Iowa takeaways: Wadley gets a special hug; Welsh relishes win
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Somewhere around here early Sunday morning, Akrum Wadley was having some fun.
Coaches allow players 24 hours, give or take, to savor victories or flush defeats.
The Iowa running back was deservedly ready to relish this 14-13 upset of No. 3 Michigan.
“It’s going to be a great night. There’s a 24-hour rule,” Wadley said after accounting for 72.6 percent of Iowa’s 230 total yards — 115 rushing, 52 receiving — on a career-high 28 touches. “We do what we do tonight; we’re safe. We do what we do and move on.”
No matter what Wadley had in store for his celebration, something beyond the win already made his weekend.
Yes, head coach Kirk Ferentz gave him a hug.
Ferentz and the coaching staff have been tough on Wadley during the fourth-year junior’s career. They harp on him to keep his weight up (he's listed at 5-foot-11, 191 pounds, but he doesn't really weigh that much). They benched him after he fumbled too much as a freshman.
On Saturday night, it was Wadley, not starter LeShun Daniels Jr., getting trust for the crunch-time touches.
“That’s big. He trusts me to be in this type of game — the last man in the game,” Wadley said. “It’s big, man. Great feeling. He hugged me. Felt good.”
On Iowa’s lone touchdown drive, it was mostly Wadley.
His 27-yard catch-and-run got Iowa into the red zone, then he finished it off with a 3-yard TD grab on a gutsy fourth-down call.
“He’s a great back. Really elusive,” quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “He turns 3-yard runs into big plays, especially in tight spaces, which is crazy.”
Even Ferentz was impressed, with a caveat.
“He did a great job,” Ferentz said. “And I'll tell you, if we can get him over 190 (pounds), I'll be really happy with him.”
Spoiling Michigan's run
Knocking off unbeaten Michigan and sending shockwaves into the College Football Playoff picture felt good, especially for Iowa offensive lineman Sean Welsh.
He's from Springboro, Ohio. People in Ohio who like college football usually don't like Michigan.
That's true with Welsh. His grandpa went to Ohio State. His mom went to Ohio State. He was a Buckeye fan until he got recruited to play football elsewhere.
"I might not be a Buckeye fan anymore, but it's certainly bred into you, that dislike for Michigan," Welsh said, "It's uncanny.
"Everyone just had a lot of grit tonight. We took them to the end."
Welsh, Iowa's starting right guard, found himself at right tackle to end the game. That's because redshirt freshman Levi Paulsen was thrust into action after right tackle Ike Boettger left with a fourth-quarter injury. Regular right tackle Cole Croston was on crutches before the game.
So as it turned out, Paulsen was on the field for Iowa's winning drive to beat Michigan. Crazy.
"You never know how it's going to shake out," Welsh said. "Everyone has to be prepared for that. ... You're expected to do your job. I think a lot of young guys rose to the occasion tonight."
The quotable punter
Behind Wadley, punter Ron Coluzzi is probably the best quote on the Hawkeye team.
He was the holder on Keith Duncan’s game-winning 33-yard field goal, but he was involved in so much more than that Saturday.
On Iowa’s second drive of the game, with the game scoreless, Coluzzi rushed for a 5-yard loss on fourth down. Uh, that wasn’t planned.
He took the punt and was intending to kick it rugby style, but three Michigan defenders were charging after him for the block. So, Coluzzi juked left and tried to run outside.
He ended up falling down, doing a somersault and taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from freshman Devin Bush, who was ejected on the play for targeting.
Not the way your punter wants to get noticed.
“I thought it was going to get blocked, and I showed some really poor athleticism,” Coluzzi said. “Are you kidding me? A somersault, then I get hit in the head? That’s football.”
But Coluzzi would turn out to be one of Iowa’s MVPs on Saturday, starting with this 54-yard punt in the second quarter that was downed at the Michigan 2-yard line.
On the Wolverines’ second play after the timeout, Jaleel Johnson tackled De’Veon Smith for a 2-yard loss and a safety, Iowa’s first points of the game. Coluzzi deserves credit for at least one of them, right? And Iowa won by one.
The fifth-year senior graduate transfer from Central Michigan seems thrilled just to be at Iowa. And he was terrific Saturday. Of his seven punts that averaged 47.0 yards, only one was returned by electric Heisman Trophy candidate Jabrill Peppers.
“To feel needed, to feel wanted,” he said. “I’ve had an absolute blast here.”
What Harbaugh said
During Iowa's pregame radio show, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said of the Hawkeyes: "They've won practically half their games."
That's the goofy type of sound bite that comes from the second-year coach. Here's some of what he said after Saturday's loss.
On the facemask penalty that gave Iowa first-and-10 at Michigan's 36 to start its winning drive: "I didn't see it, either."
On how hard it is to go undefeated: "It's difficult but not insurmountable."
On Michigan's run game, which was held to 98 yards: "Yes, we would have liked to have more success there."
On Iowa: "Give Iowa credit, they tackled, they blocked, they played a very good football game. So congratulate them and move on."
A win for Davis
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis has certainly been under the microscope among media and fans.
But even though Iowa was held below 300 yards for the fifth time this season, Saturday's game showed some innovation.
Using Wadley more. A terrific fourth-down call to get Iowa into the end zone. A reverse to Jerminic Smith. And the final scrimmage play, an 8-yard quarterback draw on third-and-7.
"I think Greg made a lot of good calls tonight, really did," Ferentz said. "Starting with the touchdown to our left down there. And we missed the two-point play (a drop by Adrian Falconer). But it was there.
"And Greg's a heck of a football coach, heck of a person. And same thing on that front. I mean, criticism is going to come with anything you do, if you do something."
Biggest upset, Illinois TV
Iowa closed as a 24-point underdog against Michigan. This marked the biggest upset in Ferentz's Iowa career, topping the Nov. 4, 2000 win at Penn State when the Hawkeyes were a 17-point dog. ... Iowa-Michigan was the most-watched game on ESPN's platform Saturday, drawing a 4.0 national rating. Pittsburgh's upset of Clemson was second, drawing a 3.3. ... The Hawkeyes' game at Illinois will kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday and will be televise on the Big Ten Network, it was announced Sunday. ... Ferentz now has 80 wins in Big Ten play, moving him within one of Lloyd Carr (81) for the sixth-most in conference history.