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Charting the Tide, Week 7 | Arkansas in Review

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So what's been up with this guy?

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Charting Project is the brainchild of Bill Connelly; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.

First, some reasons why the offense has not played well

I suspect the biggest question on the minds of most of the fanbase this week is what happened to the offense from the Florida game? More specifically, what on earth happened to Blake Sims? The data below is presented with a couple of caveats: Ole Miss and Arkansas provided much better defensive performances than apparently hapless Florida; there’s some small sample sizes going on; and, most importantly, correlation does not imply causation.

Blake Sims

That being said, let’s start off with a look at Blake Sims. The Charting Project provides a number of available reasons for incompletions, but so far pretty much everything I’ve charted can be collected into two categories: Altered Balls (passes that were defensed, dropped, or thrown away due to pressure/coverage) and Bad Throws (overthrown, underthrown, thrown ahead, thrown behind, and balls thrown just a bit out of bounds*). Now, of course an altered ball (usually a defensed pass) can occur because the ball was poorly thrown, but I’m really just trying to differentiate between catchable balls that were not completed (Altered Balls) and uncatchable/barely catchable balls (Bad Throws).

* As opposed to balls deliberately thrown away

In the latter half of the third quarter in the Florida game, Blake Sims took off on a scramble to the left side of the field, and was violently (but cleanly) tackled by Vernon Hargreaves III for his trouble. You might recall this as the play where your stomach dropped through the floor, as Sims went to the locker room immediately afterward with apparent injuries. He returned later to finish the game, and obviously played the next two games, but he hasn’t been the same. To wit:

Blake Sims From Florida Onward
Before Injury After Injury
Pass Attempts 30 55
Completion Percentage 70% 58.2%
Passing Success Rate 60% 45.5%
Incompletion Rate Due
To Altered Balls
44.4% 39.1%
Incompletion Rate Due
To Bad Throws
55.6% 60.9%
Throws Under 5 Air Yards 33.3% 40%
Throws from 5 to 10 Air Yards 23.3% 30.9%
Throws over 10 Air Yards 36.7% 25.5%

Just to clarify, the “Before” column is from the Florida game only, and there’s been a pretty clear difference between that time period and after the injury. There’s a notable jump in incompletions due to bad throws (which would be even more stark if O.J. Howard hadn’t dropped everything in the Ole Miss game), and notable drops in completion percentage and success rate. As Glen pointed out in this week’s From the Couch, we aren’t throwing down the field as much since that injury, and the numbers bear that out — we’ve shifted about 11% of attempts back under 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. The fact his completion percentage is so much lower despite this shift is disturbing (again, the better defense has something to do with it, but still).

Blake looked plenty rattled the last two games (partially due to the quality of defense and the road environs, I’m sure), and part of the reason why is he may not trust his arm.

Ryan Kelly

Similarly to Blake Sims, Ryan Kelly went down with an injury late in the third quarter of the Ole Miss game, and the offense hasn’t been on track with Bradley Bozeman:

Offensive Performance With and Without Ryan Kelly
Metric Before Injury After Injury
Plays 56 71
Overall Yards Per Play 4.9 4.8
Overall Success Rate 42.9% 32.4%
Rushing Attempts 35 40
Rushing Yards Per Play 3.6 2.5
Rushing Success Rate 40% 25%

Oddly enough, yards per play hasn’t changed much, but offensive success rate has gone from not very good to even worse. If it wasn’t for O.J. Howard’s long catch-and-run that was a blown coverage by the Arkansas defense, this would be even more stark.

When you look at just rushes, it’s even worse. We’re getting over a yard less every time we tote the rock without Kelly directing traffic, and we’re less successful when doing so by a 15% margin. No offense to Bozeman (who is playing out of position), but let’s hope Kelly’s back on the field soon.

Alphonse Taylor vs. Leon Brown

As you may or may not have noticed, Alphonse Taylor started the game at right guard after Leon Brown appeared to have locked down that job. As you undoubtedly noticed, Leon Brown has been a penalty machine this season, which is probably why he didn’t start off the game.

