IOWA CITY, Iowa — Wilton Speight got caught in the trap game.
That’s not to say Michigan’s quarterback wasn’t prepared for Saturday night’s game at Kinnick Stadium. And that’s not to say Michigan wasn’t prepared to face Iowa. But Michigan certainly wasn’t prepared to lose 14-13 to Iowa, on a last-second field goal by Keith Duncan.
Michigan had to fall some way, somehow. Saturday’s loss at Iowa was Michigan’s first loss since Nov. 28, 2015, a 42-13 loss to Ohio State. And Speight had his second-lowest passing output this season: 103 yards on 11-of-26 passing with no touchdowns and 1 interception.
When many anticipated that Michigan’s secondary would be key — indeed, it held Iowa QB C.J. Beathard to 66 yards passing, registering 1 pass breakup and 1 interception — Iowa’s secondary became the game-changer, throwing Speight off balance and stifling Michigan’s passing game.
Iowa had 6 pass breakups, and no one in the Hawkeyes secondary stood taller than CB Manny Rugamba. Filling in for injured senior Greg Mabin, Rugamba had 3 pass breakups, 4 tackles and that interception — with Michigan holding a 13-11 lead and driving with less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
— BOOM Football (@BOOMfootball) November 13, 2016
Iowa planned strategically for Michigan, the No. 3 team in the College Football Playoff rankings entering the game. Part of that plan meant limiting Speight, who was consistent through the course of Michigan’s first nine games:
Wilton Speight game log this season
|Sept. 24||Penn State||189||21-34||1||0||0|
|Oct. 8||at Rutgers||100||6-13||1||0||0|
|Oct. 29||at Michigan State||244||16-25||0||1||0|
|Nov. 12||at Iowa||103||11-26||0||1||2|
Not Saturday night, though. On Michigan’s final drive, Speight was slowed by a shoulder injury, sustained earlier in the fourth quarter, and his pass to Amara Darboh on third and 8 from the Michigan 18 bounced off the wide receiver — who was defended by Rugamba.
“It hurts,” Speight admitted of his shoulder after the game. “I got it checked out, but we’ll look into it more when we get back to Ann Arbor.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh meets with the media on Monday, and could provide an update on Speight’s status — or could simply say that Speight is “working through something” — a cryptic term for a player dealing with an injury.
If Speight is unable to play, Michigan will turn to John O’Korn, a transfer from Houston who sat out last season per NCAA transfer rules.
“It might have, a little bit,” Harbaugh said Saturday night when asked if Speight’s shoulder affected him late in the game. “I thought he threw a good ball there, to Amara (Darboh), the last one, and then he threw a real good one to Jehu (Chesson), the one that got intercepted. The last one, I thought Amara’s hand was getting held down, but every little thing doesn’t go your way. I thought he played well, all night.”
Speight, however, faced the questions following the loss — uncharacteristic in recent years at Michigan, when quarterbacks weren’t always made available to the media following losses. And Speight took some accountability.
“The passing game wasn’t really clicking and that starts with me,” Speight said.
Speight also showed some immediate resiliency in addressing Michigan’s most daunting task yet: win out in order to make the College Football Playoff.
“This will be behind us,” Speight said. “Just like a win would. We enjoy wins for a few hours on Saturday nights. We’ll be pissed off about this, we’ll mourn this for a little bit. But just like a win, it’ll be on to Indiana. It’s next week.
“We’ll put it behind us.”