Fresh off their best season in program history, the Detroit Titans entered 2012 looking to take the next step. Simply making it to the MAAC Championship game was good for last year, this year, the goal was to win it.
Halfway through the year, they seemed poised to put together their best season yet. However, injuries, coaching malfeasance, and plain bad luck mounted. They finished the season with an absolute whimper, falling in five of their final six games, including three to teams that were not as good over the course of the season.
Let’s take a quick look at the Titans’ statistical profile:
|Detroit Titans 2012|
|Faceoff Wins||152||Faceoff Wins||203|
|Offensive Efficiency||.262||Offensive Efficiency||.277|
We’ll take that one step further and look at the advanced tempo-free stats, adjusted for strength of opponents, courtesy of TempoFreeLax.com:
All told, this season was a serious step back for UDM. The record was slightly better (on account of playing one game fewer), but the product on the field was worse:
- Despite adding Joel Matthews for most of the year, the offensive efficiency dropped from 46th to 52nd nationally.
- Defense dropped even worse, going from 19th-best in the country to 35th.
- Overall, the Titans were the 43rd-best team last year. This year, they dropped to 50th.
That’s not the next logical step for a team that challenged for a conference title and hardly lost any key personnel from the previous year. However, it’s not all bad.
What Went Well
Despite the big drop in defensive efficiency, the D actually wasn’t so bad. Middle-of-the-pack is just for a team like Detroit. Once again, UDM led the nation in caused turnovers per game (though playing the second-fastest lacrosse in the country maximized possessions for those CTs to add up), and goalkeeper A.J. Levell was a rock in cage, earning All-MAAC second-team honors.
The Detroit ride was also very good, holding opponents to the seventh-worst clearing percentage in the country. Part of that could be competition faced – that number is not adjusted for schedule strength – but part of it carries over from the aggressive style of lacrosse the Titans play.
Other aspects of the squad worked well in fits and starts – the offense and defense both had moments of glory, and even the faceoffs went well at times – but the key going forward will be to develop more consistency.
Room for Improvement
With a 6-9 record and a lot of disappointment in the rearview mirror, this section will probably be very long.
Offensive efficiency was very poor. It was slightly better with Joel Matthews in the lineup, but it took a pretty serious tumble from 2011. It’s no surprise to see indications that Bill Tully’s tenure as offensive coordinator will be mercifully ended after one year.
Faceoffs continue to be a sore point for the Titans, who were among the nation’s bottom ten teams on draws. It certainly felt like they got better over the course of the season, but that’s an in-depth analysis for another day.
Clearing was very poor. Some of that is plain bad luck, of course (injuries to defensive midfielders and others certainly didn’t help), but you’d like to see the team get better on stick skill-oriented aspects of the game as the program matures. Technically, they did improve – going from second-worst last season to fifth-worst this year.
As mentioned above, injuries are mostly bad luck. It did seem that Detroit was more struck by the injury bug than normal in 2012, and hopefully eight months of rehab will be enough for the team to return for a healthy 2013 – and one that’s not as unlucky.
The Distant Future
I won’t delve too much into specifics here (what else will I have to talk about in the offseason?) but it seems to me that, despite a step back in 2012, it’s easy to see a trajectory where the Titans bounce back in 2013. Of course, it’s also entirely possible that the program’s momentum has been slowed – particularly with the way the second-half collapse unfolded – and it takes an extra couple years to reach the level they were expecting to be in the near future.
Either way, 2012 shouldn’t be written off as a throwaway season. It contained plenty of lessons for players and coaches alike, and the key to learning from failure is embracing it and taking those lessons to heart.
Some key players depart, but as a program that’s still building from the ground up – the departing seniors were the first four-year class in its history – the opportunity to mature elsewhere on the roster and add some fresh talent through recruiting and development means the trajectory is still in the right direction.