Makes me sad and will likely cause nightmares to reoccur from past dates.
Unforced Errors – Worse Than Turnovers!
Synopsis: The relationship between turnovers and winning a football game has been well documented. But, as I watched the last two Michigan games, it seemed to me that unforced errors by the offense (overthrown passes, dropped passes, penalties, bad snaps, missed FGs, shanked punts, not recovering on-side kicks, etc.) were far more prevalent and far more costly than turnovers. I decided to find out if I was crazy. So, I went back and watched the DVRs of both games, stopped the DVR at each unforced error, and documented the results. I am not crazy (at least not in this circumstance).
In the Wisconsin game: Michigan had 8 unforced errors, the opponent had NONE, there were 2 TOs by each team, and the turnover margin was –0-. Michigan scored just 28 points. Unforced errors by Michigan left at least 21 and perhaps as many as 35 points on the field.
In the osu game: Michigan had 18 unforced errors, the opponent had 7, there were 3 TOs by M, 1 TO by the opponent, and the turnover margin was –2. Michigan scored only 7 points. Unforced errors by Michigan left at least 17 points on the field. Unforced errors by osu left at least 8 points on the field. On average, the –2 TOM would cost M 8 points. The first shanked punt by M also put the D in terrible field position and led to osu's first TD.
In both of these games, many of the unforced errors occurred early when scores by the offense could have created or maintained momentum in Michigan's favor. Unforced errors are worse than TOs. Unless Michigan can significantly reduce the number of unforced errors, the team will continue to struggle to win games.
What Causes Unforced Errors: There does not appear to be any difference between the root causes of unforced errors and TOs. Younger, inexperienced players are the major causes for both. The physical differences between most 18 year old and most 22 year old football players is dramatic. The mental differences (i.e. poor judgment) are also significant. Bad luck is not a significant factor in either unforced errors or turnovers. Without attending practices, it is impossible to know whether coaching techniques (e.g. simulating real game conditions better, deliberating throwing passes that are difficult for receivers to catch, etc.) are being used that would reduce the unforced errors.
The Gory Details: Here are the tables of unforced errors for the last two games. Red are the Michigan unforced errors, black is the opponent's. First, Wisky:
Chart all unforced errors in the past 3 seasons, track trends for the team, and assess the 'how much have we improved' meme. Then go crazy and track unforced errors for all teams and build a regression model that uses player youth as a predictor as well as dummy variables for various coaches, and see if there are any coaches with significant positive or negative impacts on unforced errors.
You could also do for the defense, tracking penalties and missed tackles (covered in part here: http://mgoblog.com/diaries/tackling-technique).
I'm only half-joking; I'd love to see the results. But interesting stuff, nonetheless!
This would be too painful unless there is a masochistic tendency.
The only way to do this is: watch every game and document each unforced error. And relive the past several seasons.
This team made a ton of unforced errors. They also made a lot of unforced errors in 2009 and 2008. Will they buck the trend and hold onto the ball and make the plays in 2011? I'm confident they will as we will finally have a two deep that has a majority of the players as upperclassmen (only underclassmen I count are Lewan and Schofield and any freshman supers ala Dee Hart). Denard's development is obviously the biggest factor in this equation. Say what you will about how good he was this year, but I still think he still has a long way to go before he reaches his ceiling.
This is the one thing that makes me doubt RR's ability to get us to be an elite program again. The unforced errors and turnovers have not gone away over the years. You can't drop passes left and right and fumble the ball 5 or 10 times a game (even if you recover 80% of those) and expect to win too many games. If we can erase these mistakes, I'm sure we'll compete for the Big Ten Championship next year. If we can't we'll be at 7-5 again.
will be reduced with experience. Michigan is still a young team and has 1st year starting QB for three straight seasons. It's going to happen anyway. Michigan can get to the elite status under RR.
My belief is that Denard will cut down on unforced errors in his 2nd year as a starter, but i harbor no such illusions about Tate who seems to have been even more of a turnover machine this year. This hope goes out the window if a change in the head _____ results in a 4th straight year of a starting QB with no experience.
would be interesting to see these in relation to statistical norms throughout the season and/or across the country. obviously some passes are going to be dropped, field goals are going to be missed, onside kicks are going to not be recovered. are the drops from OSU more than, less than or on par with season or national averages, for example.
This data is not readily available (as far as I know). Some would be possible to get (e.g. on-side kick data by reviewing the play-by-play) others would require reviewing the DVR/tape of each game.
Another problem is there is some subjectivity involved. I did not include tipped passes or a poor pass that was obviously caused by a good defensive play. But, that was based on just my judgment.
so you are saying i have to dvr every college football game in a season and watch it and take notes?
i have been waiting for my whole life for someone to tell me this. see you in three years with my beard and 1200 pages of graph paper!
the phrase 'Unforced Error' to be really annoying. How many times do you purposely make an error? Just my $.02 on a completely irrelevant matter. Sorry for cluttering the post
might be an annoying term but it is correctly phrased. Unforced means without any outside interference and error means a mistake so they made a mistake without any outside interference. Makes complete sense if you look beyond the word and into the meaning.
Thanks for putting the effort into this. Even though it is a small sample size my warped memory thinks this is fairly accurate for the season. I could never put it into words but there was always something nagging at me other than turnovers and I think you have captured it.
I think you are over-estimating the points “left on the field.” Except where the error is on a scoring play (missed FG, dropped pass in the endzone), you are generously assuming that every drive would have worked out in M’s favor. Football games almost never work out that way.
And of course, some number of unforced errors are bound to occur. Wisconsin’s (apparently) perfect game is probably an anomaly. OSU’s 7 unforced errors might be a more typical performance.
You are right that the estimate of points left on the field is subjective.
But, I did NOT assume every drive with an unforced error would result in points. If the receiver was wide open with a clear path to the end zone, I estimated 7 points. If the result would have been first and goal, I also estimated 7 points. If the unforced error would have just resulted in a first down, I basically estimated -0- points.
With 18 unforced errors in the osu game, I only came up with 17 points left on the field.
The unforced errors have been drive stoppers,point erasures,and momentum killers.
Off the top of my head I remember key drops by Roundtree in games before those 2 that were immediately followed by tipped screens that resulted in INT's. I think it has a lot to do with the inexperience. Great write up.
I would have Roy Roundtree's hands cut off, but I guess that would be redundant, given his performance against OSU. It was a sad day for any Michigan player not named Darryl Stonum.