Dec. 9, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It has been 14 days since the University of Iowa football team played its most recent game at Nebraska. The Hawkeyes returned to the practice field Friday to begin preparation for the 2011 Insight Bowl.
Iowa is the defending Insight Bowl champion after disposing of No. 12 Missouri, 27-24, on Dec. 28, 2010, in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.. The offensive most valuable player of that game was UI sophomore running back Marcus Coker, who gained 219 yards on 33 carries with a long of 62 yards and two touchdowns.
“I look at it as the first time we’re going down there,” said Coker, following Friday’s workout inside the bubble. “We will try to build on last year, even though I’m not thinking about what happened last year. I’ll go down there like it’s my first time and try to out-do myself.”
Iowa is 7-5 overall, 4-4 in the Big Ten Conference. Oklahoma is 9-3, 6-3 in the Big 12.
Oklahoma leads the Big 12 in scoring defense (22.8 points per game) and is third in total defense (383.2), but the Sooners allow 139.6 yards per game on the ground — fifth in the league. Oklahoma entered the season ranked No. 1 in the country.
“You have to step up for that challenge,” Coker said. “They’re one of the best teams in the country — they came in No. 1 — you have to step up.”
In 12 games this season, Coker rushed for 1,384 yards and 15 touchdowns with an average of 4.9 yards per attempt. He carried the ball 23.4 times a game.
After two weeks off, Coker and the Hawkeyes appeared fresh and energized during Friday’s practice.
“It felt good to get back rolling again,” Coker said. “We haven’t been on the field for a while, so getting those pads back on felt good.”
The Insight Bowl will be played Friday, Dec. 30, with an 9:05 p.m. (CT) start. The game will be broadcast by ESPN.