Ground Pounders

Submitted by Brian on November 25th, 2008 at 10:55 AM

The final number. Before the Ohio State game I mentioned a remarkable statistic: in this year of safeties living in the box and injuries and a makeshift offensive line and just all-around disaster on offense, Michigan actually had a higher yards per carry than they did the year before.


It was close, though, and Ohio State stomped that. Michigan finished the year averaging 3.91 YPC. 2007 beat that out by six hundredths of a yard. Okay, that's still pretty remarkable. Here's a pop quiz: where does that YPC rank over the past eight years?

# Year YPC
1 2006 4.27
2 2003 4.25
3 2007 3.97
4 2008 3.91
5 2005 3.89
6 2004 3.83
7 2002 3.82
8 2001 3.59

Fourth! Above average!

If you needed any evidence that whatever Rich Rodriguez is doing on the ground is a pretty good idea, that should suffice.



November 25th, 2008 at 10:58 AM ^

Is how poorly the teams in 01 and 02 performed with much more talent then we had in this year.

I have no clue why people are concerned about the offense, frankly the defense is what has me petrified.


November 25th, 2008 at 11:37 AM ^

Well, I imagine that having a better offense will help the defense. Is it a coincidence that teams often seem to get better against us in the 2nd half (OSU/PSU) when our offense completely falters and the defense gets only a couple minute break while the offense gives Zoltan another opportunity to make the All Big TEN team??


November 25th, 2008 at 11:05 AM ^

The average isn't the only interesting statistic about the rushing game this year. Remember the incredible number of 0 or negative yardage non-sack plays in the first several games? That's an abnormal distribution. It's my impression that the number of totally failed running plays significantly decreased towards the end of the year.


November 25th, 2008 at 11:12 AM ^

Once we have a QB who can pass effectively and consistently, the run game is going to break off huge chunks.
This going to do two things for the defense:
1) Keep them off the field.
2) Force the other team into passing situations, which I presume is why Scott "Sackmeister" Shafer was hired in the first place.

Also, if our coaches can teach our LBs and Safeties how to fit up in their correct gaps (and then tackle!) 90% of those big runs against us will go away.

Last: I'm amazed how poorly the YPC was for 2004. My rosey memories are of FR Mike Hart getting 200-yd games over and over again.


November 25th, 2008 at 11:32 AM ^

Not only will the threat of a vertical passing game help but the threat of the running qb will as well.

I can't tell you how many times the weakside defensive end did not respect our qb and made plays that they should not make.

I would also point out Illinois and OSU both crashed the weakside end and used a LB for contain, this allowed man coverage on the outside slot and wr, a better qb and they will pay for that move.


November 25th, 2008 at 11:19 AM ^

That really is remarkable. In a year where we attempted what, 7 vertical passes over 20 yards?, I'm stunned that the running game EVER approached decent.

Here's to hoping that an increased ability to stretch the field leads to some running lanes in the next few years.


November 25th, 2008 at 11:26 AM ^

You cant hammer this one home enough.

Michigan--despite Hart, Perry and others--have not been a move the chains, efficient running attack. We were always one first down short in a lot of games, because our stale running game had been figured out.

With zero talent in comparison, RR's first team nearly got 4 ypc.

People may mock us for using this as a sign of progress/hope, but it is.

Bo inside all of us

November 25th, 2008 at 12:23 PM ^

the amount of times we'd pass in running situations in the last few years was my most hated aspect of the lloyd offense. one only need look at the 2006 OSU game where in the 4th quarter we passed on 3rd and 1 and 3rd and 2. both failed. we lost by three.

run the ball baby! run rich run!


November 25th, 2008 at 11:41 AM ^

I know he's not capable of running the current version of RR's offense, at least in terms of carrying the ball, but does anyone know from watching him in practice whether Cone has any ability to take a shotgun snap and hit an open receiver? Just curious.


November 25th, 2008 at 11:49 AM ^

Easy, Brian. This team was no better than Notre Dame 2007. I believe in RR based on what he has done before and who he is bringing in. Let's not turn faith into blinding refusal to accept harsh reality. Slicing and dicing don't change losing to Toledo.

Doctor Sardonicus

November 25th, 2008 at 1:36 PM ^

I went to the stats archive and looked at the negative rushing yardage for the quarterbacks.

Granted, that includes lost yardage by QBs in 2008 on running plays, not just sacks. And it doesn't take into account scrambles for positive yards.

Anyway: 2008: 207 lost yards for Sheridan and Threet
2007: 236 lost yards for Henne and Mallett
2006: 171 lost yards for Henne
2005: 119 lost yards for Henne
2004: 198 lost yards for Henne
2003: 179 lost yards for Navarre
2002: 122 lost yards for Navarre
2001: 188 lost yards for Navarre

Given all that, I don't think it's a major factor in the numbers. You're talking 400+ attempts per season and the lost yardage from sacks seems to center in the 150-200 range, so it's a variance of just over 0.1 yards per attempt.


November 25th, 2008 at 1:18 PM ^

The rushing statistic from this season, while above the median, is not above the average. While you could say that median is a form of average, I believe you refer to mean, in which case 2008 (3.91)


November 25th, 2008 at 1:54 PM ^

The word "average" does not actually have a very concrete definition. Median, mode and mean can all be called the average depending on the situation.

Also, taking the mean of each season's average does not give a very good statistic. One should take the mean of all 8 years of rushing stats combined.


November 25th, 2008 at 2:02 PM ^

This is an interesting analysis, although ypc for an entire team is not a very good metric since sacks can completely skew the yardage one way or the other. For example, I remember our running game being way better in 2004 than in 2005 when Hart and Long were injured. If you look at the ypc for the top 3 rushers that year, will find find this, but the difference between 2004 and 2005 is a massive difference in rushing yards for Henne. Somehow, Henne had positive rushing yards in 2005, whereas he had -100 yards or more in his other years.

If you look at the ypc for the top three rushers, here is how they stack up...

2003: 5.19
2006: 5.09
2004: 5.00
2007: 4.95
2008: 4.69
2001: 4.57
2002: 4.32
2005: 4.22

So 2008 ends up fifth in this case (still not terrible, all things considered). Not surprisingly, 2005 looks pretty shitty and 2003 looks the best. 2004 also looks substantially better, which is not a surprise given how dominant the running game became with Mike Hart in the second half of the season. I am surprised looking back on 2002 at how low it is. I remember our running game being pretty solid that year. It's still pretty good that 2008 ends up in front of three other years. If you look at Penn State and beyond, I think you might find 5.0 ypc or more.