This… could have gone better. A win may not have been in the cards, but this one turned from competitive to a semi-blowout in short order. On with the show:
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Ohio State 2015|
|Faceoff Wins||16||Faceoff Wins||9|
|Offensive Efficiency||.333||Offensive Efficiency||.258|
Michigan was less efficient than Ohio State, yes (more on that in a moment), but they lost this game by being bludgeoned in the possession game. The final number of possessions wasn’t a huge spread, but the way in which those possessions were and were not utilized was huge.
U-M lost the faceoff battle handily. Brad Lott went 3/6 (not bad at all, actually, but with just one GB, there were some 50/50 scrums contributing to that), Mike McDonnell and Kevin Wylie were 0-fer on four and one attempts, respectively, and Chase Brown went 6/14 (though he had four GBs, like Lott, his success was a lot about GB scrums). That did not help in possession.
More harmful in possession was an awful day clearing the ball. Michigan went .667 on clears and forced only one fail by Ohio State. If you look at effective offensive efficiency – excising possessions on which the offense didn’t have a chance to convert because the ball never even got to the box – according to Lacrosse Film Room (and the math checks out on my end), they were 8/24, .333 on offense. Ohio State was 13/38, or .342.
Delving into a bit more specifics, I count two Buckeye goals coming directly off faceoff wins (one scored by Chris May himself, one by Carter Brown before the settled half-field offense took root). It doesn’t look like there are any direct rideback goals from the boxscore, but I’d have to review the broadcast to confirm.
It felt like the Wolverines were playing a pretty sloppy game, but the scoresheet says “just” 14 turnovers in 31 possessions, albeit eight of them unforced (and one of the caused turnovers, on a clear, just a hilariously bad decision). A few dumb errors (an offside that was incorrectly called according to the broadcast team, though again I haven’t reviewed, a delay of game knocking a Buckeye over on the way to the box, and a too many men call) also resulted in a more penalty-filled outing than the Maize and Blue are used to. This Michigan program has grown past simply not having the stick skills to compete, but they can’t overcome mental errors and physical ones against a team like Ohio State.
On to the individuals… Michigan didn’t have many offensive standouts. Kyle Jackson (2G) and Mike Francia (1G, 1A) were the only multi-point getters. Ian King scored a single goal, though it took him 10 shots – five of them saved by the keeper – to get there.
On defense, it was not a banner day for Gerald Logan. His defense put him in a couple bad positions – they were solid for much of the day, but transition off faceoffs hurt, and the sheer amount of time they had to spend on the field wore them down. Mack Gembis has a nice day on close D with two caused turnovers and four ground balls (and no turnovers committed himself).
Ohio State started the year relying too heavily on Jesse King – if you could shut him down, you stymied the Buckeye offense – and while he’s still a very important part of the unit, there’s been more built up around him. That should have been the case all along with David Planning and Carter Brown on the roster as well. It wasn’t early, but now they’re playing solid (if slow, outside of transition) offense. Colin Chell had three goals and two assists, Planning split five points the other way around, and Carter Brown had two and one.
Tom Carey saved 11 of 18 shots faced, a very strong performance from the Buckeye keeper (and one that could be considered a game-winner if Michigan had hung in a little longer). Backup Cameron Stephens allowed a goal on his only shot faced.
Michigan travels to Baltimore to take on Johns Hopkins. That’s as intimidating as it sounds, with a young Michigan program serving as the road team at Homewood Field.
However, this Hopkins team… it is not very good. The Blue Jays match Michigan’s 5-6 record on the year (albeit with a much tougher strength of schedule), and have struggled in all phases of the game, particularly defense. They’ve allowed double-digit goals in all but four games.
If Michigan can stay even in the possession battle – and we know that’s no guarantee – this is a winnable game beyond the intimidation factor of the names on the front of the jerseys.