ANN ARBOR, Mich. — By the fourth quarter, they had to know what was coming.
Michigan unleashed its linebackers on Iowa’s offensive line in its 10-3 victory Saturday over the Hawkeyes. Time after time in the second half, the Wolverines activated their linebackers and they came up big.
Linebackers Jordan Glasgow and Cam McGrone combined for 3.5 sacks. Linebacker Khaleke Hudson piled up 11 tackles and a QB hurry.
On Iowa’s last-ditch fourth-and-10 from UM’s 44, Glasgow and Hudson were giving Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley a group hug.
It was an ugly day for Iowa’s pass protection, which came into the game as a real strength. Iowa had only allowed six sacks coming in. It gave up five in the second half and the Wolverines finished with eight.
The faults were all over the place. Iowa lost some one-on-one battles. The Wolverines isolated speed on Iowa’s inside protection. Running backs didn’t hold up. Stanley held the ball too long waiting for receivers to find some space against a terrific Michigan secondary.
“They’re a high blitz team (percentage-wise),” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Once you get some momentum doing anything, you’re probably going to stick with it. Our protection was not good enough, obviously, and that made it really tough.”
What does it look like when you know what’s coming and you can’t block it?
“It’s a very difficult thing,” guard Levi Paulsen said. “Nate Stanley checks us into a protection because he feels that’s best for Iowa football. It’s our job to block who we can, block the look, set with some depth. It’s tough, but it’s things we can get corrected.”
Iowa knew Michigan’s linebackers would be fast and aggressive.
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“We do a personnel report every week, and I felt like we had a good deal of understanding and info on what kind of players they were,” Paulsen said. “In short, I think it comes down to us executing the basics and fundamentals.”
Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown challenged his players and then he set them loose. Michigan players said in the postgame that Iowa doesn’t seem comfortable passing the ball.
“Coach Brown challenged us early in the week, and he told us that the quarterback had eight touchdowns and zero interceptions,” Hudson said. “So he challenged us if we could get two interceptions, so we got three.”
Most of the Iowa players said they didn’t believe they saw anything they didn’t prepare for. Michigan talked in its postgame about isolating rushers on O-linemen. You can know what’s coming, but the speed of the game seemed to be something the Hawkeyes never caught up with Saturday.
“We just have to have our eyes up, move our feet and not lunge at guys,” offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs said.
Sacks are really sort of defensive touchdowns. It’s negative yardage and it does have a mental effect.
And, let’s face it, after eight sacks, it gets into your head. That’s eight times someone had to help the QB up.
“I hate it,” Wirfs said. “The rest of the guys don’t like it. That’s our whole position, keeping Nate clean and protecting our backs. That’s really frustrating.”
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