Central Michigan toys with Hawkeye defense in upset

BY BEN ROSS | SEPTEMBER 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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Ryan Radcliff has played Ball State, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Miami (Ohio).

But his head coach, Dan Enos, said the Central Michigan quarterback might have just played the best game of his career against Iowa.

“I thought Ryan played his best game, or one of his best games, in our third season together,” Enos said. “He played within himself, he didn’t have a big mistake, he was very calm and poised the entire afternoon. And this is a tough place to play, and I thought he handled the environment very well. I was very proud of him.”

Going into the game, the Hawkeye defense was giving up 14 points per game.

After facing preseason skepticism, the unit had been Iowa’s strength. It had kept the team in its first three games while the offense held it back. Iowa’s loss to Iowa State on Sept. 8 was the first game under Kirk Ferentz in which Iowa held an opponent to under 10 points and lost.

But on Sept. 22, the Hawkeye defense showed the skepticism might have been warranted after all. Iowa surrendered 32 points to Central Michigan, a lower-tier MAC team.

The Chippewa offensive line dominated Iowa’s front seven all game, making holes for running back Zurlon Tipton and protecting Radcliff. Each offensive tackle for Central Michigan, Eric Fisher and Jake Olson, stands at 6-8 and 305 pounds. No starting offensive linemen for Central Michigan stood shorter than 6-3 or weighed fewer than 300 pounds.

And despite excellent offensive production for Iowa — 217 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns for running back Mark Weisman and 215 yards passing and a score from quarterback James Vandenberg — the Hawkeye defense couldn’t get it done.

“The statistics don’t really matter because it still wasn’t enough to get 34 points,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said after the game. “You can look at the numbers and say it was an OK day, but it wasn’t, because we didn’t score enough points to win.”

The undersized Iowa defensive front only got to Radcliffe twice. Senior defensive end Joe Gaglione sacked the Central Michigan quarterback on a big third-and-goal play in the second quarter to force a field goal. James Morris and Steve Bigach teamed up for a sack in the third.

Gaglione would erase his good play later on in the game, though.

With less than 40 seconds left in the game, Iowa up 31-29, Gaglione drew a 15-yard personal foul for shoving a Central Michigan player after the whistle, moving the ball up the Iowa 39 yard line, setting up the game-winning field goal for Chippewa kicker David Harman.

The loss comes to a Chippewa team that went 3-9 in its games in 2011, placing last in the MAC West division with a 2-6 record in league play.

But Central Michigan wasn’t new to the challenge of playing Big Ten opponents: the Chippewas fell to Michigan State, 43-7, on Sept. 8.

Even though they weren’t competitive, Gaglione said he thought that game helped Central Michigan against his own squad.  

“I always think teams from [the MAC], you know, they come into a big stadium that way,” Gaglione said. “They played Michigan State, so they weren’t afraid.”

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