Statesboro has an argument to be the best 0-6 football team in the state of Georgia — although I’m not sure how much that’s worth bragging about.
Statesboro’s 0-6 is deceiving, as the Blue Devils have led or been tied in the fourth quarter in five of their six games. Each week, the losses seem to increase in heartbreak magnitude, leaving the mind to wonder how on earth Statesboro could top their 31-24 loss to Tattnall County?
I understand Statesboro has some outside forces working against them, mainly injuries — but still, the games continue to be close and winnable at that. For fans and parents, the last two losses are and should be especially frustrating because of the way they ended: time-running out and a scramble to the final play with it blowing up and failing to end the game.
There are other areas where the Devils have fallen short that could be discussed, but nstead, going into region play this week, I’m going to focus on the good things for Statesboro this season. For a winless team, hopefully they can draw some inspiration from this and break through finally — because if they do there’s going to be a postseason for the Blue Devils.
This is something I’ve harped on all season, but it just can’t be said enough how well Statesboro has done in winning the field position battle game-after-game.
Through six games and 57 offensive drives, Statesboro is starting on average from their own 38.6 yard line — or 39 to roundup and be realistic. That’s superb. That means on average Statesboro only has to travel 61 yards for a touchdown compared to 70 yards for their opponents — who start on average from their own 29.6.
Thank kicker/punter Caleb Dowden for the majority of this. Dowden has put 52 percent (12 of 23) of his kickoffs in the endzone for touchbacks, compared to Statesboro’s opponents who have only put one of 27 kickoffs in the endzone. On top of Dowden averaging 41.4 yards a punt with a 61 percent fair catch/inside 20 ratio — he’s been a crucial weapon in keeping Statesboro in games.
How does this all add up? Let’s do some math:
Statesboro’s opponents have gained a total of 2226 yards this season. On 55 total opponent drives starting on average at their own 30, that’s around 40 yards a drive — so the average opponent drive gets to around the Statesboro 30. Compare that to Statesboro, who on the same metric ends their drives on average at the opponent's 38.
Simply put, if Dowden wasn’t consistently putting teams in bad field position — things could be going much worse.
Statesboro has been good/fortunate at forcing fumbles/recovering them when opponents put the ball on the ground. Is some of this luck? Yes, but at 0-6 you’re willing to grab at anything for a positive.
So far, Statesboro has turned the ball over eight times to their opponents 10 — putting them at +2 in the turnover margin. Now in the analytics world, we have a little something called “turnovers luck” — which I’ll briefly explain here.
Long story short, through years of research the football analytics community has found on average a team recovers around 50% of the fumbles they see on offense and defense. The same research has found a team can expect to intercept 22 percent of the passes they break up or get a hand on.
So, Statesboro has fumbled the ball eight times and lost six of them -- but research states Statesboro should have recovered four, making them “unlucky” in that manner. However, on the other hand Statesboro has seen 12 fumbles on defense and recovered nine of them — making them “lucky” in that regard. Add it up, Statesboro has recovered 11 of the 20 fumbles they’ve seen — making them one over “lucky” in that department.
In pass defense, the same metric follows. Statesboro has had 16 passes deflected on offense and only two intercepted — making them ”lucky”. However on defense, Statesboro has deflected 16 passes but only intercepted one — making them unlucky . Average it out, Statesboro should be plus one in this category instead of minus one.
In all when you balance the lucky and unlucky out, Statesboro’s +2 turnover margin is appropriate. The problem is Statesboro taking advantage of these turnovers and turning them into points.
Wright Rockett: In the pass-catching game, Rockett has been second-to-none for Statesboro. He’s Statesboro’s most targeted receiver (30 targets) and has caught 19 of them for 181 yards and the only passing touchdown of the year. 47.4 percent of his catches have gone for first downs, making him a dangerous target on third downs.
Drayton Marsh: Marsh only has 25 carries this season, fourth most on the team, but 48 percent of those carries have gone for at least five yards. At 5.5 yards a carry, Marsh has been the most consistent runner for the Blue Devil’s in 2015 and hopefully will see more carries as the season rolls on.
Linebackers: Statesboro has had plenty of holes on its defense, but Hunter Deal and Chris Hill have not been it. Combined, they have 26.7 percent of Statesboro’s total tackles and 7.5 of the team’s 23 tackles for loss. Add in Deal’s two sacks that lead the team, the two have been holding together a Statesboro defense that’s overachieved despite the real estate they’ve given up.