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Posted on Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

Iowa 'awful against mobile QBs' but offers some challenges to Michigan, says Hawkeyes beat writer

By Kyle Meinke


A pair of Iowa defenders couldn't stop Denard Robinson on this fourth-down play at Kinnick Stadium in 2009. How the Hawkeyes fare against Robinson on Saturday will be a key to their success. file photo

Remember how bad the Michigan football team was at containing outside runs against Northwestern and Michigan State?

That's what Iowa's been like all year -- especially against running quarterbacks -- and it could be an advantage for No. 13 Michigan (7-1, 3-1) when it faces the Hawkeyes (5-3, 2-2) at noon Saturday on ESPN.

Iowa beat writer Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette says the Hawkeyes could send an extra player into the box to spy on quarterback Denard Robinson, but still expects them to struggled against Michigan's junior quarterback.

But, for as much as Iowa might struggled to contain Robinson, Morehouse thinks Michigan will struggle to contain Hawkeyes receiver Marvin McNutt.

We caught up with Morehouse, who broke down the matchup for us:

Um, so... Iowa lost last week to Minnesota, one of the worst BCS teams in the country. What happened, how are the Hawkeyes taking it and is there a chance there will be a hangover against Michigan?

Marc Morehouse: Iowa let it happen is what happened. So many times you’ll hear from coaches “that one play didn’t win/lose the game.” Generally, that’s true, but the onside kick Minnesota pulled off brilliantly with 8:22 left in the game unplugged everything that worked for Iowa at TCF. The Gophers came off an impressive 80-yard drive. Then, stole a possession with the onside. Thus, Marcus Coker and his 252 yards sat on the sidelines for nearly the entire fourth quarter. Time of possession was 13:25 to 1:35 in favor of UM. In baseball terms, that’s giving a team a 15-out inning.

Hangover? Matter of pride now. If they flatline, something is seriously broken.

A bright spot for the Hawkeyes was Coker, who now has cracked 100 yards four times. What's his style like, and does he have the speed to exploit Michigan's soft perimeter rush defense?

MM: Coker is a power back. Think a fit Jerome Bettis. Decent feet, but straight-line battering ram at 6-0, 230. He started slowly after injuring a shoulder in camp, but has really started to “see” the game at a much higher level. He’s not a great “zero to 60” running back. He’s faster than he is quick. Michigan will need to be very “hat on ball,” because Coker will win a lot of one-on-ones.

Denard Robinson had decent numbers against Iowa last year -- 13-of-18 passing for 96 yards, one TD and one interception, as well as 105 yards rushing -- before leaving with an injury. Do you expect the Hawkeyes to do anything differently this year to try to contain Robinson? How are they against mobile quarterbacks this year?

MM: Iowa has been awful against mobile QBs this year. Remember Steele Jantz from Iowa State? He’s benched now, but against Iowa he was Cam RGIII Newton Denard. Iowa has had contain issues on the edge from minute one this season and is still vulnerable there. Indiana true freshman Tre Roberson cut up Iowa for 278 total yards. MarQueis Gray had a pass efficiency of 179.49 last week, his best since mop-up duty against Ohio State in 2009.

I could see Iowa trying a spy, but that would only open it up to explosion plays. And, I’m not sure Iowa has a player capable of spying Denard. I see Iowa trying to maintain leverage and lane discipline.

Where on the field will be Michigan's biggest matchup disadvantage Saturday?

MM: Michigan’s secondary will have a hard time containing WR Marvin McNutt. He’s legit 6-3, 215. He’s physical with great feet and big, strong hands. He can beat you on the slant, fade and is an excellent route runner. Michigan’s secondary is on the short-ish side, so that could be a problem. If I’m Michigan, though, I try to rattle junior QB James Vandenberg. He’s a huge positive for Iowa’s offense, but Iowa is susceptible to blitzes off the edge. The final series against Minnesota spelled that out quite succinctly.

What is the best-case/worst-case scenario for Iowa? In other words, what needs to happen for the Hawkeyes to upset Michigan? Suffer another loss?

MM: Best case: Iowa’s D produces turnovers and makes Denard somewhat one-dimensional. The Hawkeyes have been surviving on fumes of stats -- red zone defense, turnover margin and penalties. Iowa is still plus-3 in turnover margin, but the 10 takeaways are 11th in the Big Ten. I’m not sure how realistic it is, but if Iowa can force Robinson to throw the ball, well, you’ve seen it. It’s better than it was last year, but it’s still not his best move. But again, I don’t know how realistic that is for Iowa.

