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Michigan columnist: Worst loss of season for Wolverines

[ 0 ] November 23, 2013 |

By Jeff Seidel | Detroit Free Press

IOWA CITY, Ia. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner looked devastated.

His voice came out soft, almost a whisper, as if he were standing at the far end of a long tunnel after Iowa came from behind and stunned Michigan, 24-21, on Saturday afternoon on a cold day in Kinnick Stadium.

Gardner held his right arm gingerly, in a strange manner, as if he were in pain and unable to move it, pressing his right hand against his side.

It sure looked like he had suffered an injury.

But he dispelled that.

“I’m fine,” he said, softly.

But there was nothing fine about this.

More after video

This might have been the most devastating defeat of the season for the Wolverines.

Because it looked like a certain victory, after the Wolverines had built a 21-7 halftime lead.

Because the Wolverines have fallen into fifth place in the Legends Division, ahead of only Northwestern.

Because it comes one week before the Wolverines play Ohio State.

Because, well, in the rubble after this game, it felt the season had just about died.

Now, back to that fumble.

Let’s set the scene.

Iowa scored 17 unanswered in the second half to roar from behind and take a slim, 24-21 lead late in the fourth quarter.

But the Wolverines had the ball and were marching down the field. Gardner looked confident.

He hit Jeremy Jackson for 18 yards on a huge third-down play.

He threw a screen pass to Fitz Toussaint for 13 yards.

Gardner had that old swagger and confidence about him. He looked like he was in control, like he was going to lead the Wolverines back.

At worse, it looked like the Wolverines would get a field goal to force the tie. At best, they would get a touchdown.

It was second down at the Iowa 39.

Gardner got free on an 8-yard run, which appeared to be a designed run.

But Iowa linebacker Anthony Hitchens came flying across the field, a missile in cleats, and he ripped the ball out of Gardner’s hands.

Gardner stayed on the ground, his helmet buried in the turf.

“He made me fumble,” Gardner said. “There isn’t much else.”

First of all, Gardner was holding the ball in his wrong hand. It should have been in his left, where it would have been more protected.

And he had a chance to run out of bounds. But he took the more dangerous route. Once again, his risky nature hurt the Wolverines.

Instead, Iowa had the ball and the Hawkeyes started heading the other way.

When the Michigan defense needed a stop the most, there was no stopping the Hawkeyes.

Iowa ripped off a first down. Then another. Then another.

And then, the Hawkeyes got one more, for good measure.

Victory formation. Kneel. Game over.

There was plenty of blame to go around.

Michigan’s defense played well at times, forcing three turnovers, but gave up big plays to let the Hawkeyes back in the game.

Once again, Michigan’s offense was horrible. Putrid. Ridiculous. Especially when U-M had to call time-outs, just to set its personnel and get the right players on the field.

And the stats were outrageous.

The Hawkeyes outgained Michigan, 407-158.

And the Wolverines dropped at least three passes.

“We usually do not drop those balls,” Hoke said.

So what now?

“We play for our seniors,” Hoke said. “That’s been the first thing we always play for. We have a pretty big rivalry game next week.”

Oh yeah, Ohio State. Yikes.

This is going to get ugly.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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