Let's talk about stats, baby!

I'm still trying to come up with a statistical way to say that this dude balls hard. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

The response to my first statistical go-round this season was surprisingly positive, so here we are again with another game to break down along the same lines. Be forewarned, this one won't look quite as rosy as that following SMU, but with more information before us, hopefully the stats themselves are a little more useful. Strap in, it's going to get statcrazy in here.

  • First, the advanced statistics from FootballOutsiders that I love so much are basically of no use to us at this point in time. The Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), for one, only counts games played against FBS competition, so the extremely positive outlook it gives us (3rd in OE, 8th in DE, and 5th in FPA) is basically worthless. Yes, we looked like world-beaters against SMU, the only FBS we've played so far. Several other teams, including most of those ranked highly in FEI, have played 3. So I'm sorry to burst your bubble by saying we're not the best team in the country (and it wouldn't even be close, no other team is top ten in 2 of the 3 categories, much less all 3) like those countries make us seem. Fortunately, this week's game against a FBS foe will restore respectability to the dictates of FEI, where our opponent Louisiana Monroe is 24th in OE and 76th in DE after two games against SEC teams. We'll talk about that later. Also, before I forget, recall that FEI is still weighted heavily at this point with preseason projections. That will scale down to nothing as we continue through the season.
  • When the final whistle blew on Saturday night and our public announcer crackled the final score through the stadium, Baylor finished with 544 yards and 41 offensive points on 80 offensive plays. The last figure represents a predictable increase of 13 over our previous contest and a number much more consistent with what we did last season. Dividing the number of plays into the total yardage yields 6.4 yards per play, down 2.75 from the SMU game and worse than 10 of 13 games last season. From this rudimentary measure alone, we were not particularly efficient on offense, mostly due to an abnormally low completion percentage (Nick Florence was 24-41 on the day). The fact that we only added 1 more first down in those 13 plays bears out the relative inefficiency of the day. I'd be more concerned about this development if it had not been, I believe, the result of a schematic choice. Against SHSU, we completely eliminated WR/tunnel screens from our repertoire in favor of deep throws. That tactic almost necessarily leads to a lower completion percentage just like if you eschewed layups for 3-pointers.
  • Another demonstration of our offensive inefficiency is that fact that it took us 15 possessions to score 41 offensive points (5 TDs and 2 FGs). That's a success rate (in terms of scoring) of less than half. Compare that to SMU, when we possessed the ball 13 times on offense and scored 8 times (7 TDs, 1 FG). Much better, right? Better defenses limit opportunities absolutely. Opportunities we can't afford to waste. And against SHSU, we wasted 2 through turnovers, 2 on missed field goals, 1 on downs, and 3 through punts. I will argue to my grave that an underappreciated aspect of our offense last season was how little we punted. Simply put, punts are voluntary turnovers. Limiting turnovers, something the 2011 team was extremely good at doing, gives your offense more chances.
  • All in all, our offense averaged .5125 points per play, much lower than the .777 of two weeks ago or the mid-.6 figures we saw in most of our better performances last season. Unless our defense improves significantly in conference play from last season, that isn't going to get it done. Not against schools like West Virginia, Oklahoma, or (gasp!) Texas. The good news is that Nick Florence probably isn't going to have another game with a passer rating of 136.9., and as he improves from this game, so will our offense as a whole.
  • As a matter of fact, we already saw tremendous improvement from the first half to the second in everything but yards per play. Before halftime, Baylor had 6 offensive possessions in which we ran 47 plays for 333 yards. We scored 10 points in that time. Those numbers break down to scoring on 33% of our possessions, .2128 points per play, and 7.085 yards per play. It's easy enough to see that the first two numbers are less than our eventual results. The only reason the third isn't is the short fields turnovers gave us twice in the second half. My NCAA '03-11 tactic of running backwards on purpose on interceptions/punts/kickoffs to give myself a long field probably wouldn't go over too well in actual games. Though I wouldn't put it past Mike Leach to try sometime...
  • Anyway, the first two numbers above are less than the eventual average for two reasons: turnovers and missed opportunities on special teams. Though both still bit us in the second half, we improved to the tune of 9 offensive possessions for 31 points (4 TDs and a FG) and 33 plays for 211 yards. That's 6.394 yards per play, less than I'd hope to see but also partly explained by short fields.
  • It took me almost 20 minutes to write the two paragraphs immediately preceding this one. Why? Because I had to go back to the drive summaries and adjust for penalty yards. Lots of penalty yards. We had 6 false starts alone on Saturday. 6. That's 30 yards our offense had to get twice or didn't get at all. Overall, we had 11 penalties (same number as against SMU, incidentally) for 84 yards. 2 of those penalties gave SHSU first downs on drives leading to points. One, of course, was the ridiculous call on Ahmad Dixon. That shouldn't really count. But it does. Back-to-back games of double-digit penalties is a problem, especially when those penalties come primarily from your offensive linemen in your home stadium. There's just no excuse for procedure penalties in that environment.
  • Before I go on to defense, Baylor is now averaging 578.5 yards per game on offense and 53.5 points. In yardage, that's exactly 9 yards per game off our school record from last season. Just letting you know.
  • Defensively, we gave up 403 yards of total offense on 83 total plays for 4.855 yards per play, an improvement of over half a yard from the SMU game. 270 of those yards came in the first half, leaving only 133 yards of offense for SHSU in the entire second half. That's especially impressive considering as we picked up the pace and our offensive possessions in the second half, their possessions necessarily quickened, too. We weren't actively denying them the ball in the traditional sense of the phrase. After a first half where SHSU scored 20 points (2 TDs, 2 FGs) on 5 possessions, they scored only 3 points (1 FG) on their last 10 drives excluding the final drive as time expired. (In case you are wondering, the reason why they had more in the second half is two-fold: 1) they took the kick to start the half and had the ball to end the game, and 2) Darius Jones' pick-6 gave them 2 possessions back-to-back). Their 4.855 yards per play for the game would have been fourth-best in 2011 behind SFA (4.3), Kansas, (4.3), and Kansas State (4.5).
  • The 3 points SHSU scored in the second half came on 43 plays for a remarkable .0698 points per play. 133 yards on 43 plays is 3.093 yards per play. Both of those numbers are extremely good. We never even came close to either one last season in a non-SFA game. That led to (and/or stemmed from, we're in chicken/egg territory here)...
  • Five consecutive SHSU drives to start the second half ending in a fumble, punt, or turnover-on-downs. That's where we got back into the game. And...
  • Excluding again the last drive of the game as time expired, SHSU's final four possessions went interception, turnover-on-downs, interception, interception. That's where we beat them.
  • Those are really good things!
  • Moreover, despite the 2 Florence interceptions, Baylor still managed to finish the game +3 in turnovers, bringing our season total to +5. We've now created at least one turnover in every game of Phil Bennett's tenure and are undefeated when we have a positive turnover differential (again, since he's been here). I strongly suspect, without knowing for sure, that our record under Art Briles as head coach is similar. Better than the average team does with a positive ratio. Sportswriters refer to that kind of team as "opportunistic" because they're too lazy to think through what that concept actually means.
  • Each of Baylor's 3 sacks a) came in the second half and b) either ended a drive directly or precipitated a turnover that did. I'm just spouting out random things I wrote down now.
  • Sam Houston's vaunted RB Tim Flanders gained "only" 85 yards on 16 rushes. A relatively high yards per carry (5.2), but a low total. He didn't grind us to death, particularly in the second half, like I thought going in that SHSU needed him to.
  • Lache Seastrunk is now averaging 13.5 yards per carry in two games. That is all.
I'm running out of energy this evening to come up with new ways to say a relatively simple point: Baylor was relatively inefficient on offense and bad on defense in the first half before improving on both in the second. On defense, the improvement was incredible; even in my most optimist projections I didn't expect Baylor to hold SHSU to 3 points and less than 150 yards for an entire half. I hope we can see more of that kind of performance going forward because we will need it. To wrap this up, here are the complete stats so far for this season:

