Lack of improvement, Quantified

Lack of improvement, Quantified

Submitted by Nonnair on November 29th, 2010 at 4:21 PM

Let me first say I am not an RR hater. In fact, I wanted him to succeed as badly as anyone, and am appalled at the crap he has had to put up with, and the unwillingness of so many fans to acknowledge that he had so many poorly stocked (not unstocked) cupboards at some many position groups upon his arrival.

That said, I am just as frustrated as anyone else at the current mess.

Fact is, as has been posted elsewhere today, the 2008 and 2009 offenses scored more points in the first halves of Big Ten games than the 2010 offense did. That is incredible. To wit:

Year PF, 1st halves vs B10 PA, 1st halves vs B10 M turnovers, 1st halves vs B10
2008 110 106 11
2009 108 110 9
2010 100 179 12

Stark improvement in the second halves this year, but because by the end of the 3rd quarter in the MSU, Wisc, Iowa, PSU and OSU games most or all the necessary damage had been done, each took its foot partially or completely off the gas in the 4th quarter until (Iowa and PSU) pressed, in which cases both merely got the clinching score needed.

Year PF, 2nd halves vs B10 PA, 2nd halves vs B10 M turnovers, 2nd halves vs B10
2008 67 190 7
2009 69 136 14
2010 125 115 11

Sure, there are myriad ways to interpret these stats. Few of them reflect well on the 2010 team, or RR.

You can never win or lose a game in the first half, but you can come close. A game's dynamic changes completely if a team gets out to a three-score lead.

I've looked at the play-by-plays and drive charts closely for this year's team, and for the 2008 team. And yes this year's team is a yard-gaining machine. The record-holder in M history -- well, or at least as far back as the late 1930s, when official NCAA stats started being kept. Indeed, 500 yards a game is impressive. On paper.

It is far less impressive when so many of those yards are gained between the 20s, or at least don't make it all the way in.

For instance, here is a look at how our first-half drives in Big Ten play (save half-ending kneel-downs) went:

TDs FGs Missed FGs Punts Downs Fumble lost Interception
12 3 3 14 4 6 5

(For those adding up, these TDs and FGs add up to 93; the fumble return vs Purdue brings the number to 100. And one of the first-half turnovers occurred on a KOR vs Wisc, hence the fumbles lost and INTs immediately above add up to 11, not 12).

There were many long first-half drives in Big Ten play that ended badly -- in fumbles, interceptions, on downs, or missed field goals. These mistakes effectively rendered all those yards gained on those drives moot. They're no more helpful to the scoring cause than punt yards. Because, really, when the 08 team kept punting from around its own 40, the other team would get the ball at around its 20 without having been scored on. The only difference with this year's team making so many mistakes in the first half is that the other team would acquire the ball at about the same location on the field, but instead of after a punt, rather after an M turnover, or on downs, or after a missed FG. There is no difference on the scoreboard.

A mistake prone-team renders its gaudy yard totals moot with its mistakes.

23 turnovers (whole game) in Big Ten play last year, and 23 turnovers in Big Ten play this year. That's almost 3 per game.

Ain'ta gonna cut it.