Worst case: Iowa loses a possession either through turnover or special teams meltdown and the defense is asked to play two series in a row. Iowa’s depth on D is ankle deep. Quality depth leaves the room in a Dixie Cup. Injuries have piled on the LB corps, which is taped together now almost literally. If this defense is forced to extend beyond convention, it will be a step behind the rest of the game. It’s a tough-minded group, but it’s vulnerable in space, which is where Michigan’s offense lives.

Marc Morehouse's prediction:
I think defensive stops will be a key number. Whichever D has more probably wins and I think that will be Michigan. Michigan 38, Iowa 27

Marc Morehouse covers Iowa football for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Follow him on Twitter @marcmorehouse. Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sat, Nov 5, 2011 : 6:15 a.m.

We should be glad this game kicks off 11 AM Central time: the wind is supposed to be around 10 mph until afternoon, when it increases to about 25 mph. Wind affects both teams, obviously, but it slows the game down and I'd rather see this be a game without such distractions. I otherwise, I'm happy and confident about this game. Michigan 35, Iowa 14 One gripe: I have discovered (after a long search) that there are still no electronic means of seeing or even listening to this game while one is, for example, shopping or working in a typical commercial or business building. I would have expected that, in 1976, the U.S. Constitution would have been updated to guarantee our right to watch football - but noooo.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 9:26 p.m.

If Borges uses his players' strengths, this should be pretty much a blow out. M have a good combo team, they have the ability to play I-formation or spread option equally as well, so why give one up for the other. If IA struggles with a mobile QB, then go mobile, this will not take Fitz out of the game, the RB is just as important as the QB in the SO, and I think it will also get the WRs back in the game. I think if M had run the SO against MSU they could have won that game ( i.e. MSU - Nebraska ). If M spread this slow defense out, it will open up running lanes, and also passing lanes, DR and FT will rush for over 100 yards, and the WRs will go for more than 200 yards. = UM 45, IA 14 I-formation w/heavy pass = UM 24, IA 21. M's weakness is this new style passing game, DR gets most of the blame, but it's actually the system. I could see if DR played poor then when DG come in he shines, but that's not the case ( check out the State game ), the WRs are not creating any separation ( easier to INT ) in the slow developing routes, DG threw an INT last week in the same position, what both need to do is tuck and run more often or throw it away when nothings open. M's 7-1 without a good pass game, correct it and they have a good chance of winning out....GO BLUE!!!

Theo's Brother

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 9:25 p.m.

O Brother Theo, I would rather have a few less yards from Denard with an above-average defense and a 7-1 record than All-World Denard with a NCAA Division 3 quality-defense and a .500 record. 7-1 Theodore. Bottom line. P.S. It's your pick for movie night tonight!


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 10:22 p.m.

For the 1000th time -- a quarterback who leads the team in rushing is *not* a good sign.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow in Iowa. Hopefully, U-M will expolit the Iowa defense's weaknesses and stand up to the physical play of Iowa's smash-mouth offense. These are the kind of games that will test the U-M defense's manhood. I hope the defense is up to the task. Go Blue!


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 10:23 p.m.

I'm sitting here in cooler but still too-warm-for-my-tastes Tucson. Oh how I'd LOVE to be in a midwestern stadium on a crisp November Saturday. 45 degrees with a slight breeze. Ahhhhh ... Game starts at 9:00am my local time! I'm geeked.

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 7:41 p.m.

Pickingup where Chiro10 9 left off, I would say that we are watching as a 'young team' 'grows up', right in front of us. Sure Martin is a senior, but in general, teawise, they are just babies. Good kids, to be sure, but they have come 'light years', so far, under the direction of Hoke, Mattison, Broges, et al. Iowa is another very important test, for them to overcome. DRob will need to take another step in his mechanics, as well as 'seeing the field'. Toussaint will need to show last week was NOT a fluke. The O-line will need to assert themselves, and open some holes. The Dline will need to shut down the inside running game of Iowa (Coker). Our young DB's will be challenged, again, and will need to hold up. Kovachs will need to return to being a 'heat seeking missle' out there....He and Coker may have several 'conversations'. The LB's, in particular Ryan and Hawthorn, will need to 'be a presence'. The 'steps' are in front of this team, as they head toward the last two 'money' games of the season. It is a progression , if you will. UM can NOT look ahead, but can only prepare, by improving, each week. Dantonio & Narduzzi, may regret their 'cheap shot' gameplan of a few weeks back. I think they only succeeded in awakening a 'sleeping giant'. And if I'm correct, msu won the battle, but may have lost the war. Hoke hasn't said much since that game, preferring to 'take the high road', but I have hunch, that it will NEVER happen, to a Michigan team again, as long as the Hokster is here. 20 hours to kick-off? Excellent! Let's go!


