November 1, 2012
Michigan turns to the running game on first down
Michigan has relied heavily on the ground game this year, running the football on 62.6 percent of its 508 offensive plays. On first down, the Wolverines are even more reliant on the legs of quarterback Denard Robinson and their tailbacks.
In a comprehensive study of every single first down play this season, the numbers bear out like this: U-M has run the ball on 166 of 224 first downs or 74.1 percent of the time.
Robinson has been good for 9.0 yards per carry on first down while Michigan's tailbacks have averaged 4.1 yards, though if two long Fitzgerald Toussaint gains - a 31-yarder against Notre Dame and a 38-yarder against Michigan State - are removed, the running backs have averaged only 3.5 yards per rush on first down.
On average, the Maize and Blue run the ball on first down 20.7 times per game and throw just 7.3 times per game.
Should Michigan be throwing more on first down? The Wolverines have completed 32 of 58 first-down pass attempts, or 55.2 percent, with two touchdowns and five interceptions (though three came against Notre Dame). Comparatively, they have connected on just 47.0 percent of their second- and third-down throws.
Whatever conclusions you draw, this much is certain - Michigan has shown a tendency to run three-quarters of the time on first down, and defensive coordinators are as fully aware of this trend as we are in reporting it.
|Game||Robinson Rushes||YPC||RB Rushes||YPC||QB Passes|
|Alabama||4-21 yards||5.3||10-15 yards||1.5||4 of 10 (28 yards)|
|Air Force||12-104 yards||8.7||5- (-4) yards||-0.8||6 of 8 (129 yards)|
|UMass||4-35 yards||8.8||22-130 yards||5.9||8 of 9 (169 yards)|
|Notre Dame||9-31 yards||3.4||9-50 yards||5.6||5 of 11 (59 yards, 3 INTs)|
|Purdue||10-174 yards||17.4||16-36 yards||2.3||1 of 2 (3 yards)|
|Illinois||4-97 yards||24.3||23-110 yards||4.8||2 of 3 (42 yards)|
|Michigan State||11-45 yards||4.1||8-64 yards||8.0||2 of 8 (34 yards, INT)|
|Nebraska||5-25 yards||5.0||14-39 yards||2.8||4 of 7 (53 yards, INT)|
|Totals||59-532 yards||9.0||107-440 yards||4.1||32 of 58 (517 yards, 5 INTs)|
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