IOWA CITY, Iowa - Last weekend, the Michigan Wolverines halted a two-game losing streak that included a blowout loss to rival Michigan State and a streak-ending loss to Nebraska.
Brady Hoke lost his first game in Ann Arbor as the Head Coach when the Cornhuskers defeated the Wolverines 17-13 on November 9; and the 2013 season appeared to be spiraling out of control.
Then Michigan pulled out a triple-overtime win in Evanston to get things back on track and move to 7-3. It wasn't pretty. Devin Gardner's offense failed to score a touchdown in regulation and needed a heroic last-second 44-yard yard field goal from Brendan Gibbons to tie the game 9-9.
In overtime, Gardner took the game over, throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Jake Butt and rushing for the game-winner and two-point conversion in the final overtime. The redshirt junior finished the game with 226 passing yards and two total touchdowns.
The real offensive star for Michigan was freshman running back Derrick Green, who got his first college start. Green took the reins of a rushing attack that recorded a program-worst -48 yards in East Lansing and followed up with -21 against Nebraska.
Green carried the ball 19 times for 79 yards, and combined with fellow freshman De'Veon Smith and Gardner to record 139 yards on the ground. The return of the running game forced the Wildcat defense to respect the ground attack and gave Gardner more freedom to throw.
But the offensive line still couldn't hold up.
Gardner was sacked five times by the Northwestern defense and continues to get battered week by week. A combination of young offensive linemen and a hesitancy to get rid of the football have landed the Michigan quarterback on the ground far too often the last three weeks.
Michigan wasn't the only team to get back on track against a win-less opponent last weekend, as the Iowa Hawkeyes hammered Purdue 38-14 in West Lafayette. The 0-6 Boilermakers helped a struggling Iowa offense get back on track, allowing over 500 yards and five touchdowns.
In its previous two games, Iowa managed to score a total of just 26 points.
Michigan and Iowa are almost mirror images of each other this season, each team relying on strong defensive performances to make up for an inability to move the ball on offense. Iowa scored just 10 points against Northwestern in regulation, but Michigan managed only nine.
Both teams are 3-3 in the Big Ten and looking to assure at least a .500 record in the conference with difficult upcoming games on the horizon. Michigan will return home to host No. 3 Ohio State in the final week while Iowa heads to Memorial Stadium to take on Nebraska.
Minnesota is the only Big Ten team with a winning record that Iowa and Michigan have beaten, so far.
The key for Michigan will be to keep Gardner upright and continue to move the ball on the ground. Green will surely get most of the carries in Iowa City after reestablishing the run game against Northwestern. If Iowa's 12th-ranked defense can bottle him up and pressure Gardner, it will be another long afternoon for the Wolverine offense.
Though Michigan crushed Iowa 42-17 in the Big House last season, the Hawkeyes have won three of the last four meetings and each of the last two in Iowa City. Michigan leads the all-time series 41-13-4.
Kickoff is at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time in Kinnick Stadium and will air on Big Ten Network.
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