Sat, Nov 5, 2011 : 6:03 a.m.

One of your best posts ever, Steelmen.

Lorain Steelmen

Sat, Nov 5, 2011 : 12:08 a.m.

DonAZ. Excellent point regarding recruiting This is another downside of 'thug ball'. Hoke & Co. can alwasy promote a 'tough but clean' program, and excellent academics. While Dnatonio will always have to 'explain away', why his kids are caught on ESPN films, trying to snap necks and sucker punch opposing teams. No body is that good at fast talking. Michigan is a small state, as is Ohio , Ill, Ind, when it comes to parents keeping track of their kids. These parents all know what four years in East Lansing could do, TO their kid, as opposed to what four years in AA, could do, FOR their kid. Big difference. (as in, 'Thanks, Markie, but we'll call you.')


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 10:43 p.m.

I agree ... after the 2011 game the MSU rivalry has taken on a new meaning. In a sense it's the reverse of the "Little Brother" comment of Mike Hart several years back. By choosing to play according to Jackson State Prison rules, MSU has cast this rivalry as a battle between "Men of Strength and Character" vs. "Men of Low Standing and Low Morals." The success of Michigan into the future will be fueled by success on the recruiting trail. And for that, I think, Dantonio is in for a rude awakening. Dantonio cast MSU in the role of University of Miami-like thugs ... that'll be the type of athlete he attacts. Hoke, meanwhile, is appealing to a much more powerful force in the hearts of young men in Michigan, Ohio and beyond. And Hoke *will* win those recruiting battles. Again and again and again.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

Starting with the IA weakeness on stopping mobile QBs; Denard and Devin coulod have a real advantage. Al Borgess is likely to exploit this. We might see more of the Denard/Devin combo plays. These plays could be very successful. Since Coach Hoke has made a big deal on how tough IA is; I am sure he has this team pumped up for the challenge. Maybe this has been more of a ploy, per media, to preach to his team on how not to come out flat or overconfident. We should see this become evident early on. Maintaining this for 60 minutes is another factor. Ball control on offense will mean potentially more points and less crowd noise. Michigan will need to be leading at half time compared to being behind at half time against NW and tied with MSU. IA could go either way after the loss to MN. They will bring their "A" game but they have too many weaknesses. I appreciate the Marc Morehouse breakdown. If Michigan scores 38, IA would not get as many plays on offense and would be held in the teens. Weather: Mostly sunny with lower 60s but a South wind 15-20 mph first half and 20-25 second half. Natural turf. Let's hope Michigan can overcome the opposing team disadvantge. As Coach Hoke said; they need to maintain poise. GO BLUE!!!


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 7:15 p.m.

So all of a sudden a mediocre offense is going to exploit a good michigan defense and score more points than most have all year?! Im not buying it. This game may end up being close in the end but it wont be because Iowa rolls on offense. It will be because Denard can not throw. If this game ends up within 7 it will be a 17-13 game and if it is more, than michigan will win by a lot like a 45-24 score. Ya Theo he has been replaced with something call a Running Back that is just as capable. The combination of having a rb and denard in the same backfield that can score anywhere opens up the passing game for Denard. It allows him to set his feet and make accurate throws. When you have just Denard run you have defensive players keying just on him and spying him so as soon as he moves they attack him and he cant set his feet or throw accurately! He still has some serious flaws in his mechanics and technique but it is much better when there is a running back that LB's and safety's are keying on and not him! I think Michigan has to play really bad (which they can) to lose this game. Even a mediocre game will get them a victory. If they play to their ability this will be a lopsided game. I think what you are going to see is what is mentioned in the article. Michigan gets a score on its first possession and Iowa turns it over on its first or second or has a three and out and it allows michigan to get up and it starts getting away from Iowa. They will start to throw it and have a couple of turnovers. This game is a turning point for Countess in his career if he is going up against McNutt and same for Floyd.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

