Wolverines too much for Hawkeyes

INDIANAPOLIS — No. 18 Iowa won the Big Ten West by mucking things up for everyone else.

The Hawkeyes’ strategy failed them Saturday night.

While the defense did its part by holding one of the nation’s best offenses to two touchdowns and four field goals, their offensive struggles resurfaced in a 26-0 loss to No. 2 Michigan — their second conference title-game loss to the Wolverines in three years.

“Tonight is a low point,” coach Kirk Ferentz said following the second shutout in the Big Ten’s 13-game history. “These guys laid it out there. This guy (linebacker Jay Higgins), plus a bunch of other guys, laid it out there. Everybody laid it out there. Didn’t go our way, but they’ll get back on their feet because that’s the kind of people they are.”

For Iowa (10-3), it was all too familiar.

The Hawkeyes entered championship week with the FBS’ No. 4 scoring defense and it didn’t disappoint. Iowa sacked Big Ten quarterback of the year J.J. McCarthy four times, and limited the conference’s running back of the year, Blake Corum, to 52 yards on 16 carries.

Iowa allowed only 213 total yards and was the first team to hold Michigan to fewer than 14 first-half points this season.

Against a typical West Division opponent, that may have been good enough.

Against Michigan (13-0), it wasn’t even close.

“Of course, we want turnovers and those help us win,” defensive back Sebastian Castro said about missed chances on turnovers. “We need them, but at the end of the day you have to keep on playing. On that next play you try to get that pick and keep on playing and I thought we did a good job of that today.”

Instead, Iowa’s stagnant offense — only Arizona State and Michigan State among Power Five schools are worse — somehow watched its per-game average of 18.0 points slide even further.

Iowa certainly created its own problems with three three-and-outs in the first half, an inability to drive past midfield until midway through the third quarter and then having bad footing on fourth-and-1 from the Michigan 44 end its best possession of the game. Two plays typified the night — and perhaps the season — for Iowa.

Just three plays after a 25-yard punt set up Iowa at the Michigan 38, Jaziun Patterson lost a fumble after a 1-yard gain that could have allowed the Hawkeyes at least a shot at cutting the deficit to one score.

Then after taking over at the Iowa 6 early in the third, a replay review overturned what was initially called an incompletion. The ensuing fumble, replay officials ruled, was recovered clearly by Michigan at the Hawkeyes 12 and outgoing offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.

On the next play, Corum scored on a 6-yard TD run to make it 17-0, all but sealing Iowa’s fate. Afterward, Kirk Ferentz again criticized the replay system; during the season, he said the Hawkeyes had been “screwed” after a video review wiped out a punt-return touchdown after concluding one of his players had made an invalid fair-catch signal late in a 12-10 loss to Minnesota,

“The whole concept, as I recall, was taking, obviously — I don’t want to say a blown call, but a wrong call,” Ferentz said while describing the replay system. “If an official got screened, somehow an obvious mistake took place, you correct it. We’ve taken it to a whole different level, and we’ve been on the short end of two of them. Coaches get fired. I just think we have a system that needs to be readdressed.”