So, Michigan had seemed to come around a bit against Hopkins. Sure, they never threatened to win, but aside from faceoffs it certainly seemed like they belonged on the same field with the Jays.
Then this happened. At a neutral-site venue against a mediocre team, Michigan was outclassed, particularly when they had the ball. What the heck happened? Let’s take a look.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Faceoff Wins||9||Faceoff Wins||8|
|Offensive Efficiency||.029||Offensive Efficiency||.353|
So the offense and defense were both terrible. Yay. Michigan drew better-than-even in possession, but was still run off the field.
To a certain degree, that speaks to the importance of not just the number of possessions, but how those possessions come about. Michigan turned it over six times on the clear. You can bet some of Army’s goals were easy transition opportunities that resulted. As for the total offensive impotence, we’ll have to take a closer look to see what happened there.
I won’t bury my lede here: Michigan had a slight advantage in possessions, but the quality of those possessions was not comparable at all. Army had 52 shots, 36 of them on goal. That’s in 34 possessions. That’s more than a shot and a half per possession, and more than a shot on goal per possession. Michigan, on the other hand, got of 18 shots, 13 of them on goal in 35 possessions. That’s barely more than a single shot every two possessions, and a shot on goal about every third possession. That’s bad.
It’s weird because the turnover numbers weren’t that different, nor were the GB numbers. Army must have had great backup on many of their shots, and U-M wasn’t doing a whole lot to help Gerald Logan.
Speaking of Logan, he’s going to be a star as the team around him improves. He made 24 saves (a program record to date), stopping two-thirds of Army’s shots despite getting shelled for much of the game. Michigan counts on him to make plays – and he does – but they need to help him as well. Allowing 36 shots on goal isn’t going to win you a lot of games, even with an excellent goalie.
As predicted, Brad Lott won the faceoff outing (Chase Brown was also responsible for one of Michigan’s eight losses), and that’s not against scrubs. More time on the practice field with his wing players should see U-M get above 50% on the year by the end of this road trip.
The clearing game saw Michigan’s first serious struggles of the year. Gerald Logan and J.D. Johnson each had three turnovers, while Charlie Keady added two. Although someone who was at the game mentioned to me that fast-break and transition goals weren’t a huge issue, I’m betting the busted clears did give up some unsettled opportunities.
Of course, it’s the offense that gets the biggest sad face of the day. That efficiency number if nothing short of brutal. Zach Dauch, David Joseph, and Doug Bryant committed a turnover apiece, but that’s nothing compared to three for Will Meter or four for Mike Hernandez. Hernandez also hit cage (or actually keeper, as the case was) on just one of his four shots. He’s young and talented, but with Michigan relying on so many young guys, they’re going to have to live with the growing pains from time to time. Defenses playing aggressively is going to be the gameplan from here on out, and Michigan has to adjust quickly.
As far as the lone positive on offense, five of Peter Kraus’s six shots found cage, but only one of them beat the keeper. His unassisted tally was Michigan’s only positive moment.
Michigan gave up three EMO goals, and committed eight penalties. That seems a little odd for one of the least-penalized teams in the nation coming in, but without seeing the game live, I can’t comment too strongly on it. They were also on Army’s fifth, sixth, and tenth goals, so the game was already well beyond where Michigan ended up.
It would be unfair to recap this game and not mention Garrett Thul. I brought up in the preview that he was pretty much a one-man show, and slowing him down would really slow down the Army offense. That proved to be true… except Michigan couldn’t do anything to slow him down. He scored seven times and assisted on one, giving him a hand in 2/3 of the Army scores.
Here’s something that is really really annoying in hindsight: Michigan (a team from Michigan) and Army (a team from New York) played in Florida. That’s cool. The game was also televised in Florida with no streaming options, so people from Michigan and New York (a.k.a. the people who cared to watch) had no way to watch the game. Media deals are weird, especially for what is essentially a niche sport in lacrosse, but hopefully such issues get hammered out in a better way for fans in future years.
Michigan’s most winnable game of the year looms Wednesday. First-year program High Point has had some really positive moments so far this year, but it’s still a first-year program. If Michigan wants to take the next step forward, a win is absolutely necessary.
It’s a road game on short rest, so the odds are a little stacked against Michigan. Still, U-M pasted Mercer last year, and while High Point is on a different level than the Bears were last year, the stakes are the same.