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Handing out game balls for Michigan’s first victory in Iowa City since 2005

The Wolverines are 5-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2010-11.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines are 5-0 for the third time under head coach Jim Harbaugh after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 27-14 on Saturday. The victory marked Michigan’s first victory at Kinnick Stadium since 2005 and the Wolverines’ third straight victory against Iowa.

From the opening drive, Michigan set the tone on both lines of scrimmage and executed a game plan centered around physicality and ball security. The Wolverines methodically opened up a 20-to-zip lead after three quarters before embracing a conservative game plan to salt this one away.

The final score made the game seem even closer than it was, but Michigan ultimately escaped the stadium “where top five teams go to die” and remain undefeated.

Let’s hand out some game balls!

Edge Mike Morris

The pass rushing pressure was inconsistent at best against the Hawkeyes but when the Wolverines needed it, Mike Morris answered the bell. With 3:45 remaining in a 13-point game, Morris sacked Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras on first down and forced an errant throw due to his pressure on second down. Fellow pass rusher Eyabi Okie helped guarantee this possession was a four-and-out, and subsequently, the ball game.

Morris finished with three tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries, the latter three led the team.

Morris and the Michigan defense held Iowa scoreless in the first half — the Hawkeyes had not been shut out in the first half at home since 2012. Furthermore, Iowa’s 35 rushing yards were the third-lowest output by a Hawkeye team in its last 40 games. The other two: one rushing yard against Michigan in 2019 and 24 rushing yards against Michigan in 2021.

QB J.J. McCarthy

Last week against Maryland, J.J. McCarthy looked uncomfortable when his initial read wasn’t open and consistently found himself forcing the issue and playing “hero ball.” On Saturday — in his first career road start — McCarthy displayed the poise of a veteran as he picked apart the nation’s top-ranked defense.

McCarthy finished 18-for-24 (actually lowering his absurd completion percentage on the season) for 155 yards and one touchdown. But it’s the command and comfort displayed by the young signal-caller earning him this game ball. McCarthy always took what the defense game him and embraced a conservative team strategy focused on ball security.

Now, if he can just hit one deep ball, he will open up the offense for the entire unit.

The entire OL

Why was McCarthy able to play so comfortably? Why was running back Blake Corum able to gash Iowa’s defense again and again? The offensive line dominated from start to finish.

The unit is finally fully healthy, as they welcomed back starting left guard Trevor Keegan, who did not miss a beat after missing some time. Keegan, Ryan Hayes, Olu Oluwatimi, Zak Zinter and Trente Jones have looked Joe Moore Award-worthy the last two weeks in pass protection, and especially blocking for the run. Look at the hole created to ice the game by this group and tight end Luke Schoonmaker:

Until Saturday, Iowa’s defense had only allowed 24 points all season through four games. Even with a conservative approach, behind this unit’s performance, Michigan was able to hang 27 points through a balanced attack through the air and on the ground.

Honorable Mentions

EDGE Eyabi Okie - He is getting better every week and I would be surprised if he’s not a consistent contributor by the Penn State game.

RB Blake Corum - Corum was incredible, but for the sake of parity he cannot win a game ball every week.

DT Mason Graham - The true freshman finished with a sack and a tackle for loss.