I think the sum total of things I have written in my life haven't been read by this many people, so I have spent the last day or so in awe. It feels great to get positive feedback and support from the Michigan football online community, not to mention blogging idols of mine like Brian and Dave. But there is no time to rest on my laurels. football season stops for no man. Back to regularly scheduled programming.
- Denard Robinson
- Denard Freaking Robinson
- Denard Freaking Robinson ripping Notre Dame's heart out in the last three minutes of another nail biter.
1. 3rd Down Efficiency
This stat is night and day from the previous week. Against UConn the Wolverines converted 14 of 19 third downs. Against Notre Dame that number plummeted to 3 conversions in 16 attempts. What this adds up to is pain:
|(Courtesy of ESPN)|
Out of 16 total drives, five were three-and-out. Two more drives were not much longer or effective (5 plays for 16 yards and 4 plays for -8). The two 40 yard drives to start the 2nd quarter did not feature a third down conversion and didn't make it more than four yards into Irish territory. All tallied up there were 10 punts, 4 touchdowns, and 2 (missed) FGs.
One of the best ways this team can cover up for its young and thin defense is to sustain drives, and that was no more evident than during the week one game against UConn:
|(Courtesy of ESPN)|
This year the Wolverine's best defense is going to be a good offense. If the offense can stay on the field and limit the other teams opportunities it will take a big burden off the defense. This is going to come down to converting on 3rd down. Against UConn there was not one three and out. Against Notre Dame there were five. Only converting three third downs put the Wolverines in a bad place last Saturday that saw them have to win the game in the final minutes.
2. Special Teams
Of course special teams play helped set this situation up. First, the good news. Will Hagerup had a bad day. He was probably due for a letdown after his lone 51 yard punt from the week before. Of course his workload jumped quite a bit too, and he struggled with some of his punts. His average in the game was 38.3 yards/punt with two going down inside the twenty. This average was pulled down significantly by the three punts that went out of bounds, one punt of 32 yards and two punts of 21 yards. Thankfully we can probably attribute this drop in performance to Hagerup being a true freshman in his first road game playing in wet conditions. This kid will be fine in the long run.
But, there is bad news. Hagerup can't kick field goals
|Gibbons struggled to win the PK job in fall practice|
and now might be on his way to the bench.
If a position battle rages on from spring to fall, and then the player who nominally wins the starting job is 1 for 4 on field goals, you can safely assuming things aren't going to work themselves out any time soon. Commence panic.
3. Youth, Inexperience, and Cam Gordon
The defense gave up 381 yards through the air to Notre Dame. Cam Gordon is either entirely responsible or more than 50% responsible for 185 of those yards. We knew this was going to be a year of growing pains for Cam. A RS-freshman doesn't move from wide receiver to free safety without hitting a few speed bumps along the way. This is compounded when he is without perhaps the most important
|Gordon is known for his hitting ability, but will have to |
improve his instincts if this secondary is to be successful.
If you take away these three plays the game becomes much different. The passing numbers drop precipitously and the game is no longer a last minute comeback. Expecting Gordon to break all three of these passes up is naive, but I would hope that Gordon learns from these mistakes and instead makes sure that he is in position to make the touchdown saving tackle and not the game changing interception. In the bend but don't break defensive scheme that this team has relied on so far, highlight reel plays aren't necessary from the free safety. What is necessary is solid tackling and a commitment to not let anything behind him.
Because of a trip back to Michigan tomorrow and a lack of any real information on UMass, I have decided to skip my Match up Rundown for this weeks game. Look for a preview piece to come up sometime tomorrow, and then nothing new until probably Monday.