It's Michigan time. Emotion and energy will fill Columbus all week. I can promise you that the players will take the field with passion. Passion to play fast. Passion to play physical. There is nothing to save when it comes to the season finale against Michigan. Senior Tackle and Senior Day will only fuel the festivities. Our players signed their letter-of-intent to Ohio State because of the Michigan game.
We will have the urgency and tempo we always talk about. That part is taken care of. The other part of all this is the execution on the field. In other words, we need to play well. Against a good but not great Purdue team, we often failed to execute. 11 people need to execute to beat Michigan. Eight or nine or ten won't be good enough. When we work our tails off to get an opportunity, we need to take advantage of it. Some keys to "The Game"…
- Third downs need to improve. I unofficially had our offense at
1 for 7 in the first half against Purdue. I had Purdue at 7 for 11 in the
first 30 minutes. This statistic, more than any other statistic, explains
the uphill struggle in West Lafayette. The first three Purdue scoring drives
consisted of 3rd and 7, 3rd and 17, 3rd and 4, 3rd and 2, 3rd and 3,
3rd and 10, and 3rd and 12 conversions. Coaches highlight this stat for a
reason. Some football fans may comment, "First and second down are just as
important. Why the emphasis on third downs?" I realize first and second down are
important. Innings 1-8 are important. Yet you need to succeed when you have
a 1-run lead and you bring your closer in for that 9th inning. The game is
on the line. You have smacked a drive 315 yards and poked a nine iron to 10
feet. The putt either makes it count or makes it all wash away. You have to
finish the deal. The opposition tightens the focus on third downs. You need to
show more focus. You either get off the field as a defense or they have
another three plays to make something happen. Your odds of winning go down when
your opponent gets additional opportunities.
- We need a healthy defensive backfield. The way I see it, Fox,
Youboty, Salley, and Whitner are our top defensive backs. Everett can
definitely play as well. In order to beat Purdue, you need your best five defensive backs playing at their absolute highest level. Purdue is that
good, but Michigan is even better. We won't field our best five due to injury.
Let's not feel sorry for ourselves. The players that take the field better
play sharper than they have all season.
- Take advantage of opportunities in the passing game (in other
words, catch everything thrown your way). Troy at times looked like a
sophomore quarterback making his fifth start against Purdue. But I got news
for you…all the statistics don't fall on his shoulders. Hamby, Holmes,
Lyons and Ginn on two occasions missed very catchable footballs. Some of
those grabs would have either moved the chains or set up great situations to
move the chains. Troy throws a fastball at you. He puts a lot of zip on the
ball. It is not always easy to catch. At the same time, this is the varsity.
You are expected to catch the ball. We cannot afford to miss opportunities
in the passing game, and we cannot afford to bobble the ball in the air
against a swarming, athletic Michigan defense.
- Convert red zone situations. I am living proof of Michigan game failed red zone opportunities as I was part of our 9-13 loss in 1996. We kicked three field goals. 3 x 3 = 9. 3 x 7 = 21. The Boilermakers saw us lose two red zone opportunities. In two of our trips down in the red zone, we came away with zero points. That wasn't good enough against Purdue. It won't be good enough against Michigan.
I realize I left off the "special teams, turnovers, run the football, stop the run, and tackling" portion of the keys to the game, but those go without saying in this one. If we had to shine a positive light on something from the Purdue game, it might be that we made a plethora of mistakes and still had a chance. That wasn't the case against Wisconsin and Iowa. We are a better team than we were in the three-game losing streak. We have it in us. Let's put it together.