Bloomington, Ind. — Adam Robinson’s absence helped Iowa’s football team gain a little peace of mind.
The Hawkeye held on to beat Indiana 18-13 Saturday, despite missing their starting tailback with a concussion.
True freshman Marcus Coker replaced Robinson in the lineup and rushed for 129 yards on 22 carries.
“I thought he really did a great job,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He stepped up big for us.”
Coker’s performance should ease some concerns about Iowa’s depth at running back, especially if Robinson returns for this week’s game at Northwestern.
Ferentz said he expects the former Des Moines Lincoln star to be back at practice on Tuesday.
“Marcus more than pulled his weight,” Ferentz said. “Moving forward, I think maybe we’ve got two guys who are capable.”
Robinson, a 5-foot-9, 209-pound sophomore, leads the Hawkeyes in rushing, with 806 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He’s also Iowa’s most versatile player at that position.
“We miss him everywhere,” Ferentz said. “The thing about him is he’s so good in so many ways. He blocks well, extremely tough and he’s really good in the passing game.
“When you lose a good player, it hurts.”
Coker, a 6-foot, 230-pounder from Beltsville, Md., became the Hawkeyes’ primary ball carrier two weeks ago when Robinson was injured during the fourth quarter of a 37-6 win over Michigan State.
“He’s a quiet guy,” quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. “Out of the huddle, in the huddle, in the locker room — he’s just a quiet guy.”
Coker is not allowed to talk to the media because of team rules regarding first-year players, but his performance in Iowa’s opening drive against the Hoosier was revealing.
His first run gained 16 yards. His fourth netted 20 yards, setting up Mike Meyer’s 23-yard field goal.
“You’ve got to tackle that kid low,” Iowa safety Tyler Sash said. “You can’t tackle him high — from what I’ve seen in practice and games — because he’s going to keep pumping his legs every chance he gets.”
Coker rushed for 64 yards in the first quarter and 102 by halftime. He had only six carries in the second half.
“We could have run the ball more, but we thought we had some chances in the passing game,” Ferentz said. “When we did run him in that (third) quarter, he ran well.”
The Hawkeyes (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten Conference) began the season with three proven running backs. But Brandon Wegher left the team for personal reasons and Jewel Hampton was lost for the year with a knee injury.
Coker’s emergence should ease Robinson’s burden.
“You can’t say enough about how (Coker) played,” Stanzi said. “He’s done a tremendous job during the week of getting ready for the game and then coming out here and playing hard.”
Iowa faces a Northwestern defense allowing 141.4 rushing yards per game, sixth-best in the Big Ten.
“I was really impressed with how hard (Coker) was running,” guard Julian Vandervelde said. “He had good vision. He was seeing holes. As long as we’re blocking for him, I think he’s going to be effective.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football