Sunday, October 5, 2003

No. 23 Iowa 30, No. 9 Michigan 27

Hawkeyes make it two in a row; Suddenly shaky Wolverines can't break Iowa hex

By Randy Peterson
Des Moines Register

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Bob Sanders slammed his helmet to the ground with just more than a minute to play. It was a happy slam. The kind of slam when you beat the once-mighty Michigan football team.


"Unbelievable, man," Iowa's all-America free safety said to no one in particular as Kinnick Stadium turned into a mosh pit after Saturday's 30-27 victory against the ninth-ranked Wolverines. "This is a celebration I won't forget."

His 23rd-ranked teammates won't forget it, either. It was the Hawkeyes' second victory in a row against Michigan.

"They were talking all week about how they were going to come out and run the ball on us," Iowa defensive lineman Jared Clauss said.

But Michigan and Chris Perry, the Big Ten Conference's leading rusher, managed only 74 yards on the ground against a defense that, for the second game in a row, had to play catchup after trailing, 14-0. The Wolverines scored two first-quarter touchdowns, and a bad start by quarterback Nathan Chandler caused some among a sellout crowd of 70,397 to boo.

"I think you can say we had a bad start," Chandler said.

The boos stopped as Nate Kaeding kicked three field goals, Chandler recovered from his inconsistent start and the defense finished up with a solid effort. And players and coaches were lost in a sea of celebrating fans after the Hawkeyes' record improved to 1-1 in the Big Ten Conference and 5-1 overall heading into a week off. Iowa plays next on Oct. 18 at No. 3 Ohio State.

Special teams were the difference.

Besides Kaeding's field goals, Ramon Ochoa had 133 return yards, David Bradley punted nine times for a 44.2-yard average and the Hawkeyes blocked a punt. Michigan's punting game was nearly non-existent.

"We're not talented enough to win if we're not getting great special teams play," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Our coaches and players believe in special teams."

It was Michigan's second loss of the season. The previous setback was against Oregon - and the Wolverines were bad in the special teams department in that game, too.

"This was a very disappointing loss for us," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "I take full responsibility."

Chandler's final act of redemption was a 31-yard touchdown pass to Ochoa with 5:16 to play that gave Iowa a 30-20 lead.

Michigan, which finished with 463 yards of offense, stormed back on a 41-yard pass from John Navarre to Braylon Edwards with 3:43 remaining.

The Wolverines started a final drive on their 27-yard line after a 52-yard punt by Bradley. They advanced to the Iowa 49. But on fourth down with 1:11 left to play, Michigan receiver Jason Avant went one way and Navarre's pass went another. A minute later, the stadium turned into a party.

"We had three guys way back there in pass coverage," said Chris Smith, a member of the Hawkeye secondary. "The last thing we wanted to do was get beat by a bomb that goes over our head."

The last time Iowa won two straight games over the Wolverines was 1984 and 1985.

Chandler completed 17 of 34 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Fred Russell rushed for 110 yards after getting only 17 yards in the first half.

"I ran the same all day," Russell said. "I saw more holes in the second half."

Or was it that the Michigan players were tired?

"It seems like in the second half (Michigan) got lazy and slower," Hawkeye linebacker Grant Steen said. "That's when we picked it up."

Iowa trailed at halftime, 20-17, after scoring on its final play of the second quarter. Calvin Davis caught a 6-yard pass from Chandler. Suddenly, things didn't look as bleak for the Hawkeyes, who trailed 14-0 just 12 minutes into the game.

Ochoa set up the touchdown with a 43-yard punt return, and Iowa got another 15 yards when Michigan was penalized for grabbing Ochoa's face mask.

"We've had some problems with punt returns," Carr said.

The Hawkeyes had problems, too. Iowa lost five yards on its first possession, and could manage only seven yards in three offensive plays on its second series of plays before punting. The third time the Hawkeyes had the football, Chandler was booed after overthrowing open receivers.

"We need to work on our starts, but one thing about it," Chandler said. "We have confidence in each other."

Meanwhile, Michigan built its early lead on a 5-yard TD run by Perry and a 14-yard scoring pass to Braylon Edwards.

Chandler settled down, finding success with play-action passes. His naysayers suddenly became his fans - especially when he eluded a sack en route to a 6-yard touchdown run for Iowa's first score.

"Our play-action killed them," Russell said. "They were so concerned with stopping the run; we've got other options."

Special teams was one of them.

Smith blocked one of Michigan's many strange punts. Garrett Rivas caught the snap from center, and ran right before punting on the run. He pulled that off twice, but on the third try, Smith blocked his kick. Rivas recovered, and he was tackled by Marcus Schnoor.

"I'm not sure what kind of punts those were," Ferentz said. "They looked like rugby punts and we don't have anyone from Australia on our football team, so it took a while to decipher it."

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