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Charting the Tide, Defense and Special Teams | Arkansas Razorbacks

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For the second week in a row, an elite Tide defense suffocates a quality offense

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Connelly invented all of this; check out his college football analytics blog, Football Study Hall.

But first, a brief but impactful word from human cannonball, Reuben Foster:

Brandon Allen was running for his life for most of this game. That may not show up much in the charts below, as he’s developed a real pocket awareness in his third year as a starter, but the Tide’s ability to get pressure seriously impacted what was the nation’s most efficient passing offense coming in to the game.

The best part about the play above, though? It was completely clean, and it made some Razorbacks fan sitting near an ESPN mic really, REALLY mad.

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.
  • 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, stuffs (tackles for loss on a ballcarrier, as opposed to a QB on a pass play), blocked kicks/punts, passes defensed/broken up, interceptions, and forced fumbles. Think of these as things that got you multiple helmet stickers when you were playing peewee.
  • Distance Splits — Aside from the quarterback performance chart (which is in terms of Air Yards), all distances refer to the yardage to go for that particular down, not how much yardage would be required for a successful play (see Success Rate).
  • Percent of Total 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.
  • Pass Direction — One the quarterback performance chart, the pass directions (left, middle, right) refer to the third of the field the ball was thrown to, as defined by the hash marks, relative to the direction the offense is moving (i.e., from the quarterback's perspective). 'Left' throws are to the leftmost third, 'middle' throws are to the area between the hashes, and so on.
  • 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 50% of required yardage on first down, 70% 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.
  • YAC — Passing Yards After Catch, the amount of yardage gained by the receiver after catching a pass. YAC + Air Yards = Passing Yards.
  • iPPPIsolated Points Per Play, the amount of Net Equivalent Points gained per successful play. This is the best explosiveness metric the advanced stats community currently has; read more about it here.
  • Line Yards — The number of rushing yards on every run attributable to the offensive line’s efforts. Read more about it here.
  • Highlight Yards — The number of rushing yards on every run attributable to the running back’s efforts. Line Yards + Highlight Yards = Rushing Yards. Read more about it here.
  • Opportunity Rate — The percentage of carries where the back has an opportunity to accrue Highlight Yards; read more about it here.
  • Running Back Rating (RBR) — An overall quality metric for running backs, this is the product of Opportunity Rate and Highlight Yards per Opportunity.

Individual Performance

Disruptive Plays
Player VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
Total PBUs STFs INTs Sacks FFs BKs Total
Fitzpatrick, Minkah 2 6 1 --- 2 --- 1 10
Humphrey, Marlon 1 5 2 1 --- 1 --- 9
Reed, Jarran 1 3 2 --- 1 --- --- 6
Allen, Jonathan --- 2 --- --- 3 --- --- 5
Devall, Denzel --- 1 3 --- 1 --- --- 5

Observations

Last season, this chart was topped by Cyrus Jones, but as nobody throws toward him anymore he does not have many opportunities to make big plays. Instead teams are targeting Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and typically that ends up being a mistake. Fitzpatrick collected two more pass breakups against Arkansas, and now leads the team on the season with six. Humphrey added one of his own, and he’s just behind Fitzpatrick with five on the year. Jarran Reed continues to be the most productive of the Tide’s unmatched stable of defensive linemen, notching a stuff among his pile of tackles. Dalvin Tomlinson knocked down yet another pass at the line this week, and Foster caused an incompletion with a leaping tip of a ball mid-flight in the fourth quarter. Eddie Jackson intercepted a pass for the second week in a row, and Tim Williams and Rashaan Evans picked up a sack apiece.

And then, there was Reggie Ragland.

The future first-round NFL draft pick had an outstanding game, picking up a sack and a forced fumble on the stat sheet, but affecting the game in a number of ways that aren’t easily quantified. In an effort reminiscent of Rolando McClain’s finest games at the Capstone, Ragland matched wits with a savvy veteran quarterback in Allen, consistently making the right calls to position the defense to take away anything Arkansas tried to do.[1] He was seemingly involved in every pileup, pulling the same omnipresence routine that characterized the tenure of his immediate predecessor, C.J. Mosley. With all due respect to Jones, Reed, and A’Shawn Robinson, Ragland is the best player on arguably the finest defense in the country, and his continued high level of play is critical to the Tide maintaining that status.

1 | He does this every week, but it seemed particularly notable this week.

