Wednesday, August 30, 2006

2005 4th quarter defense

The media has come up with countless articles pointing to Michigan’s 4th quarter defensive woes as being the main culprit for Michigan’s 7-5 2005 season. However, a closer look reveals something different:

Game #1 [NIU]:
->0 3rd quarter points
->7 4th quarter points

However, the 4th quarter points were scored with 3:06 left in the game when Michigan had 2nd stringers on defense. UFR from mgoblog shows at least Taylor and Thompson in so definitive 2nd stringers in. Touchdown in the 4th quarter is meaningless.

Game #2 [Notre Dame]:
->0 3rd quarter points
->0 4th quarter points

0 2nd half points. Period!

Game #3 [Eastern Michigan]:
->0 3rd quarter points
->0 4th quarter points

Shutout. Enough said.

Game #4 [Wisconsin]:
->3 3rd quarter points
->17 4th quarter points

17 4th quarter points. Wow, this is definitely proof that Michigan's 4th quarter defense is the real reason for the suckyness of Michigan's 2005 season. However, a closer look at the 4th quarter is in order here:

->Starting on Wisc's 27, Wisconsin scores a FG
->Michigan fumbles on the 2nd play, allowing Wisc to start on Michigan's 12 yard line!!!!
->Wisconsin scores
->Chad Henne throws an interception on the 2nd play, Wisc starts on Michigan's 35
->Wisc throws an interception, Michigan ball
->Michigan TD
->Wisc punts
->Michigan goes 3-out, punts
->Starting at the Wisc 48, Wisc scores

2 turnovers by Michigan's offense in the 4th quarter. The 2 TD's that Wisc scores are right after a) a Michigan fumble on their 12yard line and b) Michigan goes 3-out. Change any one of those 3 things (fumble, fumble, 3-out) by having Michigan's offense perform a tad bit better and the game is a W for Michigan. Period. OR, actually, more importantly, have Michigan capitalize on one more of their NUMEROUS offensive chances in the 1st 3 quarters and Michigan wins.

This game was lost by Michigan's offense, not by the play of Michigan's defense.

Game #5 [Michigan State]:
->3 3rd quarter points
->7 4th quarter points

This game was a win. Holding high-flying Drew Stanton and MSU to 10 2nd half points is great. MSU scored 21 in the 1st half and only 10 in the 2nd and 0 in OT. This is a good 2nd half defensive performance by Michigans D.

Game #6 [Minnesota]:
->10 3rd quarter points
->3 4th quarter points

Only 3 points in the 4th quarter.

Game #7 [Penn State]:
->3 3rd quarter points
->22 [14] 4th quarter points

This game was a W but was rather ugly in the 4th quarter. 22 points, wow you say. However, 8 of those were not given up by Michigan's defense so that narrows it down to 14 points scored on Michigan's D in the 4th quarter. This game definitely deserves a closer look at the 4th quarter:

->Michigan goes 5-out
->Tony Hunt has a 61-yard rush leading to a PSU TD
->Michigan's offense gives up a touchdown to PSU
->Michigan TD
->PSU punts
->Michigan FG
->Michigan interception by Leon Hall, Michigan ball
->Michigan goes 3-out, punts
->Starting at their own 19 PSU drives 81yards for a TD
->Michigan scores with 1 second left

This game would count more towards outing Michigan's 4th quarter defense than any other game aside from the OSU game. However, the game was a W for Michigan. As well, 8 of the 4th quarter points scored by PSU were given up by Michigan's offense. As well, Michigan's offense squanders yet another chance after Michigan's D comes up with an interception. Going 3-out after a great Michigan D play doesn't do much to inspire the folks who have to trot right back onto the field.

Again, a W for Michigan so this game doesn't count for all those 4th quarter naysayers.

Game #8 [Iowa]:
->0 3rd quarter points
->3 4th quarter points

Only 3 points scored in the 4th quarter and 3 points in OT. Nice D. Sure, some of this was Iowa trying to play LLLlloydball but solid D nonetheless. Breakout performance by John Thompson helping to stuff Iowa's run game in the 2nd half.

Game #9 [Northwestern]:
->0 3rd quarter points
->0 4th quarter points

2nd half shutout. AGAIN. Where is this 4th quarter D dribble coming from?

Game #10 [Indiana]:
->0 3rd quarter points
->7 4th quarter points

Indiana touchdown with the score 41-7 Michigan. How many 3rd stringers were there on Michigan's defense at that point. Meaningless touchdown.

Game #11 [Ohio State]:
->0 3rd quarter points
->13 4th quarter points

OSU scored 12 in the 1st half and 13 in the 2nd with all 13 coming in the 4th quarter. This is against a very good OSU offense with Troy Smith firmly at the helm where he wasn't in previous games. A closer look reveals:

->OSU misses a FG try
->Michigan scores a FG
->OSU starts on their own 33 and goes 67 yards for the touchdown
->Michigan goes 5-out
->OSU goes 88 yards for a TD

The Ohio State game really is the only game that can even come close to counting towards any notion of Michigan having a bad 4th quarter defense. Taking a look at mgoblog's UFR of Michigan's defensive effort against OSU goes more towards showing what Troy Smith can do against a soft zone than anything else. Saying that Michigan lost the OSU game as a result of Michigan's 4th quarter defense would probably be 50% true.

Game #12 [Nebraska]:
->3 3rd quarter points
->15 4th quarter points

Wow, another 4th quarter meltdown by Michigan's D? 2 in a row you say? Let's take a closer look at the 4th quarter:

->Michigan scores a TD
->Nebraska punts on their ensuing posession
->Michigan goes 3-out and punts
->Nebraska returns the kick to Michigan's 38.
->Cory Ross scores on a 31yd TD on the 2nd play
->Michigan fumbles on the 1st play of the next posession
->Michigan's D forces Nebraska to a 3-out, Nebraska punts
->Chad Henne fumbles on the 2nd(?) play, Nebraska ball
->Deep in Michigan territory Nebraska scores

Nebraska's 1st TD came when they started already at Michigan's 38 yard line and Michigan's D was coming off an EXTREMELY short sit as Michigan just went 3-out prior to that series. Nebraska scored with Michigan already forced to defend in their territory with almost zero rest. Then add onto that the momentum of Michigan's offense fumbling RIGHT AWAY deep in Michigan territory. Singling out Michigan's 4th quarter defense here is the wrong thing to do. So aside from Michigan's 4th quarter Defense you have:

1) Michigan's offense fumbling deep in their territory allowing Nebraska to start their last scoring drive in the redzone
2) Michgan's offense fumbling in Michgan's territory
3) Michigan going 3-out right before Nebraska's 1st 4th quarter TD
4) Michigan's special teams allowing Nebraska to return the ball all the way to the Michigan 38 giving Nebraska a SHORT field to work with

Honestly, Michigan's D put up a tough fight but when your offense just flutters the ball away 3x in the 4th quarter holding Nebraska to 2 short-field TD's is pretty darn good. If Michigan's offense would've performed minutely better Nebraska doesn't score more than 1 TD in the 4th quarter and Michigan wins. Period.

Thus, there is only 1 game out of 5 (OSU game) that Michigan's 4th quarter defense can bear a decent chunk of the blame for the loss. Michigan going 11-1 with only a loss to OSU would've earned a top5 AP poll spot and no mention of problems with Michigan's D regardless of quarter. If, for some reason, you still need more proof that Michigan's D was not the problem last year see the post below.

Comments, flames, and/or contrary opinions on this subject matter are more than welcome.