No answer for Coker: Michigan defenders can't slow Big Ten's leading rusher in loss at Iowa
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
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."