Overall Defensive Performance

Quarter Breakdown
Metric 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
Plays 7 88 18 114 19 81 8 22
S. Rate 14.3% 34.1% 27.8% 25.4% 15.8% 21.0% 0.0% 27.3%
iPPP 1.1 0.8 0.7 0.9 1.1 1.5 --- 2.3
Pass % 57.1% 47.1% 58.8% 65.7% 52.6% 70.5% 66.7% 50.0%
P. S. Rate 25.0% 34.1% 30.0% 26.8% 20.0% 25.5% 0.0% 40.0%
P. iPPP 1.1 1.0 0.9 1.0 1.5 1.7 --- 3.1
Rush % 42.9% 52.9% 41.2% 34.3% 47.4% 29.5% 33.3% 50.0%
R. S. Rate 0.0% 34.8% 28.6% 27.0% 11.1% 13.0% 0.0% 20.0%
R. iPPP --- 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.4 0.6 --- 0.9

Observations

A thoroughly frustrating performance from the officials the Tide offense kept this game close throughout, with a lone Razorbacks drive late in the fourth occurring during garbage time. Aside from a few decent scrambles from Allen in the second quarter, the vaunted Razorbacks rushing offense was absolutely smothered, putting up goose eggs in the first and fourth quarters. In fact, those scrambles were two of Arkansas’ three successful rushes on the evening, with a five-yarder from Alex Collins in the third quarter the only one that came from the backs.

The pass game wasn’t much better, although that’s where the majority of Arkansas’ meager production originated. Success rates were low throughout the game, but the handful of successful completions went for big yardage. The 54 yard cluster@%*! touchdown in the fourth came on the aforementioned garbage time drive, so it is not reflected here.

Formation / Playcall Breakdown
Call Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
Shotgun 29 55.8% 76.1% 13.8% 26.7% 1.1 1.1
Pistol 0 0.0% 1.0% --- 66.7% --- 0.8
Under Center 23 44.2% 22.3% 21.7% 26.5% 0.7 0.9
No Huddle 7 13.5% 45.6% 14.3% 28.8% 1.4 1.1
Huddled 45 86.5% 54.4% 17.8% 25.3% 0.8 1.0
Play Action 6 11.5% 12.5% 33.3% 42.1% 1.0 1.6

Observations

Much like the Tide’s opponent from a week ago, Arkansas is a throwback offense that likes to work out from under center, and sure enough 44% of their snaps saw Allen just behind the line of scrimmage. Regardless of where he lined up, the Razorbacks were held to lower success rates and iPPPs than the Tide’s averages, including a putrid 13.8% success rate on shotgun snaps.

Unlike Georgia, Arkansas likes to huddle, and did so on about 87% of their plays. There were two drives in the second half where they started running a hurry-up, but it was only an improvement on the one play that was actually successful. Play action passes were where a majority of the passing production came from; if only six attempts seems low, that’s because almost all of Allen’s scrambles and sacks came off aborted play action attempts.

Personnel Breakdown
Group Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
11 21 41.2% 30.3% 9.5% 26.1% 1.0 0.9
21 10 19.6% 15.5% 20.0% 31.9% 1.0 1.0
10 9 17.6% 24.3% 22.2% 24.3% 1.1 1.0
12 6 11.8% 6.6% 16.7% 25.0% 0.4 0.8
22 3 5.9% 2.0% 33.3% 50.0% 0.5 1.1

Observations

Arkansas spent about a quarter of the game in two-back sets, but over half their looks were 10 and 11 personnel. Surprisingly, most of the game was spent with only one player aligned as a tight end, which is certainly not what I was expecting.[2] Regardless, the fact their most frequent alignment came complete with a single-digit success rate probably tells you all you need to know about how this one went, but we’ll break it all down anyway.

2 | They did go three tight ends once, but sadly never went with four.

Down and Distance Matrix
Distance Metric Down
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
Short
(0-3 Yds)
Plays 0 1 0 10 1 19 0 3
S. Rate --- 0.0% --- 60.0% 100.0% 42.1% --- 66.7%
iPPP --- --- --- 1.8 0.5 1.3 --- 0.2
Medium
(4-6 Yds)
Plays 0 2 4 20 5 20 1 1
S. Rate --- 50.0% 25.0% 20.0% 40.0% 35.0% 0.0% 0.0%
iPPP --- 0.6 0.5 0.7 0.9 0.8 --- ---
Long
(7-10 Yds)
Plays 17 106 9 51 7 28 0 1
S. Rate 17.6% 26.4% 11.1% 27.5% 0.0% 10.7% --- 0.0%
iPPP 1.0 1.0 0.7 1.0 --- 1.3 --- ---
Very Long
(11+ Yds)
Plays 2 11 4 20 2 12 0 0
S. Rate 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 30.0% 50.0% 25.0% --- ---
iPPP --- --- --- 1.2 1.5 1.7 --- ---

