Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Game Management

Coach Carr is widely hailed as an outstanding recruiter and a great motivator but he has often received much undue criticism for his game management decisions. There has not been as much second guessing of Coach Carr's decisions this year but that is probably because the Wolverines are 6-0 and ranked #4 in the AP poll. The Wolverines have taken control of the majority of their games in the early going. In fact, Michigan has taken a lead into halftime in five of their six games (against Wisconsin they went into halftime tied at 10). Unlike last year, Michigan has been able to protect their early leads this season. Thus, Coach Carr has not had to make too many controversial game management decisions this season as they have been ahead comfortably in the majority of their games. However, there are a couple of game management points worth reviewing:

Taking points off the board

With time winding down in the first half against MSU and the Wolverines leading 17-0, Coach Carr was faced with a decision regarding whether he wanted to "take points off the board." MSU committed a personal foul penalty during Garrett Rivas' 40-yard field goal try that put the Wolverines up 17-0. The rule of thumb is to never "take points off the board." However, Coach Carr, not known as a huge risk taker, decided to take a calculated risk and take the points off the board. Michigan took the penalty and had a first down at State's 11-yard line with the score back to 14-0. Ultimately, the Wolverines only moved the ball 4 yards in three plays and had to settle for a field goal attempt from the 7-yard line. Garrett Rivas' kick was partially blocked but it still had enough on it and the kick was good and the score was once again 17-0. Coach Carr later explained that he decided to "take points off the board" because he wanted to run down the clock to limit MSU's opportunities on offense prior to the expiration of the half. I liked the call. It appeared to be a "riverboat gambler" type of coaching decision but really it was a smart, calculated risk. Even if the kick had been blocked, it was still the right decision to make under the circumstances. Nevertheless, I'm glad the kick went through the uprights.

Best defense is a good offense

Michigan has a fantastic defense but the most effective way to stop an opponent from scoring is to keep their offense off of the field. Michigan leads the nation in time of possession, averaging 34:15 per game, three seconds better than second place Alabama. Michigan has controlled the football for more than 33 minutes in four games this season. It held the ball for a season high of 37:39 vs. Minnesota as the Wolverines ran 69 offensive plays for 518 yards. Coach Carr's philosophy of establishing the run this season has the dual benefit of controlling the clock and opening up the passing game. Go Blue!

*Note: Photo of Coach Lloyd Carr by Rashaun Rucker/Detroit Free Press

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