Inside Numerical Hell: The Outback Bowl

Al Messerschmidt

Michigan played South Carolina on Tuesday. Things were quantified.

2 - Touchdowns that each South Carolina quarterback accounted for on the day. Michigan had only allowed nine touchdowns on the season, and gave up nearly half of that in one game against South Carolina while letting the SC quarterback pair combine for just a hair under 70 percent passing. Remember all those times I said "caveat: remember the fact that this secondary plays Big Ten offenses". I was pretty much referring to this.

Add another check to the "holy God the Big Ten was a terrible passing conference this year" box.

4.3 - Denard Robinson's average yards per rush on the day. While that isn't terrible for a running back, and he was able to crack 100 yards, it is important to note that this season Michigan has lost every time Denard Robinson was held under five yards per carry, and won every time he went over that mark.

0.9 - YPC of the other three running backs that tallied carries in this game (nine carries for ten yards). So remember, folks. It can always be worse. (It being next year).

/frantically scours message boards for news of Derrick Green's recent leanings

8 - Number of plays it took South Carolina to score its first three offensive touchdowns. That is combined, not each drive. One of those drives was actually one 31-yard play for a touchdown following the death of Vincent Smith (RIP), but the other two drives went 67- and 75- yards. Even when South Carolina was shooting itself in the foot it was doing so fast while covering a lot of ground. The Gamecocks' first drive of the third quarter -- which ended in a missed field goal -- went 59 yards in five plays.

0 - Number of Michigan scoring drives (there were six of them) that took less than eight plays. When Michigan wanted to move the ball against South Carolina it was a slow, painstaking process. This isn't to disparage the Michigan offense for grinding out drives -- quite the contrary, it is impressive that Michigan was able to string together so many solid drives against this defense -- but merely to point out what kind of game it was. A demoralizing one, that's what.

63, 31, 4 - Length, in yards, of each of Ace Sanders's touchdown plays. He's kind of a big deal.

4 - Times in the second half that Devin Gardner converted a third- or fourth-down with his feet to keep a drive alive.

17 - Number of points Michigan got off the three drives those conversions came on. Michigan is losing Denard Robinson, but Gardner has shown an ability to find ways to move the chains on offense with scrambles.

8.0 - South Carolina's yards per play average on the day.

Really, this is the story of the game. Michigan was helpless to stop the Gamecocks from picking up big chunks of yards nearly every play. While Michigan forced three punts and held South Carolina to just three of ten on third down, none of it mattered because the Gamecocks were able to break off big gains at every turn.

This was a polar opposite of how Michigan played its defense most of the season, preferring to grind it out and force teams to pick up small chunks of yardage in hopes of forcing third down tries.

Once Michigan was able to make South Carolina work for a drive -- the final drive of the game, an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to take the lead with seconds remaining -- Michigan looked almost powerless to stop it, missing tackles and showing a complete inability to both pressure the quarterback and play ample pass coverage.

Michigan's defense will get more athletic as it builds quality depth at positions and starts to fill spots with more physically gifted players, but that doesn't make this game much easier to swallow right now. Michigan couldn't deal with the big play for the first time all season, and it paid dearly for it.

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