Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Offensive Conversions (Red Zone & third down)

Michigan went 3-4 in the Red Zone against Wisconsin which is the first time all season the offense failed to convert on a scoring opportunity in the Red Zone. Against Wisconsin, Michigan scored a touchdown and kicked two field goals on the three scoring opportunities on which it converted. The drive on which the offense stalled in the Red Zone occurred in the 1st quarter when Michigan had a 4th and 1 on Wisconsin's 19-yard line. The Wolverines turned the ball over on downs when Chad Henne was stuffed at the line on a quarterback sneak. On the season, the Wolverines are 15-16 in the Red Zone with 9 touchdowns, 6 field goals and 1 no score.

While the Wolverines continued to enjoy relative success in the Red Zone, they had considerable trouble converting on third down plays against Wisconsin. Against the Badgers, Michigan was a dismal 2-13 on third down conversions (and 0-1 on 4th down as aforementioned). The problem was that, similar to situations the Wolverines often found themselves in last season, Michigan was in an obvious passing situation on 3rd down because it found itself in third-and-long. As the Wolverines were in a obvious passing situation, the Badgers could "send the house" and were rushing 5-6 guys and not giving QB Chad Henne much time to throw on these third down plays. The key to third down plays is to manage the down-and-distance on the first two downs. Michigan has been very successful at that this season prior to the Big 10 opener. By rushing the ball effectively (4-5 yards per carry) and mixing in the pass, the offense had short yardage third down situations during the three non-conference games. In a short-yardage situation, the defense cannot load up the rush because the offense's playbook is "wide open" and the offense has the option of running or throwing on third & two. However, on third & eight, for example, the defense can rush 5-6 guys knowing that Michigan will have to throw the ball. Against a tough Wisconsin defense, Michigan only averaged 2.8 yards per rush and thus ended up in a lot of third-and-long passing situations that allowed the Badgers to "Tee" off on Henne. Thus, Michigan was only 2-13 on third down conversions. Coach Carr said at his Monday press conference that the Wolverines will work to correct that situation and I think they will but I do believe a lot of credit goes to the Badgers' defense for slowing down Michigan's running game and forcing the Wolverines into a lot of third-and-long passing situations. This game once again illustatrates why it is so vital for the Wolverines to establish their running game each time they take the field. Go Blue!

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