ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Ticker) -- Grant Mason and Michigan's defense made sure the Wolverines would not lose to Big Ten Conference rival Iowa three times in a row for the first time in school history.
Mason, a backup cornerback who transferred from Stanford, returned an interception 25 yards for the clinching touchdown as the 18th-ranked Wolverines defeated the 24th-ranked Hawkeyes, 30-17, in the conference opener for both teams.
"During the week I found out that we were going to play more nickel, so (the coaches) told me to be ready," Mason said.
He certainly was ready when Drew Tate's pass came his way early in the fourth quarter. "We were in a down coverage and I just grabbed (the pass) and went up the sideline," Mason said. "At the 5 I felt somebody grab me and throw me in. I think it was (linebacker Roy) Manning." Mason's interception was one of five turnovers caused by the Michigan defense. The Wolverines' last 27 points of the game were the result of turnovers. So far this season, 79 of Michigan's 117 points have come off turnovers, and the Wolverines have forced 19 turnovers in four games this year after causing only 21 all last season. "That's something we've stressed since the start of camp," Mason said. "The coaches are always saying, 'Get the ball back.'" Coach Lloyd Carr said that he doesn't remember a Michigan team that has been more effective in forcing the opposition to turn the ball over. "I don't spend a lot of time studying those kind of things, but I'd be surprised if we've ever had this many turnovers at this stage of the season," Carr said. "When you force five turnovers, you're going to win - unless you turn the ball over the same amount of times." Braylon Edwards had six catches for 150 yards and a touchdown for the Wolverines (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten).
"I'll walk over to the bench after an offensive possession, get ready to sit down and take a drink of water, and before I know it there's a fumble or an interception and I have to get back out of the field," Edwards said. "Our defense has been carrying the load right now." True freshman Chad Henne completed 16-of-26 passes for 236 yards without an interception and both passed and ran for a score for Michigan, which beat Iowa for the eighth time in 10 meetings but had lost the last two, including a 34-9 drubbing here two years ago.
Iowa (2-2, 0-1) grabbed a 7-0 lead on a spectacular one-handed catch by Ed Hinkel on a two-yard pass from Tate 3 1/2 minutes into the game, but the Hawkeyes were blanked the rest of the first half.
Michigan took the lead for good, 10-7, on a 58-yard pass from Henne to Edwards down the right sideline with 8:28 left before the break. After cornerback Leon Hall intercepted Tate at the Iowa 39, Edwards took a slant pass 38 yards on the next play and Henne scored on a sneak to make it 16-7 with 6:21 remaining in the half. Michigan kicker Garrett Rivas missed the ensuing extra point.
"The biggest play of the game was Edwards' touchdown," Carr said. "It was a perfect throw, but I thought the defensive back had good possession, but the guy found a way to catch it and score the touchdown."
Edwards said that he expects to catch every ball that he can get his hands on. "I tell Chad to put it out there and I'll make the play," Edwards said. "Anytime a receiver has a chance to put two hands on the ball it should be a catch." Edwards has the knack of making the difficult catch while getting most of his drops on the easy ones. That's something that Carr will live with. "Most of his drops have been because he tries to run with the ball before he catches it," Carr said. "I'm just thankful for the ones he does catch. Nobody said this was a game of perfect." The Wolverines held a 23-10 lead when Iowa recovered a fumble by true freshman running back Michael Hart in the end zone just over a minute into the fourth quarter. But thanks to pressure from cornerback Marlin Jackson, Tate was forced to hurry a third-down pass, which Mason grabbed and scampered down the left sideline to give Michigan a three-touchdown lead with 11:44 left.
Tate was 24-of-32 for 270 yards, two TDs and two interceptions for the Hawkeyes, who have lost back-to-back games.
"I think what happened today is pretty obvious," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Mistakes played a major role. It's been that way in this series over the last four years. Turnovers and special teams have really factored in. We didn't do a very good job of protecting the football. Obviously, they had something to do with that, the way they play defense."
In a battle of top-10 rushing defense units, Michigan held Iowa to minus-15 yards on the ground while gaining 93.