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First Down Stats vs. Michigan

Better late than never:

  • 20 rushing attempts for 45 yards (2.3 yards/carry), 1 fumble (recovered by MSU).
  • 6-9 on passing attempts for 53 yards (66.7% comp%, 5.9 yards/attempt), 1 sack for a loss of 8 yards.

(Numbers include the 9-yard loss on the Glenn Winston dropped pitch in OT but not the QB kneel down to end regulation.)

As bad as those rushing numbers look, they're downright U-G-L-Y if you take out the 3 non-RB attempts (two Keshawn Martin rushes for 30 yards and one Keith Nichol run for 5 yards):

  • 17 rushing attempts for 15 yards.
  • Less than 1 yard per attempt.
  • Only 3 of the 17 RB first-down rushing attempts resulted in 4 yards or more of yardage.

The numbers aren't just a function of trying to run out a lead.  Only 4 of the rushing attempts came after MSU had built the two-TD lead (resulting in 3 total yards).  The team failed to run the ball consistently on first down for the entire game, but nevertheless ran the ball twice as many times as it passed the ball.  This was the most extreme first-down run-pass ratio of the season, even counting the Montana State game.

Thankfully, the defense dominated the game for 55 minutes and the QBs were able to lead the team to a decent 3rd-down conversion rate of 44.4% (8-18) despite constantly facing 3rd-and-long situations.

Unless the coaching staff thinks those two things are going to continue across the remaining 6 conference games, the quarterback(s) need to be unleashed on first and ten.

P.S. Nightmare-inducing video clip of what happens when your opponent is 90% certain you're going to run the ball is here. (Although, to be fair, that's a 3rd-down play.)