The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

‘They were the better team:’ Iowa players react to crushing 26-0 loss to Michigan in Big Ten Championship

This is the second time in three years the Hawkeyes have lost to the Wolverines in the conference title game. Over those two contests, Iowa was outscored, 68-3.
Cody Blissett
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy prepares to throw the ball during a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 2 Michigan at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. The Wolverines lead the Hawkeyes, 10-0, after the first half (Cody Blissett/The Daily Iowan)

INDIANAPOLIS – Confetti fell from the rafters of Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday night, but it wasn’t black-and-gold colored like Iowa fans and players had been wishing for. 

The 2023 Iowa football team recovered from setbacks and distractions all season, but the Hawkeyes couldn’t bounce back after several costly mistakes in Saturday’s 26-0 loss to the Michigan Wolverines in the Big Ten Championship. These included three turnovers, two of which were within their own 20-yard line, both of which set up Michigan touchdowns. 

“It’s always cool being able to play in a championship game like this, but ultimately it’s irrelevant if you don’t win it,” fifth-year senior defensive lineman Logan Lee said. “They were the better team today, but I don’t think we’re that far off.”

Iowa’s defense was able to hold its own against the Big Ten’s Running Back and Quarterback of the Year in Blake Corum and J.J. McCarthy, respectively, with the Hawkeyes holding the Wolverines to a season-low 213 yards, 12 first downs, and a 3-of-15 conversion rate on third down. 

Iowa defensive back Sebastian Castro, who finished with nine tackles and a pass deflection was happy with the Hawkeyes’ defensive performance despite the scoreboard. 

“I would go as far as saying we were dominant [defensively],” Castro said. “There were times where we weren’t perfect, and Michigan is a good team, [so] we did our best to contain them.”

Michigan’s first touchdown was set up by an 87-yard punt return by Michigan wide receiver Semaj Morgan, who got the Wolverines to the Iowa five-yard line after evading multiple missed tackles by Iowa defenders. 

 “We knew when we came in here that we pretty much had to play a flawless game, and obviously we didn’t do that,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. 

Still, Iowa’s defense was able to keep it close, as the Hawkeyes sacked McCarthy three times in the first half, and the score was 10-0 in Michigan’s favor going into the halftime. 

“Statistically, as a defense, we’ve been playing on a very high level for quite some time,” Lee said. “I think [we’re good enough] to hang with any team.” 

However, Iowa’s offensive couldn’t string together any meaningful drives against a Wolverines defense ranked number one in scoring defense, and when they occasionally were able to cross the 50-yard line into Michigan territory, turnovers hurt the Hawkeyes. 

Iowa fumbled the ball three times during the game, including one by running back Jazium Patterson late in the second quarter while the offense was at Michigan’s 29-yard line, and another controversial one early in the third quarter on a strip sack of quarterback Deacon Hill that turned it over to the Wolverines on Iowa’s six-yard line. 

Initially ruled as an incomplete pass and blown dead, the call was overturned to a fumble recovery by Michigan after officials claimed Hill’s arm was moving forward with the ball, but his hand was not. 

Hill, who lost another fumble early in the fourth quarter, said he didn’t receive an explanation from an official for the play. 

“I thought the play was dead. The whistles were blowing, the ball was on the ground, and nobody had it, so I thought it was dead,” Hill said. 

Turnovers or not, Hill said he thought the offense — which accounted for 155 total yards — should have executed better. 

“We were just trying to play our style of football, and obviously, it didn’t go our way today, but sometimes that happens when you go out and compete,” Hill said. 

Moving forward, as Iowa will soon find out who and where they play in their bowl game, many players hope to finish their season — and some their careers — with a win.

“We’ve gone through a lot of adversity throughout the season with administration stuff and injuries, but there’s been a lot of things that we’ve been able to fight through as a team,  but there’s still a lot a lot of room for growth,” Lee said.

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About the Contributors
Cooper Worth, Pregame reporter
Cooper Worth is a Pregame Reporter for The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communication. He is also earning a minor in communication studies and an entrepreneurial management certificate. This is his third year at the DI, previously serving as a News Editor and as a News Reporter covering local government in Johnson County for the DI. Cooper interned for the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa during the summer of 2023 as a general news reporter.
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.