Final drive falls just short

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Michigan practices this scenario all the time, a scenario in which it needs to drive down the field at the end of the game to either tie or win. So when it happened again Saturday -- the second time this season the Wolverines have been in this position -- they were ready for it.

It showed.

While Michigan didn't complete the comeback like it did against Notre Dame on Sept. 10, when Roy Roundtree caught a Denard Robinson pass on the last play from scrimmage in the game, the Wolverines almost had a similar result.

They drove to the Iowa 3-yard line, almost reaching the end zone but not quite -- as Iowa hung on for a 24-16 win.

"We practice it all the time in practice," tight end Kevin Koger said. "So it's nothing new to us. We were in our element."

It was an improbable drive that likely shouldn't have been in play considering how Michigan played Saturday. The Wolverines had been outplayed by Iowa, yet were 82 yards from a potential game-tying touchdown and 2-point conversion with 2:15 left at Kinnick Stadium.

And they almost got it on the first play of the game's final drive, as Vincent Smith's 11-yard run initially was ruled an 82-yard touchdown run. Smith kept running after his elbow and hand hit the ground but his knee did not. The official signaled touchdown.

After a review, where it was clear he was down, the play was called back. Robinson and Michigan didn't run the rest of the way, moving the ball downfield with a combination of medium-range completed passes and long shots thrown by Robinson that fell incomplete.

"It was just whatever I had seen," Robinson said of continually going with long passes on the final drive.

On the drive, Robinson threw five deep passes -- none of which were completed -- and almost alternated them with shorter routes that moved Michigan to the Iowa 3-yard line with 16 seconds left.

That's where it got tricky -- and somewhat controversial.

On second down, Robinson threw a ball toward receiver Junior Hemingway in the back of the end zone. Hemingway made a spectacular one-handed catch with his right hand, his knee landing in the back of the end zone.

The officials initially ruled it incomplete, saying he didn't land in the end zone. After review, they upheld the call.

Neither Michigan coach Brady Hoke, nor Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said they had a good view of the play, vying for the "worst seat in the house." Yet they had differing opinions.

"It looked from where I was standing, it looked like he came down on the white," Ferentz said. "Then seeing the replay it made me feel a little bit better."

Hoke didn't agree.

"I don't have a great seat," Hoke said. "I know that one guy in the back thought he did, and one guy thought he didn't."

Koger said Hemingway's body language made him feel like it was going to be a touchdown -- they didn't see the replay because they were preparing for the 2-point conversion attempt -- but Koger said "the refs made the right call."

The officials' determination set up an incomplete pass from Robinson to Smith on third down and then an incomplete pass from Robinson to Roundtree on a slant route in the end zone on fourth down.

Hoke wouldn't address the lack of a pass interference call on Iowa cornerback B.J. Lowery on the game's final play Saturday, instead asking the reporter who asked whether Hoke was surprised there was no call on the final play: "Were you?"

The reporter answered: "Yes."

To which Hoke shrugged his shoulders.

There wasn't much else Hoke could say, anyway. Not after the way his team had played almost all of Saturday before the final drive.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.