...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
One play. For all of you who think that the only thing that matters
is the win-loss record, the end result, the final score; for all of
you calling for the end to this new Era before it's even begun;
for all of you mired in the media's negativity: think only on this.
One play. One play, here and there, and everything would be
Overtime against Michigan State. 4-0 record hanging in the balance.
A miraculous comeback bid gets us to overtime. And then, one play:
Tate misses a read and keeps the ball, when he should have handed
it to Minor. The handoff would likely have led to a touchdown. The
touchdown, so disheartening to MSU, and spirit-lifting to our defense,
might have been enough to get them to the win. One play. One missed
opportunity. And we are 4-1 and not 5-0.
Last drive against Iowa. Denard having just led the team downfield
to close the gap to two. The ball in our hands, and enough time to
move it and try for the winning field goal. Denard rolling out and
Odoms breaking free right in front of him 15 yards downfield. If
he gets the ball he's into Iowa territory with plenty of time on the
clock. If he gets it we have a good shot at a field goal. If he gets
it, we are a Jason Olesnavage kick from 6-0 (assuming the MSU win too).
But he doesn't get it. Denard targets further downfield, and drops it
into the hands of an Iowa defender. One play. And now we're 4-2.
At Illinois. A long pass to Roundtree. If Roundtree just zigs at the
end of the run, cuts away from the approaching safety, the tackle
is nearly impossible to make. Touchdown, 20-7, and Illinois imploding
like they have many times this year. One play. One missed cut. And
one more loss.
One play can kill. These "one plays" have combined to kill this season,
turn a fall full of hope and promise of a new and better Michigan into a
winter of concern, dismay, and even enmity, filled with worries about
who we are and where we are headed.
But one play can birth something too. An extra cut on a kickoff
return that transforms a typical 10-yarder into a game-changing touchdown.
A block that breaks the running back free to rampage through the
secondary. A tackle that saves a touchdown. A kick that sneaks
inside the post instead of bouncing off of it. A pass not an inch too
high or an inch too low, and thus a first down and not an interception.
One play can do all that.
We don't need a miracle on Saturday. We don't need OSU to play their
worst. We don't need a perfect game from our Boys in Blue. We don't
the smartest game plan we've ever had. We don't need the weather to be
What we need is much simpler: One play.
One play to save a season.
One play to define a new program.
Will we get that One Play?
The Mind says no, but the Gut says yes. And today,
and tomorrow, and frankly, forever, I choose to listen
to the Gut.
Prediction for the game: Michigan 23, OSU 21.
Get that One Play for us, and GO BLUE!
Notes: Before getting started, there are a few caveats that need to be addressed.
- In all of my opponent metrics, I removed UM’s totals and then recalculated their numbers. This controls for the variances playing against UM’s offense/defense had on the statistics.
- I did not consider drives at the end of halves/games if they were designed to run the clock down.
- I removed stats against Baby Seal U for obvious reasons – record-breaking offensive days against middling FCS teams tells you nothing about the team except that it is better than a middling FCS team at home. I almost discounted EMU as well (0-10 doesn’t bode well for the English Era), but my wife received her Masters from EMU and thus for matrimonial harmony, the Eagles fly high in the rankings.
- Total yardage determined by rushing+passing and does not include return yardage. Rationale – yes, they affect the numbers somewhat, but not to any great extent and it would have created a whole new series of issues to correct for. This is the same reason why I did not account for penalty yardage.
- Offensive/defense scoring computed based on opposition’s plays, not defensive TDs (Wiscy&Iowa)/safeties (argh!)/return TDs. Did count toward total points, but same rationale as in 4.
- In computing scoring TOP, I did not count scoreless halves because they skewed the numbers needlessly.
- Link to the file can be found here.
So with only The Game standing between UM and either (1) the Pizza Pizza Bowl or (2) another offseason of virulent Freep attacks, I figured it would be a good time to take a step back and analyze this team’s performance this season. Now, I do not possess any particular insights into football that would separate me from the myriad of top-notch members of the MGoCommunity; I’m not a current/former player or coach with valuable insights into schemes, an “insider” with intimate knowledge of the AD’s inner workings, nor a recruiting maven with fresh info relating to future Wolverines.
What I realized, though, was that I could bring a big-picture outlook to this team if I could simply accumulate enough data points so that meaningful analysis was possible. Like many, I’m guilty of looking at a game or two and trying to ascertain some trends, some greater meaning from an incomplete set. So after suffering through the double gut-punches of Illinois and Purdue, I decided that to keep any sense of perspective on this team, I needed to compile the major offensive and defensive stats for the team and see if there was some positive trends, some glimmers of hope moving forward. What follows is the first part of this analysis, focusing on the revamped UM offense.
