Iowa fails to score a touchdown in blowout Big Ten Championship loss to Michigan

The No. 2 Wolverines defeated the No. 13 Hawkeyes, 42-3, to win the conference title.


Grace Smith

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson celebrates a sack on Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras during the Big Ten Championship game between No. 13 Iowa and No. 2 Michigan at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

INDIANAPOLIS — Back-to-back losses halfway through the regular season didn’t stop the Iowa football team from winning the Big Ten West, and neither did a 15-point deficit against Nebraska only a week ago. But Michigan, evidently, provided a bit too much adversity for the Hawkeyes to overcome in the Big Ten Championship Game.

No. 13 Iowa (10-3 overall, 7-3 Big Ten) suffered the program’s worst postseason loss and allowed the program’s most points in a game since the 2016 Rose Bowl in a 42-3 loss to No. 2 Michigan (12-1, 9-1) on Saturday. The Hawkeyes’ hopes of winning their first outright conference title since 1985, or Big Ten championship of any kind since they tied for one in 2004, are crushed.

“It hurts,” tight end Sam LaPorta, who caught six passes for 62 yards, said. “The team has been working for a moment like this since January. For a lot of guys, they’ve been doing this for five or six years. So it hurts more than anything to work so hard and fall quite a ways short.”

Michigan scored touchdowns of 67 and 75 yards on back-to-back offensive plays to take a 14-0 lead 10 minutes into the game.

A 67-yard Blake Corum run on Michigan’s second offensive drive put the Wolverines on top. It was the first run of 30 or more yards Iowa has allowed this season. Then, after Iowa went three-and-out, Michigan scored again. Quickly. On the first play of Michigan’s third offensive drive, a double-pass from running back Donovan Edwards to Roman Wilson went 75 yards for a touchdown. The Hawkeyes were suddenly down two possessions. And that didn’t change the rest of the game.

“It’s disheartening,” safety Kaevon Merriweather said. “A loss like that, especially on that stage, this big of a game, the emotions are really strong.”

In front of a crowd of 67,183, a record for the Big Ten Championship Game and the most at Lucas Oil Stadium ever for a game aside from the 2012 Super Bowl, Iowa surrendered 14 points in the first quarter and 28 points in the second half. Iowa kicker Caleb Shudak accounted for Iowa’s only points with a field goal in the first quarter. Iowa’s offense was held scoreless after that, its defense allowed six touchdowns on the night, and on special teams, the Hawkeyes surrendered a blocked punt.

Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson carries the ball to the end zone for a touchdown during the Big Ten Championship game between No. 13 Iowa and No. 2 Michigan at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (Grace Smith/The Daily Iowan) (Grace Smith)

The last game Iowa didn’t score a touchdown was 29 games ago in 2019 … against Michigan.

“I’m not sure the score is totally representative of the two teams,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It just is the way it went tonight. Go back to the early part of the game, for us to win this thing tonight we would have to not give up big plays, make them work at driving it. They did it a couple times in the first three quarters. But you give up a big play or two big plays it’s tough to do that against a good opponent.

“We knew we would have to play our best and make some things go our way. Obviously, that didn’t materialize. It’s certainly disappointing. It certainly hurts.”

Big Picture

Iowa sits at 10-3 overall and 7-3 in the Big Ten at the end of Championship Weekend.

The Hawkeyes are still waiting for their first Big Ten title since 2004, when they tied with the Wolverines for the top spot in the conference. Michigan’s win on Saturday marks its first Big Ten championship since that season 17 years ago. Iowa is now 0-2 in the Big Ten Championship Game, which originated in 2011. Former Iowa head coach Hayden Fry’s 1985 team remains the last time the program won a Big Ten title outright.

Michigan clinched a spot in the College Football Playoff with its win. This is Michigan’s first Big Ten Championship Game win.

A win on Saturday would have likely sent the Hawkeyes to the Rose Bowl. Now, the Citrus Bowl seems to be the likely destination.

Turning Point

The Hawkeyes had a chance to take an early lead on their first offensive drive of the game. Iowa’s defense forced a Michigan three-and-out to start the game, and its offense was settling for a field goal on its first drive after making its way into the red zone.

Then, for only the fourth time all season, Shudak missed.

The sixth-year senior’s 33-yard field goal was no good, preventing the Hawkeyes from going up 3-0 early in the first quarter. Iowa never came close to taking the lead again. Michigan scored touchdowns on its next two offensive drives (on-back-to-back plays) to jump out to a 14-0 lead.

“It comes down to fundamentals and details. We didn’t execute on those two plays,” linebacker Seth Benson, who tallied six tackles and a sack, said. “When you’re giving up big plays, it gives them momentum. You have to make them drive the field.”

Iowa’s offense made it inside Michigan’s 15-yard line on three separate occasions on Saturday. The Hawkeyes scored three combined points on those drives.

Yet another change at quarterback

Spencer Petras started the game at quarterback for Iowa before being benched in favor of Alex Padilla after one drive in the third quarter. Petras started nine games during the regular season, and took over for Padilla in the third quarter of Iowa’s comeback win over Nebraska last week.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras gets sacked by Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson during the Big Ten Championship game between No. 13 Iowa and No. 2 Michigan at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (Grace Smith)

Petras went 9-of-22 passing for 137 yards through just over two quarters of action against the Wolverines. The redshirt junior led Iowa’s offense for the first series of the second half, which resulted in a punt. Then, Padilla started throwing on the sideline and Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz tapped Petras on the shoulder while the QB sat on the bench. Petras wore a red backup quarterback hat on the sideline for the rest of the game.

“There’s not too much time to think about it,” Padilla said. “You just have to go in and play. Just run the offense the best you can. Obviously, it’s a tough situation being down like that against a really good team. They made it hard on us today. There are a lot of things we can improve on.”

Padilla started Iowa’s last three games of the regular season, but with Iowa trailing Nebraska by eight points at halftime of the regular-season finale, Kirk Ferentz went back to Petras. Petras took several hits in the first half, including one that was reviewed for targeting. Ferentz said Petras was taken out of the game for medical reasons.

“Yes, it’s a health thing,” Ferentz said. “I’m not sure what he has right now, something in his torso. He just couldn’t perform.”

In relief of Petras, Padilla finished 10-of-15 for 38 yards and an interception against Michigan.

Iowa sets interception record

The Hawkeyes intercepted two Wolverines’ passes — one from Cade McNamara and one from J.J. McCarthy — giving the team 24 on the season, tying a single-season program record.

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell recorded his second interception of the season with 17 seconds remaining in the first quarter when the Hawkeyes only trailed 14-3. The Hawkeyes were forced to punt after getting the ball near midfield after Campbell’s pick, though. Iowa cornerback Jermari Harris recorded his third interception of the season on a hail mary attempt on the final play of the first half.

Iowa’s 24 interceptions tie it for the most by a Power Five team in a single season since 2014.

Up Next

The Hawkeyes find out which bowl game they will go to and who their opponent will be on Sunday. Many projections indicate that Iowa will play in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, on Jan. 1. The Citrus Bowl features a Big Ten team against an SEC team.

Ferentz is holding a Zoom press conference at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday to discuss the bowl game announcement. Read the DI’s coverage of the bowl selection at