Michigan-Iowa grades: Wolverines can’t stop Hawkeyes’ run game in upset loss

Michigan's run defense and passing game struggle in loss to Iowa.

| 3 weeks ago
(Matthew Holst, Getty Images)

(Matthew Holst, Getty Images)

Michigan-Iowa grades: Wolverines can’t stop Hawkeyes’ run game in upset loss


Iowa Hawkeyes 14, Michigan Wolverines 13

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from Iowa’s 14-13 upset win over Michigan in Week 11:

Iowa Hawkeyes

Quarterback grade: C.J. Beathard, 59.8

Downward trend continues for Beathard despite victory

After leading Iowa to the Rose Bowl last season, C.J. Beathard was riding high, but those positive performances have ebbed away as the season has worn on. Beathard’s five highest-graded games this season came in the first five weeks of the season, and his worst five games have come in the weeks since. Saturday night’s performance earned him his worst single game grade since Iowa’s Week 5 win over Wisconsin last season. Beathard didn’t complete a single pass aimed 10 or more yards downfield, and completed only one pass under pressure — the touchdown pass to Akrum Wadley against a heavy Michigan blitz. This was a special night for Iowa football, but not for its starting quarterback.

Top offensive grades:

RB Akrum Wadley, 88.3

C James Daniels, 79.3

RT Ike Boettger, 75.5

RB LeShun Daniels Jr., 71.8

TE Nate Wieting, 68.0

Wadley and Daniels grind the Wolverines down

leshun-truck

The Hawkeyes entered this game with the second-best run-blocking offensive line in the Big Ten according to PFF’s new O-line metric, and they stood up to their toughest task of the season so far by laying the foundation for a game-winning performance from Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr. The running backs added to a strong performance from center James Daniels by breaking a combined nine tackles and adding 3.1 yards per carry after contact. The Hawkeyes offensive line is not at its best in pass protection, and that was in evidence again as they allowed pressure on 50 percent of their pass plays, but their control of the game on the ground ensured that their pass protection wasn’t sufficiently tested in their last-gasp victory.

Top defensive grades:

S Brandon Snyder, 82.0

DT Jaleel Johnson, 81.2

LB/CB Ben Niemann, 77.8

DE Parker Hesse, 75.2

CB Desmond King, 71.9

Johnson rebounds in style

After his worst performance since Week 2 last season in last week’s loss to Penn State, DT Jaleel Johnson led from the front in Iowa’s upset win. A disruptive force against both the run and the pass, Johnson tied his season-high with five stops (including what would prove to be a pivotal safety) and fell one short of his season-high in pressures with five (one sack, four hurries). Versatile linebacker/slot corner hybrid Ben Niemann was another defender on the rebound after a disappointing display at Penn State last week with a pair of stops and only allowing six yards on the five passes targeted into his coverage this week.

Michigan Wolverines

Quarterback grade: Wilton Speight, 57.3

Speight and Wolverines guilty of too many opportunities

The wave of momentum that Michigan QB Wilton Speight was riding into this primetime encounter with the Hawkeyes ended up in a wipeout. He had a disastrous passing performance, particularly when trying to push the ball down the field. There were opportunities for Speight to make plays down the field on both Iowa cornerbacks, but an array of overthrown, late and underthrown deep balls saw the Michigan quarterback complete just one of his 13 passes aimed 10 or more yards down the field — a 29-yard gain to Jehu Chesson. Two of those deep shots were so poor that they allowed beaten Hawkeye defenders to recover and make a play on the ball. If even one of Speight’s deep shots connects with a receiver, the Wolverines could still be among the ranks of the unbeaten teams in college football.

Top offensive grades:

LG Ben Bredeson, 79.0

C Mason Cole, 77.8

RT Erik Magnuson, 76.5

TE Jake Butt, 74.7

RB De’Veon Smith, 55.5

Playmakers fail to make their mark

While they weren’t aided by their erratic quarterback missing them deep, Michigan’s offensive playmakers failed to provide a spark, either on the ground or through the air. Michigan’s ball-carriers gained less than two yards per carry after contact, broke only three tackles on 33 carries and only had two gains of 10 yards or more on the ground. Even much-hyped Heisman hopeful Jabrill Peppers was held in check, gaining less than four yards per carry on his offensive contributions for only the second time this season (Illinois). Michigan still controls its own destiny in the Big Ten, but cannot suffer a repeat offensive performances like this in order to win out (including beating Ohio State at the end of November).

Top defensive grades:

DT Maurice Hurst, 80.9

CB Channing Stribling, 80.6

S Delano Hill, 79.1

CB Jourdan Lewis, 79.0

DE Chris Wormley, 77.5

Pass defense holds Iowa in check, but never let loose

The Michigan pass defense led by cornerbacks Channing Stribling and Jourdan Lewis (who allowed a combined 14 yards in coverage) was at its usual lockdown best, but as the Wolverines were unable to establish a significant lead, Iowa was never forced into the teeth of that Michigan pass defense. Instead it was the Wolverines’ run defense that bore the brunt of Iowa’s offense, and it was let down by subpar games from the likes of LB Ben Gedeon and LB/S/CB hybrid Jabrill Peppers. Michigan’s defense missed 11 tackles, its most in a single game since its resounding defeat at the hands of Ohio State in Week 13 last season.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

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