Going into the season, the lead story surrounding the offense was whether or not the read-option would flourish with two QB prospects physically capable of running the offense, of making the defense pay for biting on run fakes and QB runs. In the season preview, Brian saw the running offense being top-40 overall, based on the return of Brown and Minor, the expected play of non-Threet and non-Sheridan QBs, and the maturation of the offensive line.
For the most part, these expectations were met despite rarely having all the pieces in place. UM currently sits at 21st nationally in rushing offense with about 196 yards/gm, and though that does include Baby Seal U, it also includes MSU inexplicably holding the team to 28 yards when they normally give up about 106 yards/gm. And let’s nor forget the litany of factors that worked against the running game almost all year. The freshmen QBs have struggled at times with reads, and the loss of Molk and the subsequent shifts on the line certainly didn’t help matters. Minor and Brown have each missed significant chunks of the season with injuries, and the team as a whole has struggled to hold on to the damn ball. So to be a top-30 rushing offense while running at about 75% capacity bodes well moving forward.
But wait, what is that you say? You already knew that the running game was the bedrock of the offense, and why am I wasting your time with stuff you already know. Well, have you seen a chart of the running game for the whole season, including averages against only the Big 10/ND (henceforth referred to as “BND”) and removing the highest/lowest performances?
You have. Well…here is it again, with some bonus graphs:
Rushing Offense against ALL opponents
Opp Run Defense
*Difference between actual yardage and expected yardage given up by opposition
**% difference measured by yardage gained/expected yardage given up by opposition
Rushing Offense Averages & Standard Deviations
Remove H/L BND:**
Opp Run Defense
* High game = EMU, Low game = MSU
** High game = Purdue, Low game = MSU
Off the bat, you notice that the team averaged about 4.0 yds/carry against all competition, which is pretty impressive for such a young offense. At its best, West Virginia’s rushing offense averaged about 6 yards a carry, and that was against weaker competition and without corrections for Baby Sloth U and Premature Giraffe A&M. Even better, UM averages over 17 more yds/gm than their opponents usually allow, resulting in a rush offense that is 107% more “productive” than an average team going up against these defenses. And this efficiency was blind to the opponent; Iowa and PSU were both roughed up a bit on the ground even though both have above-average running defenses. Sure, there was also MSU and Wiscy, but those could be explained by a coach’s irrational, single-minded focus on beating the more established program (MSU) and a dearth of second-half offensive series because of a clock-chewing offense (Wiscy – discussed in further detail in the Overall Offense Analysis below).
Now, when you remove the MAC teams, the average dips to 3.2 yds/carry, which is a little distressing. As trolls are want to do, they would argue that this shows RR’s offense does not work in the Big 10, that you need big ol’ rhinos on the offensive line to move the ball successfully and that defenses have “figured out” how to stop the team.
But looking at the numbers with the high/low totals removed both overall and in the BND, I notice some encouraging signs. Against BND competition, the team still averaged about as many yards as the teams normally allowed, and throwing out the aberrations that were MSU and Purdue you have an offense that averaged about 6 more yards per game than expected. I know I’ve hammered on this point already, but that MSU game is a massive outlier here. To put it in perspective, here are things more explainable than MSU holding UM 140(!) yards below their year average, and 86(!!) yards under what MSU gave up against anyone else on the schedule:
As another factor/excuse for the poor numbers against certain teams, fumbles really killed this running offense. PSU and Illinois would likely have had much higher totals if the offense wasn’t giving it back at a near-record clip. The team had 10 fumbles overall, and 5 came in that 2-game span (and 8 if you include Iowa). This team really shot itself in the foot on a number of these plays, leaving yards and points on the field at the worst possible instances.
Injuries also played a major role in the running game’s struggles. Once Molk wound up on the injury list, the running game took a major step back for a couple of weeks until some continuity was reestablished. Losing Brown and especially Minor did hurt the numbers somewhat, but guys like Smith and Shaw filled the gaps nicely, and Robinson and Forcier brought the type of elusiveness and threat to the running game that was missing from last year. When the offensive line started to spring leaks, though, the running game definitely suffered.