Observations

Arkansas only attempted a play on fourth down once, the ill-advised fake punt that was wrecked when Michael Nysewander beat his blocker and sealed the edge. Arkansas was but 4/15 on third downs in competitive time,[3] which continued a second week of strong play on that down for the Tide. Shockingly enough, Arkansas wasn’t very successful on first or second down, either. Or on long yardage. Or on medium yardage, or on…

3 | Kudos to whoever suggested “competitive snaps” last week… Roscoe, I think?

Front Seven Performance

Rush Splits by Down, Distance, and Direction
Metric Attempts Rush % S. Rate iPPP LY/Att.
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
All Carries 17 42.9% 39.6% 17.6% 34.1% 0.1 0.2 2.1 2.2
1st Down 10 55.6% 52.5% 10.0% 17.6% 0.4 0.5 2.2 2.2
2nd Down 6 41.2% 34.7% 0.0% 32.1% --- 0.8 1.8 2.6
3rd Down 0 23.1% 22.7% --- 33.3% --- 0.2 --- 1.4
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
0 0.0% 62.5% --- 47.1% --- 0.2 --- 1.0
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
4 50.0% 39.0% 0.0% 7.7% --- 1.2 1.3 2.0
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
12 50.0% 39.1% 8.3% 21.8% 0.4 0.7 2.2 2.4
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
1 12.5% 24.4% 0.0% 33.3% --- 0.9 4.0 4.5
Left
End
3 17.6% 12.1% 0.0% 36.4% --- 0.5 1.9 2.8
Left
Tackle
1 5.9% 7.7% 0.0% 42.9% --- 0.7 2.0 2.5
Middle 9 52.9% 49.5% 0.0% 11.1% --- 0.4 2.0 1.8
Right
Tackle
4 23.5% 20.9% 25.0% 31.6% 0.4 0.5 2.4 2.7
Right
End
0 0.0% 9.9% --- 55.6% --- 0.7 --- 2.4

Observations

The much-ballyhooed[4] Razorbacks offensive line got their butts whipped Saturday night. In addition to a fierce pass rush that notched three sacks[5] and flushed Allen from the pocket numerous times also completely strangled the running game, with the only decent gains coming when rushing was the last thing Arkansas needed to be doing. Nine of Arkansas’ rushing attempts were straight up the middle, which teams are attempting about 50% of the time against the Tide. Can’t tell you why, because only one in nine attempts up the middle is successful against the Tide. Why continue to do things that don’t work, when you have much more successful and explosive options around the ends? Boggles the mind. I mean, keep it up SEC! It’ll start working soon, promise!

4 | Ok, some of that ballyhooing came from me.

5 | How great is it that this happens basically every game now?

Opposing RB Performance
Metric Attempts Opp. Rate Hlt. Yds. / Opp. RBR
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
All Carries 17 5.9% 20.9% 0.5 2.8 0.0 0.6
1st Down 10 10.0% 20.4% 0.5 1.5 0.1 0.3
2nd Down 6 0.0% 25.9% --- 5.0 --- 1.3
3rd Down 0 --- 12.5% --- 0.5 --- 0.1
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
0 --- 0.0% --- --- --- ---
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
4 0.0% 16.7% --- 4.8 --- 0.8
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
12 8.3% 21.8% 0.5 2.5 0.0 0.6
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
1 0.0% 66.7% --- 2.5 --- 1.7
Left
End
3 0.0% 27.3% --- 3.5 --- 1.0
Left
Tackle
1 0.0% 28.6% --- 5.3 --- 1.5
Middle 9 0.0% 7.3% --- 3.3 --- 0.2
Right
Tackle
4 25.0% 36.8% 0.5 0.9 0.1 0.3
Right
End
0 --- 37.5% --- 4.3 --- 1.6

Observations

Lots of zeroes and ---s. What else can you really say?