Brown came in permanently** late in the third quarter (which is apparently when everything happens?), and my impression is that we were a lot more successful after that happened. As I said last week, I greatly prefer quantitative statistics to qualitative impressions, so I took a look at the breakdown:

** Fairly certain, anyway — I’ll admit I didn’t verify this on every play

Offensive Performance Against Arkansas
At Right Guard:
Metric Alphonse Taylor Leon Brown
Plays 29 24
Overall Yards Per Play 4.3 4.3
Overall Success Rate 24.1% 37.5%
Rushing Attempts 15 17
Rushing Yards Per Play 0.2 3.7
Rushing Success Rate 13.3% 35.3%

You want to know why we keep trotting Brown out there? It’s because we’re a lot better with him next to Austin Shepherd than the alternative. The overall yards per play is a little misleading, because it contains the big O.J. Howard catch-and-run mentioned earlier – otherwise, not even close. This shows up in overall success rate, which is much higher with Brown in than with Taylor.

The rushing numbers are just stunning — a full 3.5 yards per carry better with Brown, over a similar number of attempts, with a similar disparity in rushing success rate. Hopefully Brown got the message and can play without committing so many penalties, because we absolutely need him in there.

Last week I asked for your feedback on what sections you did not want to see, and the results were pretty meager. Only 11 of you responded***, and stacked up against the number of page views for the article that’s not really a large enough sample. So for the six of you that don’t want to see disruptive plays — sorry? Without further ado, let’s return to your regularly scheduled programming!

*** I’m going to assume that’s because there was no “This column is so awesome I love it just the way it is!” option

The Goods

Confused?

  • Air Yards — The down-the-field or vertical yardage gained on a pass play as a result of the quarterback’s throw (i.e., prior to the receiver’s involvement), as measured from the line of scrimmage. So for forward passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, the Air Yardage would be negative. This metric is also tracked on incomplete passes — underthrown balls are measured from where the ball lands, and overthrown balls from where the intended receiver is. Balls tipped at the line or thrown away are not measured. The companion statistic on completed passes is yards after catch — the sum of Air Yards and yards after catch on a completed pass equals the yardage gained on the play.
  • Blake Sims Map of Quarterbacking Excellence — Hand-crafted using the absolute finest graphical techniques of the late 90s, the Blake Sims Map of Quarterbacking Excellence breaks the field down into 9 blocks by Air Yards (Behind L.O.S, 0 - 10 Yards, Over 10 Yards) and area of the field relative to the hash the ball was placed on (Left, Middle, Right). Each block contains the frequency (number of passes to that block of the field over the number of passes at that distance from the line of scrimmage), completion percentage, and success rate. The block behind the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field contains the man himself, Blake Sims. The hashmarks are even relatively accurate!
  • Catch Rate — The number of balls caught over the number of targets for an individual, or how often a receiver makes the catch when targeted.
  • Disruptive Plays — A sum of sacks, blocked kicks/punts, passes defensed, interceptions, and forced fumbles. Think of these as things that got you multiple helmet stickers when you were playing peewee.
  • Distance Splits — The “distance” on these charts refers to the yardage required to gain a first down, not the yardage required for a successful play (see Success Rate).
  • Frequencies for Rushing and Passing Splits by Down — These numbers refer to the percentage of first down plays that were a rush, second down plays that were a pass, and so on, NOT the percentage of rushes that were on first down. For example, the sum of first down pass frequency and first down rush frequency will be 100%, but the sum of first, second, third, and fourth down rush frequencies will be well in excess of 100%.
  • Garbage Time — Defined as when a game is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second quarter, 21 points in the third quarter, or 16 points in the fourth.
  • Run Directions — See the figure below. Defensive letter gap terminology is on the top in blue, and offensive hole terminology is on the bottom in green. Rushes are coded as “Left Tackle” if they head through the left B and C gaps / the 3 and 5 holes, and so on.
  • RunDirection
  • Success Rate — A “successful” play is defined as gaining 70% of required yardage on first down, 50% of required yardage on second down, and all of the required yardage on third and fourth downs — required yardage is another term for the distance required for a first down on a given play. Success rate is simply how often a team is successful.
  • Target — The intended receiver on a pass play. All pass plays have intended receivers, with the exception of passes that were tipped at the line, thrown away, or otherwise thrown in such a manner as to render identification of an intended receiver impossible.

