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Posted on Sat, Nov 5, 2011 : 6:18 p.m.

No answer for Coker: Michigan defenders can't slow Big Ten's leading rusher in loss at Iowa

By Nick Baumgardner


Iowa running back Marcus Coker, right, had 132 yards rushing and two touchdowns in a 24-16 win over Michigan on Saturday.

Melanie Maxwell |

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz seemed almost dumbfounded by the play of Hawkeye sophomore running back Marcus Coker on Saturday.

"It's amazing. I looked, he got 4.6 yards per carry," Ferentz said after Iowa's 24-16 win. "That's hard work."

On the opposite sideline, Michigan had an entirely different reaction when it came to Coker's punishing day on the ground.


Coker, the Big Ten's leading rusher entering the game, set the tone for Iowa's offense all afternoon, bruising his way to 132 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.

"He's a tough runner," Michigan senior defensive lineman Mike Martin said. "You've got to give it to Iowa, they played hard today, Coker ran hard today like he does, but it's about us tightening down how we play and getting better."

No question Coker ran hard, but Martin and Michigan coach Brady Hoke pointed to missed assignments and plenty of missed tackles as main reasons for the Wolverines' defensive issues Saturday.

Those missed assignments and blown tackles started early.

Coker's first touchdown of the game, a 4-yard burst in the first quarter, looked like it might be stopped short of the end zone by Michigan freshman linebacker Desmond Morgan.

But Morgan missed the tackle, and his teammates didn't respond in time, allowing Coker to bull his way through the arms of several defenders for the score.

Coker's second touchdown, an untouched 13-yard romp to put Iowa up 24-9 in the fourth quarter, was also a blown assignment, according to Hoke.

"There's six to eight of those plays that really determined (the outcome)," Hoke said. "And it was about who executed and who didn't."

Following the Purdue game, Hoke said he had no issue playing multiple freshmen on defense at one time.

On Saturday, Michigan relied heavily on rookie defenders once again, notable at linebacker, where Morgan and classmate Brennen Beyer saw plenty of action at outside linebacker.

Hoke said he "could feel" his linebackers more in the second half against Coker, and the stats prove him right.

After allowing Coker to rush for better than 5 yards per carry in the game's first 20 minutes, the Michigan defense limited the Iowa back to less than 4 yards per attempt after the break.

Asked how his freshmen responded, Hoke said he wasn't sure. He'll have to watch the film.

Bottom line, though, Michigan was unable to find a way to stop Iowa on the ground.

In Michigan's three Big Ten wins, the Wolverines have limited opponents to an average of 89.7 yards rushing. In Michigan's two league losses, the Wolverines have yielded an average of 183 rushing yards.

Coker was tough, but the Wolverines say that shouldn't matter.

They have to be tougher.

"We just need to work on getting more bodies to the ball," Martin said. "And swarming around. That's something I don't think we did as well today and we've got to get better."

Nick Baumgardner covers Michigan sports for He can be reached at 734-623-2514, by email at and followed on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.



Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

he was effective but M also had many many stuffs at the line. the main reason for the loss was turnovers, take 3 away from IA after the deep fumble, add 7 for the INT, it's 23-21 Michigan win. You could add the TD catch at the end of the game too if you wanted, or the overturned interference / holding call when the IA defender had his right arm extended pulling him in the back.


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

I think our defense has improved enough this year to allow us to be competitive in every game we play. However, we will not be an "elite defense" until we have CB's that can man up and play press coverage for the entire game. It is impossible for a CB to support the running game lining up 12 yards from the LOS (JT Floyd!!!). Watching both defenses in the LSU / Alabama game was a perfect example of how CB's should be playing the position. Our offense is the problem right now. I would rather see michigan running a Georgia Tech triple option offense than what we are trying to do with Denard right now. At least with that offense, we are trying to better fit the talents of our players / QB with a system more appropriate for their strengths. Standing in the pocket reading progressions and throwing accurate passes is Tom Bradey's strength, not Denard Robinsons. Great kid, but the coaches need to suck up their pride a little and play an offense more suited towards his strenghts (running), not his weaknesses (drop back, pocket passing). How about we run a simplified, shot gun filled, spread version of the "NASCAR" offense for the entire Illinois game, and see how that goes. It can't get any worse than how the offense performed in this Iowa game. Coach Hoke better have a talk with Al about our offensive philosphy for the rest of the year. We are in need of some serious offensive tweeking the next three weeks.


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 5:30 p.m.

I agree the offense is still in search of its identity. They practiced all spring and summer on a west coast approach, and quickly began migrating to a RR spread approach for a few games, but those plays vanished while the 2 QB diversion look has surfaced. Even DR's planned runs look different, very slow developing. OSU has a killer D and very physical, if we don't figure out how to execute and move the ball that will be another frustrating loss. I get the feeling that they are saving one play for OSU, that is Denard just smoking on a skinny post route and Devin throwing the ball as far as he can. I don't know if Denard can catch, but I think they have spent the last 4 games, and the next 2, setting up 1 play against Ohio where Denard busts tail as a receiver. Hope it's all worth it.


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 3:54 a.m.

Our defense look soft all day against Coker. He ran a lot of his yards after contact. Totally unacceptable. Just watched Alabama LSU and that is how you play defense. Our offense? heck I did not know we had one. Big Al needs to get it together ASAP. Offense is a train wreck.


Sun, Nov 6, 2011 : 1:10 a.m.

Michigan did "slow down"Coker during the second half. They made some keys stops against him on 3rd down that gave us a chance on that last drive. In the end, the Coker TD that put IA up 24 to 9 really put the game out of reach. If was more the Michigan offense that was slowed down. Coker was not the main reason why Michigan lost the game.


Sat, Nov 5, 2011 : 10:51 p.m.

To me, the story is how the offense didn't get cooking. The past defensive years against Iowa gave up 38 points and 30 points.. Holding them to 24 seems like a mild improvement, but the offense did not score the 28 points it did in 2009 and 2010. I like like the defensive improvements this year though! This one didn't feel as embarrassing as the MSU game for some reason.