ANN ARBOR—Michigan has shot themselves in the foot time and time again offensively in 2013.
A productive play on first down giving the Wolverines options on second before a blitz up the middle leads to a sack of quarterback Devin Gardner, killing the drive and making life more than challenging on third down.
Same story, different game.
Michigan managed to convert just 3-of-17 third down attempts in their 27-19 overtime win at Northwestern Saturday.
“We’ve beat it up,” offensive coordinator Al Borges said. “And we didn’t have as many of those now, we still had a few but we had some manageable ones. It was a little disappointing because up until a few weeks ago, the last couple years, we’ve been the top team in the country in third down conversions.
“But it’s deteriorated and a lot of it is protection oriented, that’s got something to do with it because protection doesn’t just effect if you’re going to complete the pass it also effects ability to scramble which you haven’t seen (Gardner) do as much of it.”
Michigan’s third down conversion rate was 47-percent in 2011, Coach Brady Hoke’s first season in Ann Arbor, and an even better 50-percent in 2012.
Now 2013, that number has dropped to 38-percent.
“We’re just not protecting as well as we protected in the past and that’s reflected our third down conversion,” Borges said. “There’s been times that they’ve done a good job of covering it sometimes too but there’s not enough to have that drastic a disparity that quick.
“We’re doing our (hardest) to sure that up, to get better and hopefully improve the ability to stay in manageable third downs because we had a few.”
On a positive note, Michigan was able to establish a run game against the Wildcats, totaling 120-yards on 27-carries from freshman backs Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith.
The Wolverines racked up 27 first downs for the game, only three of which came in a third down situation.
“I mean, that’s moving the ball,” Borges said.
“If you can get a rhythm running the ball just like you get a rhythm passing the ball, you can pound the other team into submission. Now we didn’t reach that point, I wish we could’ve, but we didn’t, but you can do that. I’ve seen it happen.”