OFFENSE

Passing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
1st 5 25% 32.7% 60% 54.7%
2nd 7 41.2% 44.1% 28.6% 50%
3rd 9 60% 50.7% 33.3% 60.5%

Observations

It’s more like the map of quarterback derp this week, but I can’t bash on Sims too much as I’m pretty sure he’s hurt and doing the best he can. Passing distribution across the field was more or less balanced this week, but the most notable thing from the map is the percentages on short throws, which were simply putrid. These routes aren’t always successful, but they should be high-percentage throws, and that was certainly not the case this week.

As far as the down splits are concerned, we threw less on first downs (which I suspect is due to Sims’ injury), and more on third downs (which I suspect has something to do with first and second down success rates). First down throws were actually quite successful this week — second and third down throws were, um, not.

Rushing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
1st 15 75% 66.1% 20% 31.8%
2nd 10 58.8% 55.1% 40% 64.6%
3rd 6 40% 46.7% 16.7% 48.6%
Direction VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
Left End 5 20% 19.9% 20% 44.1%
Lt. Tackle 1 4% 11.1% 0% 31.6%
Middle 6 24% 37.4% 50% 43.8%
Rt. Tackle 6 24% 16.4% 33.3% 53.6%
Right End 7 28% 15.2% 14.3% 38.5%

Observations

I verified some of our rush struggles were indeed related to the offensive line changes in the lead-in, but to actually see the full numbers — yuck. As the passing splits indicated, there was a clear preference for the run this week, except on third downs. We also avoided running in the general vicinity of Arie Kouandjio even more than usual, which I suspect has to do with his injury status. Success rates were not good regardless of when and where we ran, with the notable exception of runs straight up the gut, which were a little more successful this week. Which is weird, because we haven’t run as well overall with Bozeman in. Perhaps he’s a better run blocker than Kelly, just not where Kelly is in terms of calling blocking assignments?

I should note here that, if you add up all the rushes in the direction chart, it will be less than the total number of rushes given in the box score. Sacks and quarterback scrambles are charted differently from standard rushes involving backs or receivers, so they don’t show up in the direction chart.

Down and Distance Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
1st 20 37.7% 45.3% 30% 39.5%
2nd 17 32.1% 33% 35.3% 58.5%
3rd 15 28.3% 21% 26.7% 54.7%
4th 1 1.9% 0.8% 0% 33%
Distance VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
Under 3 Yards 6 11.3% 14.8% 50% 73.6%
4 to 6 Yards 5 9.43% 14.5% 20% 57.7%
7 to 10 Yards 35 66% 59.5% 31.4% 42.3%
Over 10 Yards 7 13.2% 11.2% 14.3% 40%

Observations

The one fourth down play this week was the ill-fated sneak attempt, in which the line failed to get anything resembling a push. Sims elected to try to go vertical and shove the ball over the line, which I believe resulted in his losing the ball. Even if he hadn’t, there’s no way Penn Wagers**** and company wouldn’t have screwed up the spot.

**** Penn Wagers and his crew are the absolute worst. I cursed so loud my neighbors probably heard me when I saw him come on the screen.
The SEC has already pointed out they screwed up the clock after the late false start penalty.

We spent more time in third down and in longer yardage than usual, as a result of lower first and second down success rates. This is becoming a trend, and is most likely a result of unsustainable performance against the creampuffs in the early part of the schedule. Success rates were down as well, and probably for the same reason.