Finally, it must be noted that some of the lowish rushing totals against teams like Illinois and PSU was due to the team being behind and resorting to the pass game to get back into those games. Given an adequate defense that helped to keep games closer, my guess is that the team would have averaged 30+ more yards in those games.
Overall, I think the numbers are very encouraging. Give Forcier and Robinson another year in this offense, and the number of bad reads on the option should drastically fall. Robinson should also become a more complete QB, meaning teams will have to respect his passing ability at least enough to buy him some time to run with his shoelaces untied through secondaries from across midwest and a small East Coast state. Losing guys like Brown and Minor will likely hurt productivity for the first few weeks next season as the stable of backs sort themselves out, but overall production probably will not suffer that much because the team never had a full dose of Brown or Minor for the whole season. Lots of those yards are coming back (about 53% of the rushing yards) or easily replaceable with the current and incoming players. This offense looks like those Denver Broncos running games of the late 90’s/00’s – plug in a decent back and the system will help produce solid yardage.
Now, the depth of the offensive line remains an issue, but it looks like there are at least options moving forward. Does that still mean you should continue to sacrifice small animals and cowbells to Angry Michigan Center Hating God? Sure, never hurts. But the running offense looks to be in good shape.
Whereas the rushing offense was expected to be above-average-to-good this year, the passing offense entered the season with numerous question marks. Would a deep threat emerge? Would the young QBs and receivers be able to establish themselves and produce against good competition? Would a slot ninja emerge to kill slow LBs for big gains and provide the type of balance this offense needs?
Obviously, nobody was expecting miracles with two freshmen QBs, a former walk-on, and Febreeze comprising the QB corp. Yet after the first few weeks, I was looking to the heavens as Forcier ate up defenses and crapped Moxie on the way to a 4-0 start and a competent passing game. Then the injuries to Forcier began to affect his ability to stay on the field, Robinson proved to be a run-first, run-second QB, the freshmen hit the metaphorical wall, and defenses realized that UM still couldn’t pass block and had no legit deep threats. Add this all up, and the passing game took a bit of a hit in the middle of the season. It did right itself toward the end, most notably when Roy Roundtree introduced himself as a potential slot ninja along with Odoms. Add to the mix the slew of incoming WRs in this recruiting class, and it is safe to say that the passing offense will continue to grow and become even more explosive next year.
But enough with words; I know why you’re here. And there is nothing wrong with that, no matter what people in the media may say. I mean, if they didn’t want you to see them, why would this page be filled with…
Passing Offense against ALL opponents
|Team||WMU||ND||EMU||Indiana||MSU @||Iowa @||PSU||Illinois @||Purdue||Wiscy @|
|Opp Passing Defense||261.8||237||166||247.5||247.2||169.9||181.9||237.8||196||209.3|
Passing Offense Averages & Standard Deviations
|Overall||StdDev:||BND||StdDev||Remove High/Low*||StdDev||Remove H/L in BND**||StdDev|
|Opp Passing Defense||215.4||35.3||215.8||30.7||218.8||34.2||217.8||31.5|
** High game = Illinois, Low game = PSU
So right off the bat, you probably noticed that the passing game never eclipse 300 yards; heck, it only cracked 240 twice. This was a little shocking to me because (a) it always seemed like passing game was picking up large chinks of yardage when it was humming along, (b) I always presumed that the short passes to the slots would result in voluminous yards after the catch, and (c) I grew up in the era of Dreisbach/Griese/Brady/Navarre/Henne, where passing yards fell from the heavens into the waiting hands of future NFL players like Manningham, Edwards, Hayes, Avant, and Walker. And it is not like the completion percentage was particularly low – 55% overall and 57% against the BND by two freshman QBs is certainly respectable. Plus, when the passes connected, the yardage was significant – around 13 yards/catch, and only two games under 10 yards/catch. And it should be noted that one of those games below 10 yards/catch was EMU, where the offense rolled to 380 yards on the ground. So it was not like Johnny Sears put the fear of God into the coaching staff; there just wasn’t a need to air it out.
So why the relative paucity of passing yards? My guess (and I certainly welcome other opinions) is that the receivers and the QBs never found the confidence and mutual reliance that some earlier teams featured between battery mates. Guys like Henne and Navarre had unflagging confidence in their blue-chip wide receivers; in a pinch, they knew they could throw it up and more likely than not Walker or Edwards was going to come down with it. With a clear alpha acknowledge, guys like Avant and Breaston fell into their appropriate roles and the offense was able to gain the rhythm it needed to function optimally. Plus, the QBs knew they had time because the line kept them upright for the most part, allowing their receivers to work down the field and exploit favorable matchups.
