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Mining the Box Score: MSU-Michigan

Box score is here.  I think you'll like it.


  • 37 running back carries for 259 yards.  That's a very healthy 7.0 yards per pop.  Excluding the two long TD runs, you get a less-stunning-but-still-solid average of 4.2 yards per carry.  21 of the 37 attempts went for at least 4 yards (no short-yardage goal line attempts).  Edwin Baker's determined running up the middle set the tone early (22 carries for 147 yards).  Larry Caper's even-more-determined TD run was, although I didn't really believe it at the time, the final nail in the coffin for Michigan.
  • Kirk Cousins: 18-25 for 284 yards.  72.0% completion percentage, 11.4 yard/attempt.  The play action pass is a quarterback's best friend.
  • The offensive line allowed two sacks.  One of those came on a play action attempt that didn't fool anyone on a first-and-20 attempt.  The next play was a second-and-32 on which the play call again involved a run fake; that play ended with an incomplete pass to Mark Dell when the Michigan defender had the extra half second he needed to close on Dell going toward the sideline.  Play action is not so effective when the defense knows the pass is coming. [/minor gripe]
  • FWIW, the box score doesn't show any QB hurries for Michigan (or for MSU, for that matter).  I don't remember any non-sack plays on which Cousins got hit hard.  All in all, a very good day for the offensive line.
  • Six catches for 69 yards for Keshawn Martin.  The biggest catch was the 17-yard play on the 3rd-and-15 in the first quarter that followed the 3rd-and-10 nonconversion that wasn't (due to a false start).  Martin caught the ball going across the field well short of the first-down marker, dipped backward twice to get around Michigan defenders, and managed to keep the drive alive.  That drive led to Le'Veon Bell's TD run that put MSU up 14-10.  If Martin doesn't make it to the first down marker, MSU is punting the ball to Michigan, who would have started a drive near midfield up by 3.
  • Overall on 3rd downs: 4 for 13.  Not great, but once again a big 4th-down conversions helped: another key catch for B.J. Cunningham on a 4th-and-3 on the MSU 39 in the second quarter.  I really like that the MSU staff (i.e., Don Treadwell) is showing such aggressiveness on 4th down this year.
  • The Michigan defense posted a disruption percentage of just 11.3%.  (Again, this could be partly a function of stingy QB hurry scoring).  Six of the 7 disruptive plays were tackles for losses.  For the most part, MSU was able to run its offense the way it wants to run it, particularly in the passing game.
  • On that note: Accounting for sacks as passing plays, MSU put up 271 rushing yards and 265 passing yards.  Same deal on first downs: 11 off rushes, 10 off passes.  Can't beat that balance with a stick.
  • Ten non-half-ending drives for MSU: 4 touchdowns, 2 field goals, 4 punts.  Two of the punts came on the first two drives of the game.  Five of the scores came on consecutive MSU drives, at the end of which MSU held a 31-10 lead.

The other side of the ball after the jump


  • 76 yards on 13 attempts for Michigan running backs: 5.8 yards/attempt.  Felt like Rodriquez abandoned standard running plays a little to early.  As chronicled at MGoBlog, MSU seemed happy to let them have 5+ yards up the middle to avoid Denard breaking anything big on the edge.  That's the advantage of building a lead, I guess.  23 of Michigan's 24 offensive plays in the second half were Robinson runs or passes.  And the one non-Robinson play was the first play of the half: a Vincent Smith run for 2 yards.  The 23 consecutive second-half Robinson plays went for a total of 112 yards.
  • Overall, Robinson went for 95 yards on 20 non-sack rushing attempts.  (Only one sack for MSU, but that's a fairly meaningless stat given the nature of the Michigan offense).  215 yards through the air on 17-29 passing: 58.6% completion percentage, 7.4 yards/attempt.  That's about as good as you could have hoped for in terms of limiting his production.  The three interceptions were, of course, a huge factor.  I think all three picks could be fairly characterized as poor decisions/throws by Robinson and, at the same time, quality plays on the ball by MSU defensive backs.
  • MSU's disruption percentage was just 11.1%, with the interceptions constituting 3 of their 7 disruptive plays.  Again, I'm not sure this stat has quite the same meaning against the Michigan offense.  The gameplan, I think, was to sit back, avoid big plays, and wait for mistakes.  That worked out pretty well.  MSU allowed only 3 plays of 20 yards or more (a 21-yard run by Michael Shaw, the 49-yard pass to Martavious Odoms right before halftime, and a 27-yard completion to Junior Hemingway).  Michigan had come into the game averaging 3.2 runs of 20+ yards and 2.6 passes of 25+ yards per game.
  • On that note: No defender had more than 7 tackles, and 3 of MSU's 5 top tacklers (which didn't include Greg Jones, by the way) were in the secondary (Marcus Hyde, Trenton Robinson, Johnny Adams).  This was a team effort, with solid tackling all around.  While he was the only starting defensive back not to pick a pass off, I thought Hyde was arguably the biggest factor on defense.  He made a couple shoestring tackles early in the game that prevented what would have been very long gains/TDs for Michigan.  Six of Hyde's 7 tackles were of the solo variety.
  • MSU held Michigan to 2-for-11 on 3rd downs.  Note that MSU's offensive and defensive 3rd-down conversion rates for the season are now equalized at 36%.
  • Michigan's 10 non-half-ending drives (excluding the missed FG before halftime) resulted in 2 touchdowns, 1 field goal, 3 interceptions, and 4 punts.

Special Teams

  • Football Outsiders says that Dan Conroy and the MSU FG kicking unit have been the 6th most valuable in the country to date.  Not bad for a guy who was still fighting for the job two months ago.

Summing up: A second consecutive well-rounded performance against a ranked opponent.  The difference was that the 3-turnover margin was flipped in MSU's favor this week.  Michigan certainly "left some points on the field," but those turnovers were at least partly a function of MSU executing a gameplan on both sides of the ball that forced Robinson out of his comfort zone.  A 159-yard advantage in total yards and a 1.9-yard advantage in yards/offensive play testify to that.