Iowa's Marcus Coker has 'goal' to be Big Ten's best RB

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IOWA CITY — Iowa running back Marcus Coker dishes out credit like a lending institution circa 2007.

The sophomore talks up his offensive line and fullback Brad Rogers as if they're the reason he's leading the Big Ten in rushing. He keeps a quiet, humble demeanor in postgame media sessions but there's no doubt he's a fiery competitor.

Coker was asked after Iowa's 24-16 win against Michigan if he's the Big Ten's best running back. He answered the question indirectly.

"That's my goal before the season," he said. "I want to help my team win and that comes with it."

Coker rushed for 132 yards on 29 carries to become the 13th back in Iowa history to surpass 1,000 yards. For the fourth straight game he rushed for more than 100 yards and scored two touchdowns.

"When I'm up on a DB untouched, the yards are going to come," he said.

Afterward, Iowa center James Ferentz couldn't take Coker's continued gratitude. Instead, Ferentz returned the praise to Coker.

"I’d say 100 percent of the credit goes back to that guy," Ferentz said. "Marcus is the type of back that makes your offensive line want to block for him. So we definitely love him, and we love blocking for him, and we don’t want anyone else back there. He has our complete respect, and we just want to try to open holes for him to punish through them."

On Iowa's initial six-play scoring drive, Coker ran on four plays and scored on a 4-yard run. Iowa's second touchdown drive included five Coker runs for 46 yards. Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg sucked in the Michigan defense with a play-fake to Coker and found tight end Brad Herman for a 1-yard touchdown pass.

Coker ran the ball five times on Iowa's final touchdown drive, including the final 13 yards to put the Hawkeyes ahead by 15 points early in the fourth quarter.

"He wears people down and it hurts to tackle him, I think," Vandenberg said. "It’s great to have him in our backfield.

"He’s done a great job for us. He’s got a great style of running that we enjoy, and we know he’s going to get it downhill and get what he can."

The physical nature of his game is what he appreciates. At 6-foot, 230 pounds, Coker punishes opponents and often looks for contact, which he calls the "foundation" of his running style.

Opponents, like Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin, tend to agree.

"He's a tough runner," Martin said. "We were putting bodies on him and getting to the ball, trying to get to the ball and they made plays."

Coker now has 1,101 yards in nine games for a 5.2 yard-per-carry average. He entered the game ranked ninth nationally in yards per game with 121.3. That now has grown to 122.3. In the last four games — all in Big Ten action — Coker has rushed for a combined 647 yards.

"He's going to be sore tomorrow, I know that," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. "I know he started hitting stride there in the Northwestern ballgame, and I think he's in the gear that we're hoping for."

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