Contrast that with the current team. Both QBs are prone to tuck and run when the pressure comes, and that has been a common theme all season; QBs running around a shifting pocket as blitzers come in free. And when the QBs have had time to throw the ball, there have been just enough drops and overthrown passes that no receiver has emerged as the go-to guy. Mathews has been a nice possession receiver, but his lack of elite speed or size doesn’t make him the safety blanket a young QB likes. I thought Koger would have been the check down receiver of dreams early on, but after a spectacular start the drops started to crop up and Forcier in particular seemed to lose faith in Koger as the season progressed. Now, Roundtree and Odoms have both emerged as legit options going forward, and Junior Hemmingway is tantalizing, but none of them have assumed the mantle of a legit #1 wide receivers on this team, at least not this year.
Another major reason why the yardage has been down in the air is probably due to the fact that the QBs are freshmen (hey, did I mention that earlier?) and they are prone to tuck the ball and run for some daylight when possible. This is especially true of Robinson, who is basically one read and then go, but early in the season Tate was prone to taking off when his first and second options were not immediately open. As the season has progressed, both QBs have become more comfortable passing (the last three weeks have seen significant increases in completion percentages and yardage), and that bodes well moving forward and into next year.
Finally, the lack of passing yards at least early on was due to the fact the team really didn’t need to throw the ball to be competitive. Only recently have games been getting out of hand early; outside of PSU and (maybe) Wiscy, most of the games were competitive well into the third quarter. The coaching staff clearly does not want to put too much pressure on the QBs to throw the ball, so running was a more attractive option until late in the game. It also didn’t help that the team ran into some relatively decent passing defenses (Iowa, PSU, Wiscy) toward the latter part of the season, resulting in some pretty low games.
But despite all the doom and gloom with the passing yardage, every other stat was encouraging. The team was slightly below expected output against the BND, but again that was probably due to the coaching staff limiting the number of attempts plus playing some defense pass defenses. The yardage per completion remained between 12 and 13 yards irrespective of opponents, and neither freshman had particularly bad INT numbers (Forcier with 6, Robinson with 4).
You have to expect the completion percentage to jump about 60% next year as both QBs and the cavalcade of WRs become more acclimated to the system. My prediction is that Forcier will cut down on his rushing stats but passing yardage will go up, and Robinson will become far closer to the dual-threat Shoelace everyone has dreamed about since he signed with UM. There remains concerns about the offensive line’s ability to provide adequate pass protection, but the team showed some flexibility this year with a moving pocket and other means of alleviating the pressure and putting the QB in the best position to make a play. The slot(s) seemed locked down by Roundtree and Odoms for next year, and hopefully a legit deep threat will emerge.
Total Offense and Per-Half Breakdowns
So now that you know the component elements, how did the offense acquit itself this year? Well, see for yourself.
Total Offense against ALL opponents:
|WMU||ND||EMU||Indiana||MSU @||Iowa @||PSU||Illinois @||Purdue||Wiscy @|
|Opp Total Defense||436.1||386||434.8||411.1||360.9||292||274.2||402.9||363||312|
|Average Yds/Scoring play||7.6||9.5||11.8||12.8||6.6||5.7||5.4||4.3||8.4||6.1|
Total Offense Averages & Standard Deviations:
|Overall||StdDev:||BND||StdDev||Remove High/Low*||StdDev||Remove H/L in BND**||StdDev||Removed MSU|
|Opp Total Defense||367.3||58.0||350.3||51.6||370.5||49.2||346.2||44.2||368.0|
** High game = ND, Low game = PSU
So yes, the offense averaged a couple less yards than the opposing defenses typically gave up. That kind of makes sense – the team is 5-6, and by these stats 4-6. They should be a somewhat “average” offense considering who they played. That said, I do not think it can be stressed enough how much the MSU game threw off these stats. Discount that game and the offense is putting up about as many yards are your would expect, and that is pretty amazing when you consider the litany of factors working against this offense. And yes, I recognize that the vast improvements in special teams produced short fields for the offense to work on. So if you feel particularly generous, slap on 5-10 yards to the offensive totals. See if I care.
These stats also shows that you should NEVER discount one man’s obsession with beating an in-state rival, even if that preparation and intensity is never duplicated against anyone else.