Passing Rushing Total Offense First Downs Penalties Turnovers
Rk Date Opponent Result Cmp Att Pct Yds TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg Pass Rush Pen Tot No. Yds Fum Int Tot
1 2012-09-02 Southern Methodist W (59-24) 24 35 68.6 393 5 32 220 6.9 2 67 613 9.1 15 9 2 26 10 85 0 0 0
2 2012-09-15 Sam Houston State W (48-23) 24 41 58.5 312 3 39 232 5.9 2 80 544 6.8 10 16 1 27 11 84 0 2 2
2 Games 48 76 63.2 705 8 71 452 6.4 4 147 1157 6.8 25 25 3 53 21 169 0 2 2
Passing Rushing Total Offense First Downs Penalties
Rk Date Opponent Result Cmp Att Pct Yds TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg Pass Rush Pen Tot No. Yds Fum Int TO
1 2012-09-02 Southern Methodist W (59-24) 37 63 58.7 362 3 29 145 5.0 0 92 507 5.5 22 5 1 28 5 37 1 2 3
2 2012-09-15 Sam Houston State W (48-23) 20 39 51.3 285 1 44 126 2.9 1 83 411 5.0 9 11 2 22 7 48 1 3 4
2 Games 57 102 55.9 647 4 73 271 3.7 1 175 918 5.0 31 16 3 50 12 85 2 5 7
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 9/17/2012.
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