74F Kinnick Stadium, Iowa City, IA
Brady Hoke believes his team is finally playing the way that truly epitomizes Michigan football.
The first-year coach hopes the No. 13 Wolverines can sustain that type of play when they try to avoid a third consecutive loss to Iowa on Saturday in a Big Ten Legends Division matchup at Kinnick Stadium.
Two weeks removed from a 28-14 loss at then-No. 23 Michigan State, Michigan (7-1, 3-1) rebounded with a 36-14 victory over Purdue last Saturday.
Sophomore Fitz Toussaint ran for a career-high 170 of his team's 339 rushing yards, and the Wolverines held the Boilermakers to 89 yards on the ground after yielding 213 against Michigan State.
"Playing defense and then running the football and being able to knock people off the line of scrimmage - that, in my mind, is what Michigan football is," Hoke said.
While the victory restored some confidence, it also left the Wolverines in a three-way tie with the Spartans and Nebraska atop the division.
More days like that from Toussaint could help ease the load for versatile quarterback Denard Robinson, who averages a league-high 300.6 yards in total offense. However, it is Michigan's improvement defensively that has helped the program return to prominence.
Last season under Rich Rodriguez, Michigan was 110th nationally giving up 450.8 yards per game. This year the Wolverines are yielding an average of 340.6 to rank 35th in the country. They allowed 35.2 points a game in 2010 compared to 14.6 this season.
The Wolverines recorded a key second-quarter safety at Purdue and held the Boilermakers to seven points before they scored with 15 seconds remaining.
"It seems the buzz around Michigan is that the defense is back," defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen said.
The Wolverines hope that remains the case against Iowa (5-3, 2-2), which has totaled 68 points and 750 yards while winning two in a row in the series.
Coach Kirk Ferentz, however, knows his squad is facing a more improved and determined Michigan team.
"They're on the same page, they're playing well, they're playing aggressively," Ferentz said. "They're doing a great job."
Iowa has not done a good job stopping the run. The Hawkeyes are allowing an average of 194.8 yards on the ground in Big Ten play and gave up 178 in their 22-21 loss at lowly Minnesota last Saturday.
"I've noticed we're not getting it done. Simple as that," Ferentz said. "We just have to play better."
Robinson has been responsible for 154 of Michigan's 382 rushing yards over the last two games versus Iowa.
Toussaint, who rushed for two scores last weekend, is expected to start Saturday while facing the Hawkeyes for the first time.
"They probably could go 400 if they chose to," Ferentz said. "They're a very good running football team with a lot of good players."
The Wolverines look to hand Iowa its first loss in six home games this season. The Hawkeyes have averaged 39.2 points at home, but that's come against an FCS opponent and four FBS teams currently at .500 or below.
"It is certainly good to be back home," Ferentz said. "Moving forward our focus is on improvement. It's going to be a big challenge."
James Vandenberg went 16 for 24 for 177 yards last Saturday and threw a touchdown to Marvin McNutt, who caught seven of those passes for 101 yards.
McNutt ranks 11th in the nation with 858 receiving yards and has caught five of his nine touchdowns in the last three games. The senior has recorded seven receptions for 114 yards in two games versus Michigan.
Iowa sophomore Marcus Coker could be in for a more difficult challenge this weekend after he rushed 32 times for a career-high 252 yards against the Golden Gophers. It was the third-highest rushing total in school history.