As for the times the offense scored, you definitely see the origins of the quick-strike, yardage-chewing beast that once ruled Morgantown and half of the Deep South. When a drive ended in a score, the offense averaged nearly 8 yards per play overall, and 7.3 against the BND. That is impressive given how mediocre the offense was statistically and how good some of the defense they faced played them. With another year under Rodriguez’s tutelage, expect those numbers to go up even more, maybe even topping 8-9 yards against BND.
Breakdown by Half:
Did you really think I would leave you with such a macro analysis? Sure, I plan on really delving into down and distances in the offseason, but I think it is important to see how the team played across halves, when both teams could make “adjustments” and the tone of the game was more pronounced. So what follows are charts that, frankly, nearly killed my eyesight and my computer. But enjoy.
First Half Stats:
Offense Against ALL Opponents – First Half:
|Total Drives - 1st Half||7||6||6||9||3||6||8||4||5||6|
|Total Plays Run||40||29||28||31||21||31||43||37||30||44|
|Total Offensive Points||31||10||24||21||6||7||10||13||24||10|
|Total Points Scored||31||17||24||21||6||14||10||13||24||17|
|Point Differential - 1st half||31||-3||7||-2||-4||-6||-9||6||14||-4|
|Scoring Average TOP||2:20||2:09||1:34||1:33||3:38||4:43||2:39||4:16||2:19||2:51|
|Total Scoring Drives||5||3||4||3||2||1||2||3||4||2|
|Total Scoring Plays||34||19||20||14||18||12||19||31||27||15|
|Total Scoring Yds||259||221.0||251||197||62||72||103||132||252||80|
|Average Scoring Plays||6.8||6.3||5.0||4.7||9.0||12.0||9.5||10.3||6.8||7.5|
|Average Scoring Yds||51.8||73.7||62.8||65.7||31.0||72.0||51.5||44.0||63.0||40.0|
|% Scoring Drives||71.4%||50.0%||66.7%||33.3%||66.7%||16.7%||25.0%||75.0%||80.0%||33.3%|
Offense Against ALL Opponents – Second Half:
|Total Drives - 2nd Half||5||7||7||6||9||7||6||7||8||4|
|Total Plays Run||38||45||26||25||39||37||31||31||40||21|
|Total Points Scored||0||21||21||15||14||14||0||0||12||7|
|Scoring Average TOP||0:00||2:19||1:18||2:03||1:47||4:24||0:00||0:00||1:38||3:04|
|Total Scoring Drives||0||3||3||2||2||2||0||0||2||1|
|Total Scoring Plays||0||20||12||11||16||21||0||0||10||8|
|Total Scoring Yds||0||148||127||122||161||116||0||0||57||60|
|Average Scoring Plays||0.00||6.7||4.0||5.5||8.0||10.5||0.0||0.0||5.0||8.0|
|Average Scoring Yds||0.00||49.3||42.3||61.0||80.5||58.0||0.0||0.0||28.5||60.0|
|% Scoring Drives||0.00%||42.86%||42.86%||33.33%||22.22%||28.57%||0.00%||0.00%||25.00%||25.00%|
Offense Average and Standard Deviation for First Half:
|Overall||StdDev:||BND||StdDev||Remove High/Low*||StdDev||Remove H/L in BND**|
|Total Drives - 1st Half||6.0||1.8||5.9||2.0||6.0||1.2||5.8|
|Total Plays Run||33.4||7.4||33.3||7.7||35.3||6.5||35.7|
|Total Offensive Points||15.6||8.7||12.6||6.5||16.1||8.9||12.3|
|Total Points Scored||17.7||7.5||15.3||5.8||18.8||7.0||15.8|
|Point Differential - 1st half||3.0||12.1||-1.0||7.4||4.5||13.2||-0.3|
|Scoring Average TOP||2:48||1:04||3:01||1:05||2:51||1:04||3:09|
|Total Scoring Drives||2.9||1.2||2.5||0.9||3.0||1.3||2.5|
|Total Scoring Plays||20.9||7.4||19.4||6.5||22.1||7.8||20.5|
|Total Scoring Yds||162.9||81.2||139.9||73.8||171.3||82.3||143.3|
|Average Scoring Plays||7.8||2.4||8.3||2.4||8.0||2.4||8.7|
|Average Scoring Yds||55.5||14.2||55.1||15.8||57.3||12.5||57.4|
|% Scoring Drives||48.3%||42.6%||50.0%||42.9%|
* High game = Indiana, Low game = MSU
** High game = Indiana, Low game = MSU
Offense Average and Standard Deviation – Second Half:
|Overall||Std Dev:||BND||Std Dev:||High/Low Remove*||Std Dev:||H/L BND Remove**||Std Dev:|
|Total Drives - 2nd Half||6.6||1.4||6.75||1.5||6.6||0.9||6.8||0.8|
|Total Plays Run||33.3||7.7||33.6||8.1||34.1||7.0||34.8||7.2|
|Total Points Scored||10.4||8.2||10.4||7.5||10.4||9.1||10.3||8.5|
|Scoring Average TOP||2:22||1:03||2:32||1:02||2:20||1:12||1:44||1:39|
|Total Scoring Drives||1.5||1.2||1.5||1.1||1.5||1.3||1.5||1.2|
|Total Scoring Plays||9.8||7.9||10.8||8.1||9.3||8.6||10.3||9.2|
|Total Scoring Yds||79.1||63.7||83.0||63.1||71.3||64.4||73.8||64.5|
|Average Scoring Plays||4.8||3.8||5.5||3.8||4.0||3.8||4.6||4.1|
|Average Scoring Yds/Play||5.8||4.4||5.9||4.1||5.0||4.6||5.0||4.3|
|Average Scoring Yds||38.0||29.4||42.2||29.7||29.9||26.7||32.8||27.8|
