Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Splitting the Uprights: Garrett Rivas

Last year five of Michigan's 12 games were decided by a field goal or less. When a team plays that many close games it puts a premium on having a solid placekicker. That is exactly what Michigan has in Garrett Rivas. Rivas has been steady (for the most part) but not spectacular during his three years with the Wolverines. Rivas has led the Wolverines in scoring for two years in a row (94 pts. in 2004; 90 pts. in 2005). He has been almost automatic from within 40 yards (31 of 37 attempts during the past 2 seasons) but from beyond that range it is almost a 50/50 proposition (7 of 13 attempts during past 2 seasons from 40 yards and beyond). Here is a game-by-game breakdown of how Rivas has performed during the past two seasons:

*Numbers in (pararentheses) indicate field goal was made

2004

  • Miami (Ohio) (31)
  • Notre Dame (38),(33),(22),(47)
  • San Diego State (39),49,29
  • Iowa (46)
  • Indiana 44
  • Minnesota (38),(29)
  • Illinois (31)
  • Purdue (30),38,(25),32,(35)
  • Michigan State (34),(24),(34)
  • Northwestern -
  • Ohio State -
  • Texas (Rose Bowl) (44),(32),(42)

2005

  • Northern Illinois 48,(38),(23)
  • Notre Dame (38)
  • Eastern Michigan (37)
  • Wisconsin (44),(28)
  • Michigan State (20),27,(35)
  • Minnesota (23),(47),42,34
  • Penn State (35),43,(47)
  • Iowa (26)
  • Northwestern (26),(19),(38),(28)
  • Indiana 52
  • Ohio State (27),(19)
  • Nebraska (Alamo Bowl) 25

As a review of the charts reveal, Rivas actually had a slightly better sophmore year (2004) than he did a junior year (2005). In 2004, Rivas was 19-24 on field goals (79.2%) and 37-41 on PAT's for a total of 94 points. In 2005, his numbers dipped slightly as he was 19-26 on field goals (73.1 %) and 33-35 on PAT's for a total of 90 points. Interestingly, Rivas' performance did not improve in his junior year despite the fact that Coach Carr had him concentrate solely on the placekicking duties as the kickoff duties were handled by Ross Ryan. Whether that division of duties will continue in 2006 is yet to be seen. It did not seem to pay dividends last year in that Rivas' performance was approximately at the same level it was at the previous year when he did handle the kickoff duties.

One thing that I found of note was that Rivas did not make a single field goal of beyond 40 yards in the last five (5) games of the 2005 season. Of course, to be fair, the only one he attempted during that span was from 52 yards. However, I still believe it is telling that Michigan did not have a single field goal of 40 or more yards during almost the second-half of the season. I think it demonstrates a lack of faith Coach Carr had with regards to the kicking game. Costly misses in the MSU, Minnesota and Penn State games weighed heavily on Coach Carr's mind later in the season. Rivas' miss of a 25-yard chip shot during the Alamo Bowl did not do anything to relieve Coach Carr's mind heading into the off-season.

Rivas has shown he has the leg to be a solid kicker for the Wolverines during his senior season. However, he needs to keep his head straight during the 2006 campaign. I got a little worried about him at times last year that he was suffering a crisis of confidence. 110,000 "fans" raining boos down on you has a way of doing that to a person. Kickers have a tough job because they have to be perfect. Every mistake (miss) is magnified and the fans are not going to cut Rivas any slack. He is an easy target to blame for some of last year's close losses. People were already hawking him at this year's Spring Practice. I hope the fans get behind Rivas and maybe boost his confidence rather than tear him down because he is a proven winner who can be a good asset for the 2006 Wolverines as they make their Big 10 Conference title run. Go Blue!

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