We were even less effective on short yardage this week, and I suspect that is again due to the offensive line changes. As a result of those poor first and second down success rates, we spent a good chunk more time in longer yardage situations, and were pretty bad when we were there. I’m not sure what to make of a 20% success rate on those shorter intermediate situations — it’s pretty puzzling. If you see a bad success rate in the passing distances, and the opponent has a good secondary and/or great pass rushers, there’s your answer. Same thing with short yardage against stout defensive lines. But there’s nothing overly special about 4 to 6 yards, so I don’t know.

Formation Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Formation VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
Shotgun 17 32.1% 31.5% 29.4% 52.7%
Pistol 3 5.7% 13.8% 0% 55.1%
Under Center 33 62.3% 54.8% 33.3% 44.6%
Play Action 8 14.8% 8.2% 37.5% 50%
Backs VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
0 2 3.8% 1.7% 0% 33.3%
1 37 69.8% 62.4% 29.7% 48.9%
2 14 26.4% 34.5% 35.7% 49.2%
3 0 N/A 1.4% N/A 40%
Receivers VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
0 0 N/A 2% N/A 71.4%
1 1 1.9% 3.7% 0% 38.5%
2 16 30.2% 43.4% 50% 52%
3 28 52.8% 35.2% 21.4% 41.6%
4 6 11.3% 14.7% 33.3% 57.7%
5 2 3.8% 1.1% 0% 25%

Observations

We mostly stayed away from Pistol again this week, but that’s almost irrelevant as we got pretty poor results regardless of where Blake Sims lined up; same thing with whether or not there was play action.

No real interesting results from the Backs chart; we didn’t have any plays down by the goal line so there was no need for the three-back heavy package. We went single-setback a little more often than usual, but not to any great success.

We went 5 wides twice (both on second and 9, oddly enough), and both times bad things happened — the 13 yard sack where Darius Philon managed to catch Blake Sims’ heel, and the crossing route to DeAndrew White where he elected to run backward rather than forward. 2 wide receiver sets were the closest we got to typical success this week, as we were only 2% off our season success rate for these alignments.

Targets and Catch Rate
Player Targets Catch Rate
Amari Cooper 64 73.4%
DeAndrew White 21 76.2%
Christion Jones 14 57.1%
O.J. Howard 11 54.6%
Jalston Folwer 9 44.4%

Observations

Cooper had a pretty rough week, only pulling down 2 of his 6 targets (although only one of those 4 misses was catchable — Sims had an even rougher week). White looked pretty good this week, and given his season numbers I hope Sims looks his way more often — he catches at a similar rate to Cooper, and spreading the ball around at this point can only benefit the overall passing game. Not listed is Cam Sims, who got his first meaningful targets of the year while Cooper was on the sidelines dealing with injuries.

DEFENSE

Two numbers I have to mention here before anything else in this section: 316.6 and 89. The former is the rushing yards per game Arkansas was averaging coming in, and the latter is how much this defense allowed on Saturday. Brandon Allen threw 40 times, and that was a direct result of our ability to shut down the Hog rushing attack, and in my opinion the main reason we didn’t lose this one. I mentioned in last week’s Processing the Numbers that one-dimensional offenses don’t work against Saban defenses, and while Arkansas had some uncharacteristic success throwing the ball, ultimately that’s not what they like to do and it showed on the scoreboard.

Formation/Play Action Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Formation VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
Shotgun 23 29.1% 75.6% 26.1% 34.6%
Pistol 0 N/A 3.5% N/A 20%
Under Center 56 70.9% 20.9% 28.6% 28.3%
No Huddle 0 N/A 43% N/A 33.1%
Huddled 79 100% 57% 27.9% 20.7%
Play Action 16 20% 9.3% 50% 47.1%

Observations

As you might expect from an old-school run-oriented offense, Arkansas does not do this new-fangled no-huddle business, and their quarterback spends most of his time under center as is right and proper. Nothing they did worked, however, as an overall success rate under 30% is pretty bad (in case you were curious, ours was 30.2%, which is also pretty bad).

