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September 12, 2007

Inside the Stats: UGA vs. South Carolina

Willie Martinez (Image: Jim Hipple)

I noticed on the message boards and in the comments section of this blog some heavy blame for the loss coming Willie Martinez's way. I'm the last guy to tell you our defense doesn't have areas that need improvement, but I took a closer look at some of the stats.

In some ways, the stats emphasize what the scoreboard says...if you only allow 16 points, you should win. The stats also point to more problems with our offense than defense by a long shot. But let's look at the numbers first.

(Preface: "Meaningful Drive" is my own term. It simply means all the drives of the game except the single play knee downs to end of both halves South Carolina. All other stats are driven off the concept of "meaningful" drives. Thus the "*"):

Total Offense*
Meaningful Drives*
Total Plays*
Yards / Play*4.2
Yards / Drive* 28.4
Plays / Drive*
3rd Down Conversions3-18
"Three and Out"2

Stats can obviously be misleading, but some things jump off the page. First is the third down conversion stat. I had no idea that we held them to 1 of 11 on third down. Also, I was shocked to see that their average number of plays per drive and average number of yards per play was virtually identical to ours overall.

However, when you remove the statistical outliers of their biggest offensive play (McKinley's 31 yard reception) and our biggest offensive play (Moreno's 49 yard run) here's what you get for yards per play:
    UGA - 3.65 yards / play (without the outlier)
    SC - 4.4 yards / play (without the outlier)
If you're only getting 3.65 yards per play for most of the game, that's simply pathetic. Our QBs, WRs, OL and offensive coordinator need to mature in a big hurry because against the SEC's best, that's not going to cut it.

The defense isn't all sunshine obviously:
  • Time of possession on meaningful drives was roughly a 1 minute advantage for UGA. So our defense shouldn't have been as dog tired as they looked at the end to my obviously untrained eye.

  • Three of the five longest Gamecock runs of the night came on the first three plays of the their final possession when UGA was mystifyingly in a nickel package. After those first three runs (totaling 38 yards and basically putting us in a horrible field position and cutting our comeback drive's chances way, way down), Martinez pulled the extra DB out, brought Brandon Miller back into the game and rolled a Safety towards the line of scrimmage. From there we stoned them. My question: What the heck did Coach Martinez think they were going to do with 4 minutes left and a 4 point lead?
Should Willie catch as much grief from this one as he has? Personally, I'd say "no." It was still just 16 points.

In my opinion, we lost because we couldn't move the ball, and we didn't make plays when it mattered most. The big coaching blunders were (in no particular order):
  • The 4th down rooskie call. There's a reason Richt has never called that play on 4th down. Bad call by Bobo. But it's not why we lost. Just a glaring thing that didn't go our way.

  • Going to the nickel at the end in a clear running situation for SC.

  • Really bizarre substitution patterns in the 4th quarter at WR. As Buck Belue said last night on the CSS Dawg Report show, (paraphrase) "Why is 5'8" Mikey Henderson running a fade route in the end zone against a 6'0" cornerback. That's Massaquaoi's play to make." We need our play making wide outs in the game in the right formations with the game on the line."

  • Coming out flat. In my opinion, they looked very flat in the first half. Richt also felt that this was the case based on his post-game comments
It isn't the first time that we've come out flat, and it won't be the last. Bear, Neyland, Erk, Carroll, Spurrier, you name it....all coaches have teams come out flat from time to time. It comes with having 18-22 year olds on scholarship. But it doesn't make any fan less annoyed.

In spite of all the negative, we were still just 1 or 2 plays from winning the game. In my opinion, it's not a talent problem this season. It's a maturity / execution problem. We are exactly what Richt said we were preseason. A young, talented team that should be really good later in the season. The entire question is will they get experienced enough, fast enough to avoid falling into a hole early that's too big to climb out of later.

I thought this was a 9-3 season before. Still do.

See Also
-- Play by Play - ESPN
-- Drive Chart - Yahoo Sports
-- Box Score - ESPN



Anonymous said...

Richt did call the Rooskie play on 4th down once. It was 2 years ago, early in the game against South Carolina. Shock almost got sacked but was able to throw it away. At least that is how I remember it.

I'm not sure if that makes Bobo's call better or worse. There was a precedent for running it in that situation, but also a precedent for it not working.

Doug said...

