Defense Shines, Success Rate Soars…Offense Heats Up at the Right Moment - NinosCorner™ Sports | Efficient Sports Analytics...Successful, Relevant Data

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Defense Shines, Success Rate Soars…Offense Heats Up at the Right Moment

Defense Shines, Success Rate Soars…Offense Heats Up at the Right Moment
by. BR Battle

Photo by: Getty Images

Thanks to our friends at, we are able to gather a numeric definition of what “successful” means in college football.  Essentially, to be successful, an offense needs to gain:

50% of its necessary yardage on 1st down
70% on 2nd down
100 percent on 3rd and 4th downs.

In addition to the Offense and Defense success rates, explosive plays, which are any plays that gain 15 yards or more, will calculated to showcase the lethality and instant-strike ability an offense has.

One thing that we will do differently on our site is incorporate defense success rates, as well as explosive plays ALLOWED by the defense.  For starters, I tend to be slightly more aggressive in the defensive success rate calculations since the key to a successful defense is putting the offense in a situation that does not allow the offense to stay on track for a first down within a maximum of 4 plays.  For a defense to be successful, it needs to allow:

30% or less of the necessary yardage on 1st down
30% or less on 2nd down
99.9% or less on 3rd and 4th downs.

For reference in calculations, the NCAAF average Offense Success Rate is 40%.  These numbers are important due to the trend that the team that wins the “Success Rate” battle come out victorious 83% of the time.

Interpreting the Data:
The Texas offense’s overall success rate was 29%, far less than the 40% NCAA average.  With a success rate 11% lower than average, how did this Texas team manage to force a double-overtime game against, possibly, the future number 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft?  If you pay close attention to the data, you’ll start to notice a trend.  Although the Texas offense was not very efficient overall, it overcompensated its inefficiency with explosive plays.  The Horns had 9 explosive plays, accounting for more than 12% of their offensive productivity, with 5 of those 9 explosive plays coming in the 4th quarter or overtime.  Additionally, every quarter’s success rate increased, with the exception of the second overtime.  As you can see from the chart, the success rate increased from 11% in 1st quarter, to 17% in the 2nd quarter, to 24% in the 3rd quarter, and 41% at the end of regulation.   The offense’s success rate climbed to 75% in the 1st overtime, before leveling off to the NCAA average of 40% in the 2nd overtime.  When plays needed to occur late in the game, the Texas offense found a way to make that happen.  More often than not, those plays came in the form of an explosive play.

Although the offense began to heat up as the game prolonged, the Longhorn defense exhibited a level of success and efficiency consistent with top-tier college defenses.  We’ll preface the defense “success” and “explosive plays allowed” ratings with stating that, to my knowledge, this style of defensive ratings has not been accomplished prior to what you will see in this article.  From my calculations, the Texas defense defended 33 run and 55 pass plays. The Longhorn defense had success rates of roughly 61% against the run and 56% against the pass.  The total defense Success Rate was computed to be roughly 58%.  Using the standard of 40%, as with the NCAAF average offense ratings, the Longhorn defense was significantly above average.  In fact, the defense was dominant for the majority of the game, with the exception a few big, “explosive” plays.

Speaking of explosive plays, the defense did an outstanding job against the run.  The Longhorns allowed no explosive run plays from the talented duo of Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr…the same duo that rushed for 235 yards and 2 touchdowns, while averaging over 7 yards a carry against Stanford.  Texas held the pair to only 75 yards on 28 carries.  This was probably the biggest defensive shock of the game.  As well as the defense did in stopping the run, they fell short in limiting the explosive pass plays.  The Longhorn defense allowed 10 explosive pass plays, accounting for more than 18% of the total pass plays from the Trojans.  That is a really high number of explosive plays in just one facet of the game.  To put the high number of explosive pass plays allowed by the Longhorn defense in perspective, Alabama completed 12 explosive plays against Fresno St, a team that is severely inferior to both USC and Texas.

After assessing the Success and Explosive rates of the Longhorn offense and defense during the USC game, there is much promise for this team throughout the remainder of this season.  With the depth of athletes in the Wide Receiver room, the Texas offense is screaming for more explosive plays from this unit.  To accomplish this, Texas needs to run the ball more to set up the use of play action passes that can give the tall and rangy Longhorn receivers single man coverage against smaller defensive backs.  The Longhorns need to run the ball more…period.  Texas gave the ball to their best rushing asset, Chris Warren III, only 4 times during the game.  This is unacceptable.  Rushing the ball with Warren over the course of 4 quarters will eventually tire out a defense, creating the opportunity for Warren to generate his own explosive plays throughout a game also.

Although the Texas offense could have performed more efficiently, the Longhorn defense, for as well as they played, deserve to share some of the blame for this loss also.  The Texas defense has to limit the number of explosive plays from their opponents.  If the Longhorns do not allow one particular explosive play, the 56 yard touchdown catch with time expiring in the first half, there might have been an alternate ending in the Coliseum this past Saturday.

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