|% Scoring Drives||21.98%||16.71%||22.12%||15.08%||21.58%||18.90%||21.63%||17.79%|
So what do all of these tables mean? I’m not really sure. There clearly are some trends and indicators of how this offense should run. In the first half of games, the offense scores on about half of its possession irrespective of opponent, and does so quickly (about 2:30 minutes/score). It also does so rather spectacularly – over 7 yards per play. Even in games that got away, the offense usually stayed with its opposition for at least a half.
Of course, the second half is a completely different story. Scoring % dipped to 1 in 4 possessions, and yards per scoring play also dropped precariously. So basically the offense slowed down significantly after half time and, even worse, took longer to score when it did. Looking at the situation half-full, the offense took about the same amount to actual game time to score, meaning the quicker pace of the passing game coupled with some runs kept defenses on their toes. Unfortunately, that also means the team relied more heavily on the evolving passing game than the more consistent run game, which led to shorter drives that stalled out.
Now, I think these numbers also go the struggles in the defense all year. While I will tackle the defense in greater detail soon, what you notice is that while the offense moved pretty efficiently in the first half, the second half was marked by fewer drivers that ended quicker. Now, part of the reason was the aforementioned increase in passing because the defense was giving up points at such a rapid clip and the offense tried to keep up. That regretfully fed a cycle UM could not get out of against the likes of Illinois, PSU, and Wiscy – the defense would give up some points, the offense would try to counter by instead stall out quickly, forcing the defense back on the field quickly and into even more pain. ND was probably the team’s best win all season, and it was highlighted by an efficient offense both halves. Conversely, Illinois was probably the worst loss and it featured a massive drop in efficiency across the halves.
EDIT: I forgot to add these two paragraphs to this section, not the defensive analysis forthcoming
But to bag on the defense as the sole reason for the offense's struggles in the second half would be to overlook a myriad of other factors. The defense has been largely consistent all year; consistently average, but still average. When the team was 4-0, it was still handing out yards in alligator-sized chunks, but the offense found a way to keep pace. Against ND and Indiana, the offenses were relatively consistent in terms of scoring rate across both halves. Now, you may argue that those defenses are proverbial tramps - anyone can score on them. And to an extent, I agree. But how does that account for Illinois and Purdue, two teams with equally-trampish defenses that basically shut down UM in the second halves of those games? True, some costly turnovers happened in those games that severely hurt scoring potential, but the yardage didn't dramatically falter or somehow explain away the massive drop-off in scoring.
While this is more based on reaction than analytical fact, I do think the lack of a dominant back and/or receiver really started to wear this team down in the second halves of games and the entire season, especially near the goal line. When this offense is clicking, backs are breaking tackles and driving into the end zone while receivers are finding seams and exploiting them. Roundtree looks to be a legit threat next year in the red zone, but the lack of a healthy Brandon Minor all year really limited what this team could do in the red zone. We all remember Illinois, but there were a couple other games when the team settled for field goals and tough passes instead of just running the ball into the end zone. That goes to a lack of a feature back who is capable of making these types of plays. Note that I didn't say he had to be a beast like Minor'; Mike Hart was one of the best at sniffing out the end zone. The defense is not going to be good for at least 2 years, but it will be helped immensely if the offense can score in the red zone and chew up some clock in the process. A dominant back will go a long way toward meeting that goal.
