead to 20-7. That’s when things started to look a little dicey for Michigan.
Iowa then forced a Michigan 3 and out and drove the ball down inside the Michigan 10 yard line.
Michigan then forced an Iowa turnover on downs which effectively sealed the game.
Michigan and Iowa then traded touchdowns to make the final score 27-14. Not only did Michigan win, they covered the spread with was 10.5 points. They passed their first road test with flying colors.
I will take a road cover at Iowa any day of the week. There were 3 major takeaways from the game that really stood out to me when I watched the game
Blake Corum is the best running back in the Big 10.
Last season, Blake Corum split carries with Hassan Haskins. Blake Corum finished the year with 144 carries for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Those are impressive numbers, but he wasn’t expected to be a #1 every down running back. Coming into this season, Blake Corum was expected to take the reigns as the #1 running back following Hassan Haskins’ graduation into the NFL. Blake Corum has answered the bell this season. He has particularly stepped up once Big Ten play started.
In Michigan’s week 4 matchup vs. Maryland, Blake Corum rushed for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns on 30 carries. That was the most rushing yards by a Michigan running back since Tim Biakabatuka in 1995. In Michigan’s week 5 matchup vs. Iowa, Blake Corum rushed for 133 yards and 1 touchdown on 29 carries. Blake Corum ranks second in the Big Ten in rushing yards with 611 and first in the entire country with 10 touchdowns. He also has played his best when Michigan has needed him most. Blake Corum has been a revelation this season and he is the best running back in the Big 10.
Mike Morris is a star for Michigan.
Coming into this season, one of the biggest question marks of the season was how Michigan was going to replace star edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and
David Ojabo. In the 2021 season, Hutchinson and Ojabo combined for a phenomenal 25 sacks and helped lead the Michigan defense to 8th in the country in points allowed per game. Coming into the 2022 season, the Michigan pass rush was a position of question. Michigan had some talented edge rushers and interior linemen, but they were largely unproven. For the first 4 games of the season, Michigan struggled getting consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It hadn’t hurt Michigan much, but someone was going to have to step up for Michigan. That person was Mike Morris. In the Michigan vs. Iowa game, Mike Morris had 2 sacks to go along with several QB hits and pressures. Mike Morris was the clear defensive MVP of the game. He played like a future first round draft pick. Mike Morris now has 4 sacks on the season, and I believe he will get to double digits before the end of the season. Mike Morris is a star.
J.J. McCarthy made a few plays that special quarterbacks make.
J.J. McCarthy was not great on Saturday. However, he was certainly more than enough for Michigan on Saturday. This was J.J. McCarthy’s first road start, and in my opinion he played very
well. What really stuck out to me was his poise and confidence. He also did a great job of not forcing things and taking what the defense gave him. He did miss on a deep ball to Roman Wilson who was wide open in the end zone. His inability to connect on deep balls at a consistent level is concerning. However, J.J. McCarthy took a big step in becoming the great quarterback that I know he can be.
J.J.’s Big Plays
There are two plays in particular that stood out to me on Saturday. Michigan was up 10-0 and were trying to add a score before halftime. On first and ten from the Michigan 45 yard line, J.J. McCarthy dropped back and threw and absolute dart to Andrel Anthony for 29 yards. It was a perfect strike right between the hole in the zone between the cornerback and the safety. The throw was the type of NFL throw that only a few college quarterbacks can make. It was arguably the best throw I’ve ever seen a Michigan quarterback make. The next play was the biggest of the whole game. One of the elements that J.J. McCarthy brings to the table is his running and his escapability in the pocket.
Michigan was up 13-0 and were driving in the Iowa red zone. U of M was facing a third and 8 from the Iowa 10 yard line with the chance to really put the game out of reach. Iowa’s star linebacker Jack Campbell came unblocked on a blitz. Previous Michigan quarterbacks made have just taken the sack which would have meant Michigan would have to settle for a field goal attempt. However, J.J. McCarthy was able to elude the pressure, roll right, and find an open Donovan Edwards in the back of the end zone for a touchdown to give Michigan a 20-0 lead and put the game out of reach.
Those are the type of plays that special quarterbacks make. J.J. McCarthy is certainly not a special quarterback yet. I still would like to see more from him in the upcoming weeks. However, he has special ability and he put that on display Saturday vs. Iowa. I am so glad that he is the quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines.
Photo Credit-© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK