Opponents Scoring

Submitted by raleighwood on September 16th, 2013 at 11:02 PM

After watching the first three games, it seemed to me that an inordinate amount of opposition scoring is actually being generated by Michigan's offense (specifically interceptions and bad punts...).  I broke down all of the opponents' scoring drives to get a better idea of what's going on.

This is not intended to pick on Devin Gardner or Matt Wile.  I only counted drives that are highlighted by an asterick (*).  We all know about Gardner's interceptions.  I've also highlighted Wiles punts of 25 yards or less.  Based on my calculations, 57% of oppenents' scoring (36 out of 63 total points) can be attributed to interceptions or shanked punts.  These are correctable issues.

Details below......please forgive any formatting issues!

CMU Scoring Drives

*  Gardner interception returned to Michigan 7.  CMU moves ball to 6.  Kicks field goal.

*  Gardner interception returned to Michigan 29.  CMU moves ball to 10.  Kicks field goal.

CMU takes touchback.  Drives to Michigan 17.  Kicks field goal.

Gardner:              6 of 9 points.  67% 


Notre Dame Scoring Drives

ND takes touchback.  Drives to Michigan 4.  Kicks field goal.

*  Wile punts 24 yards to Michigan 46.  ND drives to 26.  Kicks field goal.

ND takes touchback.  Drives to Michigan 7.  Kicks field goal.

Wile punts to ND 10.  ND drives for TD

*  Gardner interception in end zone.  TD.

*  Wile punts 21 yards to ND 48.  Drives to Michigan 23.  Kicks field goal.

Gardner:              7 of 30 points.  23%

Wile:                      6 of 30 points.   20% 


Akron Scoring Drives

*  Wile punts 21 yards to Michigan 31.  Drives to Michigan 28.  Kicks field goal.

Wile punts 47 yards (net) to Akron 25.  Drives for TD.

*  Gardner intercepted.  Returned 27 yards for a TD.

*  Wile punts 22 yards to Akron 33.  Drives for TD.

To be fair, Akron was intercepted in end zone and ended game at goal line.  Two potential scoring drives that were generated by their offense.

Gardner:                7 of 24 points.  29%

Wile:                      10 of 24 points.  42%



Gardner               20 of 63 points.  32%

Wile:                      16 of 63 points.  25% 







September 16th, 2013 at 11:21 PM ^

Feel Wile's poor punting has been a bit overlooked. Very correctable he will get his act together and Devin will get more comfortable in his role behind the helm.


September 16th, 2013 at 11:24 PM ^

Basically, punting/turnovers preceded most scores. If we convert more often, the opposing team will score less...?

There are a couple useful ways of thinking about this:

1) Is the defense getting enough time off the field?

2) Don't turn the ball over

3) Don't...punt?

I mean, it's interesting, but I dunno how relevant it is a statistic.

Everyone keeps saying our defense bailed us out, but in reality, it is repeatedly the opposing team's offensive failure that bails us out. We would get burned by more accurate quarterbacks and better play-calling. Tommy Rees' incompletions were usually not due to pressure or good coverage, but his own inaccuracy.

We need to start playing better D. Our scoring defense is still pretty good, but when the field is wide open, we can't seem to get control.

Not sure why this is, though I'm sure many will say youth. The D has some good bits and pieces like anywhere else, but we need to generate pressure and play better coverage. I'm not a football-word-technical person, so I dunno what exactly we have to do to do those things, but when I watch us play defense, all I see are offensively exploitable creases on passing plays and an ineffective D-Line.

Has anyone noticed that the D-Line spins around a lot this year? Like they're about to break free, except they don't. It seems more than usual to me.... I don't think that's a good idea, but then I'm not that football savvy.


September 17th, 2013 at 10:08 AM ^

I think you're not giving the OP credit and missing a lot of what he's saying.

First, obviously TOs are bad. But for one player's TOs to lead to 1/3 of opponents points seems particularly bad. Gardner's decision making and tendency to have at least one or two really terrible plays a game is really costing the team.

Second, it's not just punting leading to scores, it's specifically Wile's new found tendency to shank punts. His bad punts are costing the team 1/4 of their points against. Which isn't crazy or surprising from a logic standpoint (bad punt = short field = points), but more that shanking punts is a new problem for Wile.

Also, on a side note, I think you're underrating Rees. I think the defense did their job and I think it's kind of unfair to give all the credit to Rees' accuracy (or lack thereof), which I think is actually pretty good.

One Inch Woody…

September 16th, 2013 at 11:28 PM ^

~30% of the points opponents have scored on us are results of mental mistakes and that's at least somewhat comforting but why the hell was Akron having so much success against Mattison?

Alright I'm gonna throw this out here. Why the eff are we playing cover 2 zone against a spread team when our D line can't get adequate pressure? Last year and in 2011 we played a lot of nickel cover 1 press and some robber and had reasonable success. What is the point of having 2 deep safeties when the spread opponents are just throwing slants, snags, curls, and outs all day. Might as well put a safety in the mid zone to go with a TE/RB and free Ross up to stop the run/give added pressure. I'm no coach, and I'm not trying to say that I know better than Mattison. I'm just wondering why we switched to cover 2 now that we have a supposedly more athletic FS.

One Inch Woody…

September 17th, 2013 at 12:17 AM ^

I think he's trying to give players more freedom to make plays by getting rid of the strong/weak side alignments and field/boundary distinctions. The problem is that we can't take advantage of the playmaking ability of the secondary if opponents either a) get the ball out in 2 seconds or b) have 10+ seconds to find an open receiver.

Lazer with a Z

September 17th, 2013 at 2:15 AM ^

I thought the same thing. I know Mattison has more tricks up his sleeve than he has shown. As a coach, I think that he doesn't want to put anything good on film. The team goal is to win the big ten, Akron doesn't matter, and if they can't beat them playing base, they don't deserve to beat them anyway. But, you have to realize that your future opponents are going to get film on everything you do. A lot of coaches keep the good stuff in their back pocket and save it for actual conference games.


September 17th, 2013 at 1:31 PM ^

scenario is all that realistic (in this instance).

Maybe with a mature defense of upper classmen, with a bye week or prepping for a bowl game it could work; but for a young D with obvious flaws?

There's a reason game experience is so valuable vs practice, and I think Michigan's current defense is having a hard enough time staying consistent.  I certainly don't think Mattison opened the playbook against Akron, but i think this team has a ways to go before they start playing with much hidden up their sleeve.


September 17th, 2013 at 6:35 AM ^

Just to compare your numbers to Division I at large, Michigan is one of about a dozen teams tied for 99th in average turnover margin at -0.7. When it comes to net punting, Michigan is 118th at 277 net yards against an average return by opponents of 27 yards -  the average punt travels 31.3 yards. 


September 17th, 2013 at 10:39 AM ^

So...Michigan's pretty bad. I'm always a little surprised to see how bad the kicking coverage really is. It's easy for me to see those returns in a vacuum and not really appreciate how not good they really are.

I'm getting mighty tired of TOs. Hasn't Michigan thrown the most INTs in the conference for a couple of years now? Ugh.


September 17th, 2013 at 1:08 PM ^

paid to special teams play. I mean coaches will always discuss how important it is, but some teams just seem interested in being competent in this area rather than using it as another way to attack and or gain advantage. I understand why this is to a certain extent, this is Michigan fergodsakes. That statement covers a variety of sins of commission and omission. 

And one of those is not using special teams as a weapon. Right now, competency seems significant given the fact that the punter is shanking balls downfield, giving teams unearned field position that puts the defense in bad situations. And the punt returners can't be trusted to catch balls coming their way. 

Akron is playing for a tie not a win on the final two plays of the game if Wile makes a decent first half punt Saturday. Michigan has a 10 point edge in spite of its miscues if Gibbons hits on the field goal, which seems like odd criticism, given that it ended the longest consecutive fg streak in school history. Again, however, all these things add up. 

Here's the other thing: When you don't perform on special teams competently, you never consider using special teams as a weapon except in most obvious situations, like onside kicks when your behind. 

The only guy who does this in the Big Ten is Mr. Sourpuss at MSU. He's won games with it, he's taken risks with it, because he knows how these kinds of calls can turn games. They take guts which is why they aren't used a lot. 

