July 20, 2024

Michigan captures third-straight Big Ten Title after shutting out Iowa

Michigan Wolverines Football

Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh is presented the Big Ten Championship Trophy from FOX analyst Joe Klatt after a 26-0 victory over Iowa Saturday December 2, 2023 at Lucas Oil Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

INDIANAPOLIS — The Wolverines invaded Lucas Oil Stadium Saturday night on a mission, and they had their head coach on the sidelines for extra motivation.

Coach Jim Harbaugh returned to the sidelines after a three-game suspension, and led No. 2 Michigan to a 26-0 victory over Iowa in front of a crowd of 67,842. It wasn’t a pretty performance by the Wolverines’ offense, but the defense stifled the Hawkeyes the entire evening. Once the smoke cleared, the confetti showered from the ceiling, and it was Harbaugh’s boys who hoisted the Big Ten Championship Trophy.

Although it was a rollercoaster season that was full of adversity, the Wolverines generated a 13-0 record for a second-straight year, and Harbaugh couldn’t be more proud of his team.

“Just an incredible feeling, a great thrill of victory, and a great thrill of winning,” Harbaugh said. “Wonderful, wonderful feeling of winning, and it’s what our team had planned for, hoped for, worked for most importantly, and they stayed with it the entire time.”

There’s no denying that Michigan dominated the matchup. After all, the Wolverines led the Hawkeyes in total offense, plays, first downs and time of possession. Not to mention Michigan has now outscored its’ opponents in the Big Ten Title Game a jaw-dropping, 110-25.

There are some concerns about the offense being inept though. Iowa has one of the best defenses in the country, but that’s no excuse for the offensive struggles. The Wolverines were held scoreless in the second quarter, and had to settle for field goals, when they should’ve been scoring touchdowns.

What matters to Harbaugh, is the fact that Michigan didn’t turn the ball over, and he believes quarterback J.J. McCarthy played with poise. McCarthy completed 22 of his 30 passes for 147 yards. It was the fourth time in the past five games that the gunslinger failed to throw for a touchdown. Harbaugh thought McCarthy had a solid outing though, and admired the way he commanded the huddle.

“Uncharacteristically we had some drops,  we had some protection issues and things that we’ll work on,” he said. “I mean, he (McCarthy) never hung his head, never got on anybody, and he has just got this demeanor, in which the more you hit him, the more he is just motivated to come back, which is amazing.”

Running back Blake Corum scored Michigan’s only two touchdowns of the contest. He already set a single-season school record for rushing scores, and now he’s the Wolverines’ career leader too. Corum missed last year’s Big Ten Championship Game, so he made sure that he made the most out of his carries, and is happy that he set new milestones with the blue blood program.

“It was a beautiful journey, a journey that taught me a lot of things about myself,” Corum said. “I went through some
trials and tribulations, but I found myself again and became a better man on and off the field, but to be back out here with my guys, you know, it felt great.”

On defense Michigan played lights out, and caused three turnovers. Junior Colson and Ernest Hausmann tied for a team-high, eight tackles. Braiden McGregor, Jaylen Harrell, and Derrick Moore each made Iowa’s quarterback Deacon Hill eat grass. Mike Sainristil also tallied a sack, and forced two fumbles. For Sainristil’s heroics he was named the game’s MVP.

Special teams stole the day for Michigan. Freshman Semaj Morgan returned a punt 82 yards in the first quarter, which set up the Wolverines’ first touchdown. Kicker James Turner nailed four field goals, including a 50-yarder. Harbaugh is glad his defense and special team stepped up when the offense was abysmal.

Now the Wolverines are awaiting to see what seed they get in the Playoffs. It’s like Michigan will get the No. 1 seed. Regardless, Harbaugh understands his team has plenty of work to do in the meantime, but he’s going to enjoy this win. In his mind, the best is yet to come for the team.

“Makes me feel great, no coach could have it better than to have these coaches, and this staff.”