ANN ARBOR, Mich. One of the tenets of Iowa's defense is "no big plays." That plays right into the whole "bend, don't break" thing.
All that blew off the dry marker erase board fairly quickly in the Hawkeyes' 42-17 loss Saturday at Michigan. During a whipsaw first half, the Wolverines played a game of one-up with themselves. The next play bigger than the other.
There was a 40-yard rush and then passes of 37, 51, 31, 17, 18, 31, 15 and 29. When the Wolverines finally pushed away from the buffet, they had 513 yards offense and TDs in their first six possessions. It was the most total yards against Iowa's defense since the UM put up 522 here in 2010.
Right in lockstep with Iowa's five-game losing streak, the Hawkeyes defense has allowed 400-plus yards in each of the last five weeks.
Time and time again Saturday, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner broke contain and extended plays and Iowa defenders dropped coverage or were simply beaten.
Gardner took six-second plays and made them 10 seconds or longer.
"No matter what the time limit is you have to establish coverage and you just can't come out of it," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "You're hoping the line can keep them contained, but if not, the linebackers are the first guys to come out. That's easier said than done, it's tempting sometimes."
It was glaring when Michigan took a 14-7 lead. Gardner hit Roy Roundtree for a 37-yard TD pass on a third-and-17. Cornerback Micah Hyde let Roundtree go into what he thought was safety help. Safeties Tanner Miller and Nico Law were nowhere to be found.
"It was a defense as a whole that messed up on the play," Hyde said. "It wasn't one person individually. One person thought this, another person thought that. It's stuff we go over in practice all the time. It's miscommunication and a missed assignment."
After Iowa answered with a field goal, Gardner hit wide receiver Jeremy Gallon for a 51-yard gain to Iowa's 10. Miller was in position, but Gardner, who wasn't sacked Saturday, put the ball where Gallon could make a play.
"They're correctable," Miller said. "That's the one positive thing you can take away from this. You take that into next week and try to eliminate those, because those are the things that can kill us."
Michigan's final long-yardage play looked a lot like the others. Gardner had plenty of time to find tight end Devin Funchess down the middle of Iowa's defense for a 29-yard TD with 4:33 left in the third quarter.
Linebacker James Morris covered Funchess in the flat and released him into safety help that he thought was there.
"It's what we aren't doing," linebacker Christian Kirksey said when asked if it was what offenses are doing to Iowa or if it's what Iowa isn't doing on defense. "It's poor execution. We get the looks in practice. We've got to clear our heads and find the missing piece."
By the end, Iowa replaced both safeties. The search for the missing pieces will continue at least one more week.