In a throwback to last year, Michigan scores first, then endures a long run by the opposition to dig a serious hole. Unlike last year, they got competitive once more the the end of the contest… but close isn’t close enough.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Air Force 2013|
|Faceoff Wins||13||Faceoff Wins||7|
|Offensive Efficiency||.278||Offensive Efficiency||.200|
In a medium-paced game, Michigan didn’t win the possession battle, and didn’t perform more efficiently than the opposition. That’s a guaranteed way to lose the game.
The Wolverines have made strides in all three phases over the course of the year, but this was a slight step back.
The Michigan offense struggled in a big way against Air Force’s zone. Particularly in the first half, the Wolverines committed a number of silly turnovers against zone defenders, and only got off nine shots for the entire half. There were simply too many execution errors to stay in the game. Later, the players settled in, and the same plays that weren’t working in the first half suddenly saw success. That’s sort of what you’d expect from a young team.
There wasn’t a whole lot of U-M offense in this one, but a few players rebounded to put up some stats. Freshmen Kyle Jackson and Mike Hernandez and sophomore Will Meter all found the back of the net twice. Mike Francia, Evan Glaser, and Thomas Paras each had an assist.
As predicted, Gerald Logan had a pretty good day, even if the statistics weren’t as stellar as they’ve been at times this year. He also faced much less action (21 shots faced is the second-fewest he’s seen this season, behind 19 against Colgate). The defense finally returned to mostly full strength, with J.D. Johnson, Thomas Orr, and Austin Swaney all returning from injury (though Dan Kinek missed the game, a wash with Orr coming back). Logan was, however, singularly responsible for all three Michigan failed clears. Room for improvement.
The Wolverines caused 11 turnovers, led by Chase Brown who had three (and four ground balls for an overall great day). Overall, Michigan benefitted from 19 Air Force turnovers while committing only 12 themselves. That’s serious improvement.
Speaking of incremental improvement, U-M won the ground ball battle for the first time this year. The closest they’d previously come was a 26-29 deficit against Bellarmine. Even if the results aren’t showing on the scoreboard yet, Michigan is getting closer to a point where they eventually will.
Speaking of ground balls, the Falcons pretty much owned the faceoff dot all day. It was a weird combination of factors. First factor: despite Michigan’s overall success on ground balls, they just couldn’t seem to get the easy ones when it came to faceoffs (and overextending themselves trying to force the quick TO also opened up some fast break opportunities for the Falcon offense). Second factor: Despite Brad Lott winning the clamp probably 80% of the time, he had trouble communicating with his wings, or picking up the GB himself if he didn’t pop it out. That’s just an area where you look a Michigan’s youth and kind of shrug. Not much you can do except wait to gain experience.
For the other side, attackmen Mike Crampton and Keith Dreyer has three and two goals, respectively, while each adding an assist. Holt grad Tommy McKee also had two goals and an assist for the Falcons. Goalie Austin Fox stopped 13 of 20 shots faced.
Michigan head coach John Paul
“Obviously, we had trouble with their zone. We anticipated they were going to play zone, it’s the first time we’ve seen one all year. Really, we loved the way we were playing in the first quarter. We loved the pace of the game, liked the possessions we were getting. We just had a horrible second quarter and dug a hole a little bit. I liked the way we fought back at the end. That fourth quarter is as hard as we’ve played all year.”
“There are some good things we did that we’ve been working hard to do. We won the ground ball battle for the first time I think this year. We ended up getting some better shots later in the game. We kind of learned as we went.”
On faceoffs: “We used a couple guys today that we hadn’t used much this year on the wings, and I wasn’t really happy with the job they were doing, we started going back to some other guys. We just needed to compete a little bit better on the wings. Some of that is communication as well.”
On Gerald Logan: “Any time you start building a program, the goalie is a pretty good way to do it. We’re going to be in good shape in the future with him and the goalies that we have coming in. He did a nice job in the cage. He did keep it close. He made a couple critical mistakes on the clear though, and that’s something he hadn’t been doing in the last couple weeks.”
On Michigan native Tommy McKee, a junior attackman for Air Force: “We’ve seen a few guys from Michigan playing well so far this year, and sure, it’s great. Michigan high school lacrosse is turning out some pretty good players. He’s been a key part of their offense now for three years. It’s good to see, but I’m worried about our team.”
On failing to complete the comeback (unlike the Michigan basketball team against Kansas): “They know they have that in a game where they’re down, they can fix things. It’s possible. The basketball team certainly proved that last night. We take that away from this game: we can come back in games. We’ve got a couple guys who could be that [Burke] in a couple years – and the basketball didn’t dig out of those holes last year. It’s going to take us a little time.”
Freshman midfielder Kyle Jackson
“Obviously, we did a lot of things right in the third and the fourth. We’ve got to do the little things the whole game. We can’t start out flat like we did. We’ve got to come out, do the little things right, and just make sure we’re executing all the plays.”
“The whole time, I just kept telling the guys, ‘don’t get down, don’t get down, we can come back from this.’ After a little while, the team kind of got down a little bit. We just kept trying to motivate ourselves to keep going. Once we got that one goal after it was 9-1, and we made it 9-2, then we got the third one and things started rolling and everyone started participating a little bit more. The environment got a lot better.”
There aren’t a whole lot of winnable game left on the schedule. This weekend’s upcoming contest at Delaware can be tentatively considered one of them. Although the Blue Hens are an established program (with a decent history of success), they’ve been a middling unit for a few years now, and have an awful record this year.
Better still, the TempoFreeLax.com numbers hate them way more than the LaxPower numbers do. I prefer the TFL data because I know the methodology and trust it, whereas LaxPower is somewhat mystery-shrouded from my perspective. Also I like the TFL numbers because they give U-M a better shot to win.