Thanks for the very cogent, realistic analysis of a game I think is best described as "frustrating." It's not that we got blown out by a beatable opponent, because we didn't get blown out, nor that we lost to a crappy team, because you obviously can't call SC a crappy team. I think a lot of Bulldogs' frustration comes from, "Man, if we had to have a stinker game this year, why'd we have to have it against Spurrier, a team we'd beaten five in a row, and one of the most annoying fan bases in sports?"

It was a disappointing loss, maybe even an embarrassing one, but it wasn't a season-killing one. Thanks to you and the other Georgia fans who are smart enough not to treat it as such. GO DAWGS.

Anonymous said...


I agree with everything you've said here, but I think that the dissatisfaction many have voiced with the defense is not simply dissatisfaction with Saturday's game. It goes back to the very beginning of CWM's tenure, which many people feel (and I suppose that I'm one of them) has proven to be a downgrade of the defense.

It's true that the defense played great against OKST and plenty good enough to win against SC. But, yet again, we saw a defense that was soft when it most needed to be tough (in SC's next-to-last possession), and, yes, they're young, but we've seen veteran-laden UGA defenses do the same thing in the last three years, too. I stated in a post yesterday that the defense seems to have taken on the laconic, retiring (but nonetheless resolved) posture of its leader, and so we're probably getting the defense we can expect: very, very solid overall but by no means decisively forcefull.

I think I have to stop obsessing about the SC game and actually get some work done this week. . . .

Anonymous said...

Anonymous stole my thunder...Georgia called the statue play 2 years ago. In my opinion, the fact that we called the same trick play on a 4th down against the same team is what made this a terrible call. I'm pretty sure Richt called it on 4th down a couple of other times as well (Vandy in '02, Tech in '03) - but all's well when it works.

I'm a Realist said...

I think I've made it pretty obvious that I don't care too much for how Willie Martinez runs the defense. I think it's too conservative, and relies too heavily on the opposing offense making a mistake. We have maybe two blitz packages, and it seems our blitzers start so far away from the ball that the o-line has no trouble picking them up in time.

Too often the defense is gashed on 2nd or 3rd down and long yardage situations that have been extremely costly. Against SCU, we played a feather-soft zone with no pressure on Blake Mitchell, who, to this point, has shown a propensity to wilt under said duress. So, the Gamecocks went 1 of 11 on third down. And? They still racked up over 20 first downs. A poor third down conversion percentage often reflects how ineffective the opposing offense is, anyway.

You calculated 11 meaningful drives... yet they only had 11 third downs. If they averaged 29.1 yards per drive, that means the defense would give up, on average, two first downs before they could even force a third down. How is that a good statistic? If anything, it shows the inability to stop SCU on first and second downs.

My final contention with the game on Saturday was that the defense did not adjust. Even when it became painfully obvious that SCU was content to take the five or six yards that the defense was giving them over and over and over, the defense stayed in the same base defense. Despite getting zero pressure from the front four, the defense stayed in the same base defense. It wasn't until the 2nd half that we saw our first man coverage of the day. Then, when 93,000 people knew SCU was going to run it right at the defense, Martinez has the nickel package in. It's these types of WTF incidents that just make me insane. It's like Jeff Bowden is calling our defense sometimes.

And, sure, if you only give up 16 points, you should win. But, these gameplan/game management problems are a recurring theme under Willie Martinez. And, if South Carolina had a more effective offense, this defense would have surrendered much, much more than 16 points. Like I said earlier, the statistics do not tell the whole story.

The Original Blawger said...

PWD - I'm unaware of the rooskie play ever being run on anything but 4th down.

2001 - Auburn: Run on fourth down near midfield and scored a touchdown.

2002 - Vandy: Run on fourth down near midfield and scored a touchdown.

2003 - Tech: Run on 4th down near midfield, did not score a TD but got first down yardage.

2005 - South Carolina: Run on 4th down near midfield. Incomplete pass (surprisingly this was catchable. It would have been a circus catch, but it did bounce off Sean Bailey's hands).

2007 - South Carolina: Run on 4th down near midfield. Sacked.

Wow. After typing that up, I realize there have only been two seasons with Richt where we didn't run that play. 2004 and 2006. That is way too often for that play.

peacedog said...

It's not way to often for the play, but as pwd notes it's only really effective when you can run up the middle, and you need to show a little more consistency moving the ball than we did IMO to help pull it off.

I felt like our DBS were frequently either not in position to make plays, or simply couldn't make them when it seemed they should hve. I think youth is a factor.

Hobnail_Boot said...

