IOWA CITY - With Central Michigan in town, the Iowa football team expected one final tune-up before opening the Big Ten Conference schedule next week.
Instead the Hawkeyes (2-2) ran through a collision course with the Chippewas, coming out on the short end of a 32-31 stunner Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
Central Michigan's David Harman drilled a career-long 47-yard field goal with 3 seconds left, completing an improbable comeback for the Chippewas.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Central Michigan junior running back Zurlon Tipton celebrates near midfield with his teammates after the Chippewas defeated the University of Iowa, 32-31, Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. Tipton rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown for CMU, which scored the final nine points of the game to rally past the host Hawkeyes.
"I didn't hit it perfect. It came off a little low, but I know that for me, at that distance, I should be able to get it there," said Harman, who also came through with a successful onside kick and three other field goals.
Jesse Kroll pounced on the onside kick after the Chippewas (2-1) had pulled within 31-29 with 45 seconds to go following a 10-yard scoring strike from Ryan Radcliff to David Titus.
While Central Michigan needed a few things to break their way late, head coach Dan Enos credited his team's fundamental play and a strong outing from Radcliff to put them in position for the win.
"One of the big keys in the game was our quarterback. (Radcliff) played very well," said Enos. "When you come to play a very good team on the road in this environment, if your quarterback plays sub-par it's going to be a long day."
Radcliff completed 26 of 35 passes for 283 yards and a pair of touchdowns, outplaying James Vandenberg, who after a 9-for-9 start, finished 16 for 25 for 215 yards and a score.
"Our team kept believing, we limited our mistakes and we didn't commit a turnover. I thought if we could keep it close in the fourth quarter we'd have a shot," said Enos.
Fundamentally speaking, the Hawkeyes were at the other end of the spectrum, losing their first fumble of the year and committing nine penalties for 106 yards including a personal foul that set up the Chippewas' final field goal.
Those two areas drew the ire of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz in the loss.
"The first thing I would start with are the penalties. (We had) nine penalties, seven being major penalties. That's going to make it tough to overcome," Ferentz said. "Seven penalties in the first half, the turnover and giving up a big play where we don't really challenge them at all. It's tough to be a winning football team doing that."
The miscues certainly didn't make matters any easier for Vandenberg and the offense.
"We shot ourselves in the foot a lot - that leads to those 3rd and 10s, 3rd and 11s. The Patriots aren't going to convert many of those," Vandenberg said. "You can't shoot yourself in the foot, you have to stay ahead of the chains and be smart."
One bright spot was Mark Weisman who - in his first stint as the starting back - bulldozed his way to 217 yards and three touchdowns, the last of which gave the Hawkeyes a 31-23 advantage with 2:18 to play.
"We did a really nice job at the line of scrimmage today," Vandenberg said. "We really moved some people and when you give (Weisman) seven or eight yards without contact, he can hurt some people toward the end."
Trailing 23-14 at the half, Iowa's offense came back to life on its opening possession of the second half with a steady dose of Weisman who marched the Hawks 54 yards on four carries punctuated by a 5-yard score to bring Iowa within two. The Hawks reclaimed the lead when Mike Meyer buried a 46-yard field goal into the wind with 8:07 remaining to give the home team a 24-23 edge before Central Michigan mounted its comeback.
Weisman's first touchdown of the day, a 34-yard burst up the middle, came on 4th and 1 and gave the Hawkeyes a 14-10 lead with 3:10 to play in the first before Central Michigan rattled off 13 unanswered points in the second quarter.
The banner day for Weisman didn't ease the pain of the loss, though he was quick to point out that the team can refocus and rebound quickly.
"I don't even know how to describe (the loss) - it just really hurts right now," he said. You have to give (Central Michigan) credit though. We know we can bounce back from this. We just have to continue to work and improve every day."
Though much of it came early, the Hawks found some success through the air as Keenan Davis made several nice grabs and finished with six catches for 88 yards, while Kevonte Martin-Manley hauled in five receptions for 65 yards and a score - the Hawks' first passing touchdown of the year.
Coming off a solid week of practice, Ferentz was at a loss as to how the Hawkeyes struggled so much with their execution and focus.
"Probably the biggest surprise for me today was that we had a good week (of practice) in my mind. I went to bed last night feeling pretty good about the way we prepared, the way we practiced and where the guys focused," he said. "It seems like everyone was on task and doing a good job. Typically when that happens, the team goes out and it reflects in the play, but it didn't today."
Iowa will need to regroup quickly as it hosts Minnesota in its Big Ten opener Saturday in another 11 a.m. start.
Iowa's defense allowed nine second-half points today - all in the fourth quarter. The Hawkeyes hadn't been scored upon at all in the fourth quarter entering the game ... The Chippewas committed their first penalty of the season and finished with four in the game ... Iowa's overall record dropped to 1-4 for games played on September ... Despite a big day on the ground, the Hawks were dominated by the Chippewas in time of possession at 36:35 to 23:24 ... Mike Meyer made 4-4 PATS extending his consecutive streak made to 63, which breaks Nate Kaeding's consecutive PAT's school record of 60 established in 2001-02 ... Iowa's defense failed to collect a takeaway for the first time this season.