But when your qb is turning the ball over two or three times a game and your punter can't be counted on, and your worried about your pass rush, how about using special teams to goose your team's morale and change fortunes? Hoke called a punt block against Central and it worked. So, he's one for one in those calls. He needs to consider being more agressive in special teams play as the season moves along. 


September 17th, 2013 at 9:49 AM ^

One problem with looking at the results this way is that we don't know whether the opposing team would have scored absent the mistake.  This is perhaps most clear in the case of shanked punts.  Let's just look at Notre Dame's scoring following kicks (this is not in order):

ND takes touchback.  Drives to Michigan 7.  Kicks field goal.

ND takes touchback.  Drives to Michigan 4.  Kicks field goal.

Wile has a good punt.  ND drives for TD

Wile shanks a punt.  ND drives to 26.  Kicks field goal.

Wile shanks a punt.  ND drives to Michigan 23.  Kicks field goal.

Although 2/5 of the above scoring drives started with a shanked punt, there's not much evidence that good punt would have changed the score.  So, yes, 57% of Michigan's opponents scoring has followed mistakes.  Correcting those mistakes, however, will not necessarily reduce opponent's scoring substantially.

Cranky Dave

September 17th, 2013 at 10:38 AM ^

I agree with the observation that better punts may not reduce opponents scoring by a lot since the shanked punts resulted in 3 FGs and 1 TD-assuming the ratio of FG-TD remains the same.  However, it seems there is much higher correlation with interceptions  (32% of opponents scoring) since they resulted in 2 pick 6s and starting field position at UM’s 29 and  7 yard lines. 


September 17th, 2013 at 1:24 PM ^

However, in the case of the first shanked punt on Saturday, it led directly to points because the Zips were held to just three yards on the subsequent drive instead of a TD, which was clearly their aim. A field goal was the most optimal secondary beneift given the granted field position. And they gladly took that opportunity.

That was acutally a save by the defense, but a win for the Zips.And that field goal opportunity was the difference between Michigan playing for its life and the Zips taking the game into OT, at least given the way the game turned out. 

Your right, you can't project outcome or circumstance based on unforseen occurrence or something else happening, but you can argue that in that particular situation, when Akron only gained three yards after receiving a huge gift in unearned field position, that kicking the field goal was like a bonus reward. And without it, given no other considertations, the final stand would have had a lot less pressure attached to it. 


September 17th, 2013 at 10:39 AM ^

I agree that the defense has been put in some tough situations and that the offense and punting have hurt.  Still, it is a unit that needs to generate some stops of its own, or at least get some pressure on the QB.  Outside of CMU they've generated 1 sack while facing around 100 passes.


September 17th, 2013 at 11:41 AM ^

Like they discussed on the podcast, Akron almost managed a block on one of those shanks. It's really a bummer when a chunk of the ST play is so concerning. Wasn't there a streak at the end of the Carr era with really bad punt blocking? I remember a lot of dumb roll-out punts.

Blue Mike

September 17th, 2013 at 11:44 AM ^

The defense has to play better, but there is something to the OP theory that our offense is not helping the cause.  Pick-6's are obvious, but look at the turnovers on saturday.  Devin's fumble and one interception came in the red zone, where according to the TV, we hadn't been stopped in 60+ attempts.  Considering we scored touchdowns every other time we were there on that day, assume those two trips score touchdowns as well.  Being in the lockerroom at half time up 21-3 with some offensive rhythm is a big difference than 7-3 and shaky.  

Even if we don't score on the pick-6 drive, that's a 7 point swing.  Add that with the above and you're looking at a 21 point swing because of turnovers.  Do think the defense looks a little different in the second half if we're up 3-4 touchdowns than in a tight game?  Do you think Akron's spirit is broken a bit also?

The defense needs to play better, but so does the offense (and punting).  We beat Akron easily if two of the three are good Saturday; instead all three phases were bad (or worse).  


September 17th, 2013 at 4:23 PM ^

We probably don't want to try that.  I've heard that a lot of kickers dislike taking on punting duties, because punting is a very different leg motion, and trying to do both in one game can throw off your rhythm.  We tried that with Hayden Epstein, and it may have affected his accuracy as a kicker.