We ran it twice last year. Once was @ SCU to Danny Ware on a wheel route on 2nd and long to Danny Ware, and then again vs. VT on 1st down to Martrez Milner for what should've been called a TD.

Hobnail_Boot said...

That didn't make sense, let me try again.

We ran it twice last year:
1. @ SCU to Danny Ware on a wheel route on 2nd and long for 1st-down yardage.

2. vs. VT on 1st down to Martrez Milner for what should've been called a TD.

Ludakit said...

IMO The Realist nailed it. CWM seems way too reliant on waiting for mistakes instead of forcing them. Two weeks ago, when we all knew the D-line was green, we blitzed, rattled Bobby Reid, and spent so much time in the backfield that we probably should've ended up snapping the ball.

I appreciate the work CWM has accomplished in the secondary, but we need to help out the areas of our defense that are not even close to dominating, I.E. the D-line. We should've brought more heat and worked to keep Mitchell from eating up our zone. No doubt the whole team was sleep walking, but USC's offense was not dominant and we could've done better to exploit that.

If you need further proof, look at all the marquee wins in the past two years. Then separate them into "defense was agressive" vs. "defense was passive." I guarantee the majority of them will be ones where our defense got a LOT of pressure. If the QB is on his back, he can't beat you.

82 said...

I know this is from another post but I wanted to bring it up since we are talking about the coaches.

(BTW -- I have no problem with kicking a field goal on 4th and 15 with 4 minutes to play and two timeouts. Plus, it sorta worked. We stopped them. If we had managed our timeouts properly, we would've gotten the ball back with around 1:45 or more left which would've been plenty of time to attempt a drive).

This entire event has been bothering me all week. I don't see the reasoning behind this. And it didn't sorta work, it didn't work at all, we never got back as close as we already were.

Let me reset this for you people:
-We were down by a touchdown (a FG is meaningless)
-We had the ball at the 16
-It was 4th and 15

Let me also mention (and this is something the Ga coaches should have known) that with the new kickoff location we hadn't pinned a kickoff inside the 20 all night. Why on earth do we kick a field goal and then try and stop them on D and then try and score a touchdown all over again? It makes no sense for a number of reasons:

First off, we were already inside the 20 and we hadn't scored a touchdown all night, heck, we had only been inside the 20 once before. What makes them think we are going to do it on the last possession with 70 seconds left?

Secondly, if we go for it and miss it, we are automatically pinning them deeper than we possible could have with a kickoff.

The decision is easy... go for it. Now, I don't doubt in hindsight this is an easier decision than in the moment, but thats what our coaches get paid to do, its their job to manage this thing out. I just don't get why we think the 3 can help us when we need 7, thats actually pretty simple math.


ruteger said...

The rooskie play was not run on 4th down vs. Vandy in '02. I'm remembered it being 4th down, but I just looked it up on ESPN and it was 3rd down.

ruteger said...

Also according to ESPN's play-by-play, against Tech in '03 UGA didn't do anything on 4th down but either punt or kick a field goal.

The Original Blawger said...

Ruteger - I stand corrected. I guess it was only on 4th down in '01, '05, and '07.

Hobnail - I've been debating this over on the DawgRun as well. I don't consider those plays to be the rooskie play. Those did involve a similar manner of play action, but it's not the same play. I'm saying we've run that one play with two TE, 1 FB, 1 TB, only 1 WR who runs the only route. That, to me at least, is the rooskie play.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:59 is right on. I moved on about 5 PM Sunday.

But I still can't get that wide-open wheel route to Moreno out of my mind. But then again, I could've bought Microsoft back in '85 and didn't and that has haunted me for a few years now, too.

Anonymous said...

IMO, the rooskie play didn't work because it was 4th and 4. Nobody in their right mind would run straight up the middle on 4th and 4. So when we fake it right up the middle the defense knows its a fake and doesn't bite. I don't think they knew it was coming nor was it a case of running it too often, I just think the situation didn't present itself for that play call.

murphdawg said...

1-11 on 3rd down conversions don't mean much when the Cocks mainly converted on 1st and 2nd down.

Anonymous said...

Our talent is fine,our coaching is good but good won't always cut it.QB play was fair which isn't enough most games.Play calling was middling which can also get you beat.

The team is like a Ferrari in the garage with no gas in it...lots of potential but going nowhere.

Anonymous said...

ruteger, I know what ESPN says, but I was at that game vs Vandy and distinctly remember that being a ballsey play call for Richt. It was 4th & 1, we called the rooskie play and we got a touchdown. Gotta go with your gut on this one.

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