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MSU Post-Mortem – What Went Wrong?

October 12, 2010

I watched the game live on Saturday, and walked away thinking we were just beaten by a better team.  And make no mistake, we were.  But after looking at the tape and the stats, the truth is, that game was a lot closer than the 34-17 final score.  The difference was turnovers.  MSU had zero, and we had 3 of them.

With 13 minutes to go in the game, MSU had outgained Michigan by only 42 yards, had one less first down, had 3 1/2 minutes more of possession, but had 14 more points.  And though we trailed by 14 at the time, we had the ball with the chance to cut the lead to 7 points.  Even if we only ended up with field goals on both of the end zone interceptions, we would have trailed by only 8 points.  After the 3rd interception, the time of possession and yardage became lopsided, making this look more like a  blowout.

Beyond the interceptions, it was a mistake filled game for Michigan.  Multiple dropped passes by the receivers, several mis-reads by Denard Robinson, and some terrible tackling angles all contributed to the loss.  Michigan also had several crucial penalties that helped jumpstart MSU drives.

The bottom line is that MSU came into Ann Arbor and played a largely mistake free game.  They took very few, if any, bad penalties, didn’t turn the ball over, and capitalized on the opportunities the Michigan defense gave them.

But its important to note that this was a game lost on execution, mostly on offense.  We knew coming in that the defense would struggle against a balanced offense like MSU’s, but the offense made too many mistakes to overcome the defensive deficiencies.

I was positive on Saturday that this was the beginning of the end for Rich Rodriguez at Michigan.  Now, I’m not so sure.  The stats and the replay of the game told me a different story.  We were out executed, but not outmuscled, and not outschemed.  I said in my preview that when two teams are fairly evenly matched, like Michigan and MSU are, the team with the best player will win. Turns out I forgot the real rule – in games like these, the team that makes the least amount of mistakes will win.  MSU just played a much better game, and that’s why they won. But it doesn’t have to spell doom for the rest of the season for Michigan.   There are still opportunities to make this a good season, and it starts by outplaying and outexecuting a tough Iowa team on Saturday.

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