Welcome to more smarter stats! We’ve finally come full circle on this season’s advanced stats tutorial.
For those who’ve been following along with this season’s high school football coverage, you’ll be aware of the “smarter stats” I’ve been pushing. Success rate, points per scoring opportunity — you know, all that good jargon.
If you’re confused, the literature you seek is at statesboroherald.com under the prep sports tab. Look up explosiveness, efficiency, drive-finishing, turnovers and field position. The five factors are the basic building blocks of smarter stats, but we don’t have the time or space to delve into them again.
Instead, I want to share with you — the paying consumer — how I look at football games. In turn, I hope you will look at football games the same way one day.
This is the advanced box score. It breaks down how teams performed to the most specific minutia: play-by-play analysis. It gives the most clear picture of what happened during a game, and can tell us much more than the traditional box score.
Traditional box scores don’t break down performance by quarters, by down-and-distance or finishing drives. This on the other hand, tells the full story.
But before I go further, there are some stats here that will be new. So very quickly, let’s go over what they are and what they mean.
• Standard/Passing downs: help differentiate down and distance. Standard downs are: 1st-and-10 or less, 2nd-and-6 or less, 3rd/4th-and-4 or less. Passing downs are anything greater than those distances (3rd-and-5, 2nd-and-7). Passing downs can cripple drives, so the less of them a team are in the better.
• Target: when a receiver is thrown to. This isn’t a catch, but it does means the receiver was thrown to. Since I count sacks as pass attempts and not rushes, targets don’t always match pass attempts.
• Line yards: Up in the rushing section, you’ll see a number of stats which seem unfamiliar. This is the first, and it’s one of my favorites. This takes every rushing attempt and divies up how much credit the offensive line gets. It gives a good picture of how much credit the offensive line gets per carry, and how much the back gets.
We divvy up the credit to the O-line as follows: Negative rushes: 120%, 0-4 yards: 100%, 5-10 yards: 50%, 11+ yards: 0%. So, the most credit the line gets per rush if five yards, since anything past that is normally in the open field and is beyond the line’s control.
• Opp. Rate: The number of times a back can gain five yards. It’s essentially a percentage of teams rushes that goes for at least five yards. This is used as a measure of consistency.
• HLT/Opp: This metric is used to illustrate open-field running performance. Once a back gains at least ten yards, it takes all yards gained after and divides it by rushes of ten yards or more. The higher the number, the more explosive and elusive the back.
• Power Rt.: a measure of short-yardage rushing performance. How many times can a team convert on 3rd-and-2, or 4th-and-2? Take all of those opportunities and divide them by the successful conversions, and that gives you power rate.
• Stuff Rt.: How often do your rushing attempts end in a loss of yardage? Take all tackles for loss and divide them by rushing attempts, and that gives you stuff rate.
• Havoc: Adds tackles for loss, sacks, passes defended and forced fumbles to create a ratio for how often a defense disrupts an offense.
Now that we’ve gone through all the stats, let’s really dive into the box score. We’ll use the recent playoff game between Screven County and Callaway, a game which the Gamecocks lost 35-34 in the final seconds.
Box Score Analysis
From the outset, glancing over everything Screven should have won this game. They were better in yards per play, success rate, starting field position, points per opportunity and even turnover margin.
So how did Screven lose this game? Simple answer, special teams.
Fans can gripe all they want about the touchdown that wasn’t in the second quarter on the Tanskley catch or inopportune pass interference calls. But the second half opening kickoff returned for a touchdown is what ultimately made the difference in this game.
But there are other small pinpoints we can isolate to see where things went wrong for the Gamecocks, who finished 2016 11-2 and the region 4-2A champions. We’ll dig into them here:
Callaway passing downs
On average, a team is successful on 29 percent of their passing downs. Callaway was well above that mark at 38, meaning they we able to break out of long down-and-distances and keep drives alive.
This put a big strain on Screven’s defense, and eventually won the game for Callway when they scored the winning touchdown on a 4th-and-7.
It should also be noted Callaway averaged 8.1 yards per play on passing downs, something very hard for a team to overcome.
While Braylon Sanders stole the show in the second half, the unsung hero for Callaway was their running back DJ Atkins. As evidenced by the offensive line stats, Screven controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Outside of surprising success in short yardage situations, Callaway’s offensive line struggled to block the Screven front four.
But when Atkins was able to break into the open field, he made Screven pay. He averaged six yards a carry on his highlight carries and was still able to manage 6.1 yards per carry despite his line only giving him 2.1 yards per carry.
While Callaway only completed 10 of their 22 pass attempts, they made those completions count in big ways.
Nine of their ten completions were counted as successful plays, and averaged over 22 yards per completion. This all comes with Screven scoring four sacks and getting their hands on two other passes as well.
The havoc was there for Screven to disrupt Callaway’s passing efficiency, but the Gamecocks couldn’t cap the explosiveness Callaway generated in the air.