Passing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
1st 8 25.8% 41% 37.5% 46%
2nd 17 63% 56.7% 29.4% 40%
3rd 15 80% 76.1% 46.7% 33.3%
Air Yards VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
Under 5 12 30% 40.7% 41.7% 34.4%
5 - 10 7 17.5% 19.3% 28.6% 48.3%
11 - 15 8 20% 10.7% 75% 75%
Over 15 13 32.5% 29.3% 23.1% 34.1%

Observations

Brandon Allen is greatly improved over a year ago, but for all intents and purposes he’s kind of a terrible quarterback. Arkansas was fairly successful on third down throws this time, however, and managed to sustain several drives due to these timely completions. Allen was also oddly successful on the longer intermediate throws, to which we seem rather susceptible this year. Not much good happened when Allen threw down the field though, as several balls were well off the mark.

Rushing Splits
Attempts Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
1st 23 74.2% 58.2% 8.7% 12.7%
2nd 10 37% 43.3% 30% 42.9%
3rd 4 21.1% 22.4% 50% 40%
Direction VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
Left End 5 16.7% 12.6% 20% 36.4%
Lt. Tackle 6 20% 15% 33.3% 15.4%
Middle 11 36.7% 43.7% 9.1% 23.7%
Rt. Tackle 7 23.3% 20.7% 14.3% 22.2%
Right End 1 3.3% 8.1% 0% 28.6%

Observations

Nothing on first down. Nothing up the middle. As previously stated, the Arkansas run game was completely dominated in this game, outside of a couple of scrambles by Allen and the once or twice Jonathan Williams squirted loose on third down. Alex Collins was very lightly used in this game, despite being the carries leader for the team coming in — he may have been dealing with an injury that wasn’t publicized. Not shown is fourth down attempts, in which Arkansas was 0 for 2.

Arkansas seemed to have the most success running in the vicinity of Large Human Being Dan Skipper, but even that was pretty minimal. Teams continue to be averse to running around the right end against this defense, despite the somewhat more favorable success rate available to them on that side.

Down and Distance Splits
Plays Frequency Success Rate
Down VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
1st 31 39.2% 42.2% 16.1% 26.2%
2nd 27 34.2% 33.6% 29.6% 41.2%
3rd 19 24.1% 23.2% 47.4% 34.3%
4th 2 2.5% 1% 0% 0%
Distance VS.
BACON
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
VS.
BACON
2014
Season
Less than 3 Yards 7 8.9% 8% 42.9% 56.5%
4 to 6 Yards 8 10.1% 11.8% 63% 47.1%
7 to 10 Yards 53 67.1% 67.1% 24.5% 29.4%
Over 10 Yards 11 13.9% 13.2% 9.1% 23.7%

Observations

Like with the passing splits, we were a little ineffective on third downs, certainly in comparison with our season average. Similarly to the rushing splits, we were very, very effective at preventing successful plays on first downs, with Arkansas managing just 16.1% for the game. Interestingly, the defense had the same issue this week as the offense on the shorter intermediate distances, which was the only yardage situation in which Arkansas was remotely successful.

Disruptive Plays
Player Passes Defensed Interceptions Sacks Forced Fumbles Blocked Kicks Total
Cyrus Jones 4 2 6
Landon Collins 3 2 1 6
Jarran Reed 5 1 6
Reggie Ragland 1 3 4
Eddie Jackson 1 1 1 3

Observations

Jarran Reed is an absolute monster. He continues to lead the team in passes defensed, and almost single-handedly stoned a scoring opportunity in the third quarter, with a sack and a batted pass on back-to-back plays. Cyrus Jones and Landon Collins continue to make an impact on a weekly basis. Eddie Jackson makes an appearance after collecting a sack from the Javier Arenas Corner Rush Package. Not shown is Jonathan Allen, who made the deciding play in the game after blocking the extra point on Arkansas’ first touchdown.

Sorry this one ran so long, there was a lot to talk about this week. Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!

ROLL TIDE