For Michigan to win: (1) No mistakes (2) Offensive line has to give Robinson/Gardner at least *some* time (3) Defensive line has to put pressure on Iowa QB so McNutt is less of a threat For Iowa to win: (1) Defense has to get to Robinson/Gardner so they make mistakes (2) Control the ball and win the battle at the line (3) No mistakes I'm eager (and nervous) to see which Michigan team shows up tomorrow morning. If it's the focused, determined team we've seen at times this year then I think Michigan takes this game with some comfort. But there's not a lot of room for error here ... Michigan can't waste opportunities with mistakes.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

LS ... yes, agree ... and in a sense this gets back to another thread where the word "streaky" vs. "raw" vs. "consistency" was debated. This "taking a quarter off" thing you allude to is (I hope "was") painfully true. The coaches no doubt agree 100% with you -- witness Hoke's being rather upset with the late quarter touchdown by Purdue, which showed a letting up of urgency. So yes -- if the opportunities are there, strike. As I said above, "Michigan' can't waste opportunities with mistakes" ... and not capitalizing on an opportunity is a mistake. This is a going to be a great, if not nerve-wracking, game! :-)

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

DonAZ. li like your thinking and agree wtih your conclusions. I would add one thing, though. UM's offense MUST maintain a sense of urgency. They can NOT afford to take a quarter 'off', like they did against the spartans in the second quarter. The key on the road is to create space, EVERY time your offense has the opportunity to capitalize on a drive. 'Playing well', but coming up 'empty', only gives the home team an opportunity to steal the game from you in the fourth quarter. Particulary at Iowa, where the crowd is right on top of you, it is important to take the crowd out of the game. Wow, would I love to be there, soaking it all in...Go Blue!


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 6:27 p.m.

Dear Iowa, You don't have to worry about stopping our mobile QB. He's already been stopped, by Al Borges. Sincerely, Knowledgeable Michigan Fan Base


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

@Theo212 = "He's your King too, Don." If by "King" you mean Rich Rodriguez, then no. I try not to hold people in contempt because it takes a lot of energy and it's just not the right thing to do. But with RR I come darn close. More than anything what I felt with RR was a betrayal of trust. I dutifully endured the 3-9 2008 season and trusted that RR would show improvement. 2009 showed some early promise, but things fell apart late. But 2010 *really* created a sense of betrayed trust when the team showed a continued erosion of the defense. And for all the supposed offensive firepower there were too many games later in the season where the one-dimensional offense showed no potency whatever. Bottom line, this supposed "offensive genius" succeeded only in (a) destroying a once proud defensive tradition, and (b) creating an utterly predictable offense incapable of scoring against good teams. So no ... RR is not my "King" ... in any shape or form. I have very little regard for him, frankly. I feel is in, in fact, a fairly bad coach. His success at WVU was due to Casteel the DC, who kept him in ballgames. Now Hoke ... he I have regard and respect for.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

The only thing that clown is king of is stupidity. Oh, and failure. He came, he sucked, he was fired (one season too late). Get over it. Really. We have a real coach now, who you know, coaches the kids instead of throwing them under the bus for his failures.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

He's your King too, Don.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 6:29 p.m.

And yet we're 7-1 when your "King" would have us 5-3 at this point on our way to a 6-6 season at best. You know this.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 4:46 p.m.

It's amazing that a Ferenz coached team could be so weak. Good luck for Michigan. If they couldn't stop Minnesotta's mobile QB then Michigan will destroy them.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

I'm surprised Iowa's D is of such little repute, usually big and physical. Michigan does have the ability without Denard's running to take advantage of that apparent weakness. Ball control is a Brady Hoke thing. Their D gets weaker during the game also keeping the ball out of the hands of their big RBs and WRs.

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 6:13 p.m.

250.....Stopping a moblie QB, can be a problem. First you have to 'box him in'. If he gets outside 'contain' he's gone, and you look bad. If you blitz him, and recievers get behind you, you can give up big YAC. Again, you look bad. Earlier this season msu tried all of these, versus DRob, and while successful, were unable to 'knock him out' of the game until one spartan thug, body slammed him to the ground, after a play was over. Early in the second half, another spartan thug, tried to snap DRob's neck while he was pinned under the pile, after yet another play was over. I just don't see a Ferentz coached team resorting to cheap shots like that. Iowa has too much class. Dantonio, yes, but Ferentz, no way.


Fri, Nov 4, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

The way you stop a mobile qb is hit him. One hard hit on Denard and there goes the UM season. Borges knows this. That is why he is trying to get devin in the game. From what I have seen from devin so far it's obvious he is not ready for primetime.