November 13, 2011

Rush 'D' gets its swagger back

IOWA CITY - The Michigan State defense stepped onto the field at Kinnick Stadium ranked No. 17 in the nation against the run, allowing opponents to rush for an average of 103.56 yards per game and 2.93 yards per carry through the first nine games of 2011 season.

Those numbers are respectable, perhaps better than that considering the Spartans are the only team ranked in the Top 25 against the run that has faced five Top 50 rushing offenses, including four in the Top 25 and three in Top 15.

Respectability against the run, however, is not good enough for Spartan defenders, who entered Saturday's game at Iowa eager to prove to their Big Ten brethren that the numbers they put up during the first half of the 2011 season were not a fluke.

"We've done it all season," said junior defensive tackle Jerel Worthy when asked why his defense was able to hold Iowa tailback Marcus Coker to 57 yards on 21 carries. "We kind of got away from it a couple of games. But this week in practice we tried to get back to that mindset that we had early in the season, trying to get back to being the No. 1 defense in the country and have fun. When we play our defense and our brand of ball, we can't be stopped."

Coker entered the game ranked No. 1 and the Big Ten and No. 6 nationally with 122.3 yards rushing per game. The Spartans held the 6-foot, 230-pound sophomore to his lowest rushing output in Big Ten play to date. Michigan State became the first team to hold Coker under three yards per carry in a game this season.

"I don't think he had a chance to get started," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "They did a good job of taking our run away from us."

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