Final Word: I would love to hear what others think about this post and the data. I have included a link to the file for those to download, and I welcome any suggestions or criticisms. This offense is clearly making headway, and once it shores up its major deficiencies (most notably experience at key positions), I fully expect it to mirror the type of offense that RR has showcased at other schools.
This year, no one UM receiver is even remotely close to 1,000+ yards. The top of the list is RS Fr. Roy Roundtree with 318 yards. Virtually all of Michigan's receivers with 8 catches or more this season have YPC in double digits: Roundtree (13.8), Mathews (12.4), Odoms (12.4), Hemingway (17.5), Stonum (15.8), Koger (13.8).
I was looking back at some of RR's receiver stats at Tulane, Clemson and West Virginia. When he took the job at WVU in 2001 he had already coached three previous circa 1,000 yard receivers:
WR PJ Franklin, Tulane, 1,216 yrds, 10 TDs (1998)
SB Jujuan Dawson, Tulane, 1,030 yrds, 12 TDs (1998)
WR Rod Gardner, Clemson, 1,084 yrds, 4 TDs (1999)
WR Rod Gardner, Clemson, 956 yrds, 6 TDs (2000)
At WVU RR didn't get a 1,000 yard receiver until year 3, when QB Rasheed Marshall was in his 2nd year at QB:
WR Chris Henry, WVU, 1,006 yrds, 10 TDs (2003)
Rodriguez never had another 1,000+ receiver since 2003, though Chris Henry game close again in 2004 (872 yrds, 12 TDs) and so did Darius Reynaud back in 2007 (735 yds, 12 TDs).
Michigan's roster for 2010 is so WR/SB-rich for 2010, it's almost sickening. With two experienced sophomore QBs, the passing game should improve somewhat in 2010, as should the receiver play. Of the 8 receivers with 10 catches or more in 2009, 5 will return to the lineup in 2010. Michigan's youth and experience level at running back in 2010 might also prompt a little more throwing.
If there is a candidate for achieving the 1,000 yard mark in 2010 would have to be Roundtree, because in just 5 games he has as many receptions (23) as Greg Mathews, more yardage than any other receiver and more TD catches (3). Roundtree doesn't have blazing speed, but he's been an excellent possession receiver and his YPC are impressive for a RS freshman.
Part one, the sweatervest kidnapping
As a kid, Tressel was kidnapped once. He was standing in front of his schoolyard, and a black sedan pulls up. And two guys get out, and they say to him, does he wanna go away with them to a land, where everybody is fairies and elves, and he can have all the comic books he wants and chocolate and wax lips and dress up in vests. And he said "yes", and he got into the car with them, 'cause he figured, "What the hell", he was home that week-end from college anyhow,
Part 2, the agony of his parents
The kidnappers drive him off, and they sent a ransom note to his parents. And his father has bad reading habits, so he gets into bed at night with the ransom note, and he read half of it, and he got drowsy and fell asleep, then he lent it out.
Meanwhile they take him to Toledo, bound and gagged, and his parents finally realize that he's kidnapped. They snap into action immediately: they rent out his room.
Part 3, the final conflict
The ransom note says for his father to leave a thousand dollars in a statue of Woody Hayes in Columbus. He has no trouble raising the thousand dollars, but he gets a hernia carrying Woody.
The FBI surround the house, "Throw the kid out,", they say, "give us your guns, and come out with your hands up."
The kidnappers say "We'll throw the kid out, but let us keep our guns, and get to our car."
The FBI says "Throw the kid out, we'll let you get to your car, but give us your guns."
The kidnappers say "We'll throw the kid out, but let us keep our guns - we don't have to get to our car."
The FBI says "Keep the kid."
The FBI decides to lob in teargas, but they don't have teargas, so several of the agents put on the death scene from Carmen—well, actually the death scene that inspired Carmen Ohio, the Buckeye’s oldest school song, which was composed on a train ride home from Ann Arbor, after OSU suffered an 86-0 loss to the Wolverines.
Tearstricken, his abducters give themselves up. They are sentenced to fifteen years on a chaingang, and they escape, in 4 groups of 6 each chained together at the ankle. They get by the guards posing as two immense letter O’s followed by the letters “H” and “I”, spelling O-O-H-I, and inspiring OSU marching band later to re-enact this scene at each game.
*(as once told to me by a source who wishes to remain anonymous and spends his spare time plagiarizing Woody Allen night club routines).