Secondary Performance

Opponent Quarterback Performance
Air Yards Metric Left Middle Right Totals
6 6 13 25
Behind
L.O.S
Comp. % 1/1 (100.0%) 0/0 (---) 4/4 (100.0%) 5
S. Rate 0.0% --- 25.0%
iPPP --- --- 0.5
0-5
Yards
Comp. % 2/3 (66.7%) 1/2 (50.0%) 2/3 (66.7%) 8
S. Rate 33.3% 50.0% 0.0%
iPPP 1.4 0.5 ---
6-10
Yards
Comp. % 0/2 (0.0%) 0/1 (0.0%) 0/1 (0.0%) 4
S. Rate 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
iPPP --- --- ---
11-15
Yards
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 1/2 (50.0%) 1/3 (33.3%) 5
S. Rate --- 50.0% 33.3%
iPPP --- 1.1 1.5
16+ Yards
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 1/1 (100.0%) 0/2 (0.0%) 3
S. Rate --- 100.0% 0.0%
iPPP --- 1.5 ---

Observations

For all the griping about Humphrey,[6] the big difference between this defense and the 2013-2014 editions is the coverage ability of the secondary, which appears to be getting better every week. Most of Allen’s completions came on the high-percentage short stuff, but many of those were snuffed out before they could gain more than a few yards. The intermediate throws over the middle are still there,[7] but until a team constructs their entire offense around those throws, It’s not something to be too concerned about. The garbage time TD was a combination of heady pocket awareness from Allen, Williams stumbling on his way to a second sack, the Hogs offensive line holding multiple players back from the same, and Humphrey being just far enough out of position to make tackling the fairly large Dominique Reed difficult.

6 | He’s a freshman seeing a lot of targets due to Jones’ excellence on the other side — give it a rest, people.

7 | A correlation on those was Geno Smith approaching the receiver from five yards away. Not saying it’s a breakdown on his part, just… saying.

Pass Splits by Down and Distance
Metric Attempts Pass % S. Rate iPPP
VS.
ARKY
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
VS.
ARKY
2015
Season
All Passes 28 57.1% 60.4% 21.4% 28.8% 1.1 1.4
1st 8 44.4% 47.5% 25.0% 30.4% 1.3 1.3
2nd 10 58.8% 77.3% 10.0% 30.6% 0.5 1.4
3rd 10 76.9% 65.3% 30.0% 25.9% 1.1 1.5
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
1 100.0% 37.5% 100.0% 66.7% 0.5 2.5
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
5 50.0% 61.0% 40.0% 36.0% 1.0 0.8
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
15 50.0% 60.9% 13.3% 25.7% 1.3 1.2
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
7 87.5% 75.6% 14.3% 19.4% 1.5 1.6

Observations

The one throw on short yardage was successful, and a couple of the tweener downs were as well, but all in all the Tide secondary had the Razorbacks receivers in a chokehold[8] all game. You’d like to see the 30% success rate on third down throws be 0%, but honestly if this defense can get to 30 or less in that metric every week, nobody is beating the Tide this season.

8 | Not literally, of course, although Fitzpatrick may have gotten away with pass interference once or twice.

Special Teams Performance

Punts and Kickoffs Performance
Metric ALABAMA ARKANSAS
Punt Hangtime 4.36s 4.31s
Gross Points per Punt 4.25 3.68
Net Points per Punt 3.99 3.36
Kickoff Hangtime 4.13s 4.12s
Gross Points per Kickoff 6.30 5.55
Net Points per Kickoff 3.82 3.40

Observations

Aside from Ragland’s excellence and multi-week explosion of greatness that is Calvin Ridley, the big story from this game was the (hopefully permanent) return of the J.K. Scott from last season. Scott started to get the length back against ULM, and continued that this week by booting his fourth and fifth punts in excess of 50 yards on the year, with the 55 yarder on his first punt of the game being his most valuable so far in 2015. His numbers would be even better up there if not for the ball Jeremy Sprinkle tipped, which still almost landed inside the 20 yard line. Punt coverage didn’t have to do much, but the one return from D.J. Dean went for just 11 yards, despite the fact Scott kicked it well ahead of his coverage on that one. Jones mostly called for fair catches, but the few he did return gained decent yardage, including a beautiful twisting, slashing 27 yarder on his final opportunity of the evening.

Adam Griffith continued his steady production on kickoffs, with the one “poor” kick coming after Ridley’s phantom unsportsmanlike penalty[9] pushed the kickoff back to the Tide 20. The Tide kick returners only got two opportunities on short kicks, and got out beyond the 25 on both.

9 | Maybe phantom, they sure didn’t show anything on the telecast that warranted a flag.

ROLL TIDE