Texas Defense Boosts Longhorns to a Win Despite Offense Inefficiencies - NinosCorner™ Sports | Efficient Sports Analytics...Successful, Relevant Data

Friday, September 29, 2017

Texas Defense Boosts Longhorns to a Win Despite Offense Inefficiencies

Texas Defense Boosts Longhorns to a Win Despite Offense Inefficiencies 
by B.R. Battle

Photo:  David Purdy / Getty Images

Wow...what is there to say after compiling this teams offense and defense efficiency stats? For starters, we can come to the conclusion that the Texas defense has matured and vastly improved since the Maryland game.  Considering an average defensive Success Rate (SR) of 45%, the Longhorn defense compiled a SR of rougly 44% against Maryland.  As the stats show, this defense was below average during that game.  

Fast forward to yesterday's game in Ames and you'll see that the Texas defense is looking as if it can be one of the top defenses, if not the top defense, in the Big XII.  Texas' defense posted a near 62% Success Rating!  That's their best defensive performance of the year, Success Rate wise.  If you take a look deeper into the statistics, you'll see just how effective this defense was.  

The defense was successful nearly 57% of the time on 1st down.  This means that they held Iowa St to 3 yards or less gained 57% of the first downs in this game.  The Longhorns posted a 58% SR on 2nd down, meaning they limited the ISU offense to 2 yards or less gained on 2nd downs, assuming a drive start of 1st and 10 yards.  Now, 3rd and 4th down were where Texas shined.  They posted a 75% SR for 3rd down and 100% SR on 4th down.  Additionally, the Longhorn defense only allowed 5 explosive plays, all in the passing game.  This is a stat I think all Texas fans can live with.  Not allowing any running explosive plays is huge because it limits the effectiveness of play action pass attempts.    

Todd Orlando, who I've nicknamed "The Mad Scientist," has figured out the perfect way to use his personnel.  Malik Jefferson is now consistently looking like the player we saw in the 2015 Notre Dame game.  He looks every bit the part of a potential 1st Round Draft pick this coming April.  Deshon Elliott is looking like he'll be in the running for an All-American season if he keeps up at this pace.  Holton Hill and Kris Boyd looked great last night as well.  ISU's quarterback came out throwing with the intention of singling out Kris Boyd against ISU's best receiver, Allen Lazard.  Boyd welcomed the challege and limited Lazard, a 6'5" and 222 lb Wide Receiver, to 5 cathes, totalling 63 yards, with only on explosive play.  The defensive backfield played outstanding and has become a definite strength of this team so far this year.

If you read my Iowa St Pregame Analysis article, you'll notice that my greatest concern was whether or not Texas could stop ISU's running back, David Montgomery.  This kid is quick and elusive, averaging 107 yards a game and nearly 6 yards a carry prior to last night's game.  The Longhorn defense made Montgomery look average, at best.  He totalled 9 rushes for 34 yards and was a complete non-factor in the game.  In all, the Texas defense tallied 4 sacks and 3 interceptions on their way to the team's most dominating defensive effort of the season.  Let's give the "Mad Scientist" a round of applause for tonight's coaching effort.   

Now that we've covered the good aspects of the game, let's dive into the other side of play we saw last night.  The Texas offense was well below the NCAA Success Rate average of 40%.  In fact, the Longhorns put up a 32% Success Rate over the course of the game.  That is not a good look for a team coming off of a bye week, where their head coach stated that Texas was going to establish a run game.  To Herman's account, they tried...rushing the ball 50 times out of the 78 offensive possessions we used for our SR calculations.  Unfortunantly, the Longhorn offense was only successful on 16 of those 50 running plays, compiling a 32% rushing SR.  In fact, Texas had a rushing success rate of 15% on 1st downs and 24% on 2nd downs.  So what does this stat tell you?  It tells you that when the Longhorn offense rushed the ball on 1st or 2nd down, it consistently placed their offense in unfavorable situations in which the defense could pretty much assume that the team was going to pass the ball on 3rd down.  This allows a defense to substitute pass rush packages to try to get to the quarterback more successfully.  ISU decided not to do this for the majority of the game, which was mind boggling on their end.  Going forward in Big XII play, Texas has to do better in the rushing game if they want to have a shot at winning against some of the more competitive teams in the league.      

Although the running game was atrocious, the passing game was no better.  Texas totaled 28 passing plays, resulting in a SR of 32% as well.  In addition, Texas only had 5 explosive plays, accounting for 7% of the plays the Longhorns performed.  These numbers were very underwhelming, considering one of ISU's previous opponents, Iowa, had a SR of 45% and 10 explosive plays on this same ISU defense. Iowa also put up 44 points on this ISU defense, with a less talented roster than Texas.  Diverting back to the passing game, the Longhorns have to find the best 3 or 4 wide receivers on the team and continue to play them, and only them, until they need a rest.  If I'm not mistaken, Shane Buechele completed passes to 11 or 12 different receivers throughout the game.  The stat "sounds" like a good stat; however, in my opinion, it hampers this Texas offense by not allowing any of the receivers to get into any type of "groove" or "rhythm" within the game.  The Longhorn passing game had success rates of 44% on 1st down, 25% on 2nd down, and 27% on 3rd down.  This analysis suggests that as the pressure mounted more to get a first down, the Texas offensive pass game did not deliver.    

Moving forwards, the Longhorn defense will continue to get even better than they are now with their growing confidence.  Texas fans should not worry about that side of the ball.  The offense needs to establish their identity. Honestly, after game 4 of this season, if the identity is not established by now, then the Longhorn coaching staff has come to the realization that they do not have an identity on that side of the ball.  This team's identity lies within its defense; however, the offense has to provide some support to alleviate some of the pressures that this defense will continue to face if it continually has to hold teams to under 20 points in order for this team to win games, especially in the offensive juggernaut conference known as the Big XII.  After rewatching the game, I feel as though Buechele looks a little timid in the pocket, even in the instances he had an eternity to throw the ball.  He looked "gun" shy when throwing the ball against ISU.  As I have said before, Shane needs to test the deep middle of the field in order to keep defenses honest.  Not doing this is what allows teams to creep up and "stack" the box against the Texas run game.  

Speaking of the run game, if Texas is going to run Buechele as they did last night, then he will not make it through the rest of this season.  If Shane is going to remain our starter, this offense needs to be tailored around his passing accuracy.  If this coaching staff continues to run the quarterback as they did against ISU, then Sam Ehlinger might need to be called upon, since his skillset better suits that type of offense.  As far as the running backs, I was surprised at the ineffectiveness of Chris Warren III.  I would have thought that his downhill running would have been successful against the ISU defense.  On a side note, Warren's ineffectiveness led to the emergence of Toneil Carter.  Herman even stated that Carter was the most elusive and explosive back Texas has but he could not trust him in game situations because of his bad practice habits.  Coach Herman and Coach Drayton might not have a choice but to trust Carter from now until the end of the season, as he brings about a dynamic to this offense that hasn't been seen yet this season.  We shall see.  

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