9. Houston Baptist's roster contains 8 players that have transferred from other programs, with 4 of those players being starters. Their nickname is the Huskies.
8. This is Houston Baptist's 3rd year as an NCAA Division I team. They spent the previous 15 years in the NAIA.
7. Houston Baptist finished last year 5-25 and lost their top 4 scorers.
6. The starting combo guard for Houston Baptist is Wendell Preadom. Wendell transferred from Wichita State, presumably because of lack of playing time. He played in nearly every game their in his first 3 seasons, but never started more than 3 games in a season. He was part of the Shocker's team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2006.
5. Mario Flaherty is their starting Center. He was named to the JUCO top 100 Honorable Mention list in 2007. He also holds the record for rebounds in a career at his JUCO school (Skyline College) at 349 in 2 seasons.
4. Houston Baptist was an NAIA power under Ron Cottrell. He resurrected the program after 2 years of absence. He began coaching there in 1991 and since then has posted a record of 379-208.
3. In 2002-03 Houston Baptist averaged 100.4 points per game.
2. They currently average 56.7 points per game. They are 0-3, dropping contests to S. Alabama, Sacramento State, and Rice during a 3 day tournament hosted by Rice.
1. Mario Flaherty might be their best all around player averaging 13 ppg and 9 rpg. However, Andrew Gonzalez is a small forward that will probably be their go to guy on offense. He averages 11 points per game.
I know that was a little more than 10 facts, but I was bored at work. GET TO CRISLER ON FRIDAY!!!!!!!! Go Blue!
QuarterbacksNational POW: Ryan Mallett, Arkansas vs Troy +20 (405 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT)
Big Ten POW: Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin vs Michigan +19 (240 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT)
|Kirk Cousins||Michigan State||9||6.3||6.8||145.1||232||8.22||62%||1.6||0.6|
|Daryll Clark||Penn State||10||5.5||5.1||134.6||223||7.48||60%||1.6||0.9|
|Terrelle Pryor||Ohio State||11||3.8||4.2||131.2||157||7.42||55%||1.4||0.8|
|Keith Nichol||Michigan State||7||-0.2||0.3||129.6||76||7.93||52%||0.6||0.4|
The top five remain unchanged from last week and after his Big 10 POW against Michigan last week, Scott Tolzien moves up to #6. Pryor and Forcier's numbers are surprisingly comparable across the board.
Running BacksNational POW: Toby Gerhart, Stanford vs USC +8 (169 yds, 3 TD)
Big 10 POW: Evan Royster, Penn St vs Indiana +7 (134 combined yds, 2 TD)
|Evan Royster||Penn State||10||1.7||2.4||17||88||0.6||5.3|
|Brandon Saine||Ohio State||11||0.7||1.0||10||52||0.1||5.0|
|Larry Caper||Michigan State||9||0.4||0.7||10||42||0.7||4.0|
|Jordan Hall||Ohio State||6||0.2||0.6||8||41||0.2||5.2|
|Dan Herron||Ohio State||8||-2.0||-1.3||14||54||0.9||3.8|
A lot of movement at the top this week. Royster jumps up to #1 after a big week and John Clay falls to #3 since Michigan's weak rush defense negated a lot of his value last Saturday. The Buckeyes carries are relatively split, with no one back controlling a large share of the carries or value.
National POW: Danario Alexander (back to back) Missouri vs Kansas St +13 (10 rec, 200 yards 3 TDs)
Big Ten POW: Nick Toon Wisconsin vs Michigan +12 (5 rec, 98 yards 2 TD)
|Devier Posey||Ohio State||11||5.6||2.3||4.3||63||14.7||0.6|
|Derek Moye||Penn State||9||5.1||1.8||4.2||68||16.1||0.4|
|Blair White||Michigan State||10||5.1||3.0||5.1||66||12.9||0.6|
|Keshawn Martin||Michigan State||6||4.0||2.4||2.0||42||20.9||0.5|
|Graham Zug||Penn State||9||3.9||2.7||4.1||47||11.5||0.6|
|B Cunningham||Michigan State||10||3.8||1.9||4.1||54||13.2||0.3|
|D Sanzenbacher||Ohio State||10||3.7||2.9||2.6||50||19.0||0.6|
Keith Smith drops back into a virtual tie with Eric Decker and there are still no Wolverines on the list. Posey and Sanzenbacher from OSU both make the list, with Posey coming in 4th in the Big 10.