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Charting the Tide, Defense and Special Teams | Texas A&M Aggies

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Three pick-sixes! Three!

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

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

But first, why don’t we watch Eddie Jackson’s lovely pick-six again!

That was a thing of beauty, folks. Aside from the inherent difficulty of taking a ball 93 yards to the house, just look at some of the blocking on this play. Cyrus Jones’ two blocks were so exquisite even Uncle Verne noticed them in real-time. Reggie Ragland trucked an offensive lineman, which is always fun, and someone whose number I can’t make out sealed off speedy Christian Kirk just enough to keep Jackson running free until Jones could finish the job down the field. Jackson broke more than a few ankles along the way, including the rather comical situation immortalized in the image above, wherein Kyle Allen appears to be pleading for mercy as Jackson speeds by on his way to the end zone. I love pick sixes.[1]

1 | When Alabama’s returning them, that is.

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.
aTm
2015
Season
Total PBUs STFs INTs Sacks FFs BKs Total
Fitzpatrick, Minkah 2 6 1 2 2 --- 1 12
Humphrey, Marlon 3 8 2 1 --- 1 --- 12
Allen, Jonathan 5 2 2 --- 5 1 --- 10
Jackson, Eddie 4 2 1 5 --- 1 --- 9
Reed, Jarran 1 3 3 --- 1 --- --- 7

Observations

Jackson and Minkah Fitzpatrick deservedly got the headlines after this one, with the former adding a second pick and two other defensed passes on the day, and the latter taking two interceptions to the house, including the game-clincher late in the fourth — he was named Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.[2] Somewhat overshadowed was the absolute monster of a game put up by Jonathan Allen, who tallied 2 sacks, 2 stuffs, and forced a fumble in addition to all of his disruption that didn’t show up on the stat sheet. Marlon Humphrey broke up three passes of his own, including a near-pick late in the third where the redshirt freshman couldn’t quite get a handle on the ball inbounds. Fellow freshman Ronnie Harrison notched a defensed pass of his own, and added one of the Tide’s six sacks as well. The balance of those went to Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, and Ragland,[3] while Da’Shawn Hand, Jarran Reed, and Jones added a stuff apiece. Finally, Reuben Foster added his fourth pass-breakup of the year, albeit on a pass that might have become Jackson’s third interception otherwise. All told, the Tide defense compiled 23 (!) disruptive plays in this game, by far their best output of the season.

2 | Which also appeared to include a blown coverage on one of A&M’s few big pass plays, but he’s a freshman, so that’s OK!

3 | This one was particularly great, as Ragland chased Allen down from behind and just got him by the ankles to notch the sack.

Overall Defensive Performance

Quarter Breakdown
Metric 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
Plays 19 107 22 136 13 94 11 33
S. Rate 26.3% 32.7% 45.5% 28.7% 23.1% 21.3% 36.4% 30.3%
iPPP 1.0 0.8 1.1 1.0 1.8 1.5 1.6 2.0
Pass % 66.7% 50.5% 63.6% 65.4% 80.0% 71.6% 80.0% 60.0%
P. S. Rate 25.0% 32.1% 57.1% 31.8% 25.0% 25.4% 37.5% 38.9%
P. iPPP 1.4 1.1 1.2 1.1 2.6 1.8 1.6 2.4
Rush % 33.3% 49.5% 36.4% 34.6% 20.0% 28.4% 20.0% 40.0%
R. S. Rate 33.3% 34.6% 25.0% 26.7% 50.0% 16.0% 50.0% 25.0%
R. iPPP 0.5 0.5 0.7 0.7 0.4 0.5 1.5 1.1

Observations

Thanks to a combination of uneven offensive play and some special teams magic for the Aggies, an almost entirely dominant defensive performance produced just one garbage time drive — A&M’s final effort of the day, after Fitzpatrick’s second pick-six made the score 41-23. Aside from a couple of drives in the second where the Aggies were able to put together some sustained offense, the Tide kept success rates low throughout, with the Aggies managing just under a 34% rate for the game. iPPPs are relatively high as most of the Aggies’ successful plays ended up being completions in excess of 10 yards. Rushing success rates are a bit misleading here, as the Aggies only ran the ball successfully six times across 19 attempts, with the long gain of 18 coming on an Allen coverage scramble after the game had been decided.

Formation / Playcall Breakdown
Call Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
Shotgun 58 89.2% 78.4% 32.8% 27.9% 1.4 1.2
Pistol 7 10.8% 2.7% 42.9% 50.0% 0.4 0.6
Under Center 0 0.0% 18.4% --- 26.5% --- 0.9
No Huddle 46 70.8% 50.0% 26.1% 28.1% 1.5 1.2
Huddled 19 29.2% 50.0% 52.6% 28.1% 1.0 1.0
Play Action 14 21.5% 14.1% 42.9% 42.3% 1.3 1.5

Observations

Texas A&M almost exclusively lined up out of the gun, with a handful of Pistol alignments thrown in for fun. Overall they were slightly more successful than the typical Tide opponent from the gun, putting up a success rate 5% higher than the Tide’s seasonal average, with a similarly-slim edge in iPPP as well.

Despite being perhaps the most lethal HUNH team the Tide have to deal with in the SEC, this defense held the Aggies to just a 26% success rate on no-huddle plays, below their seasonal average and surely below A&M’s as well. As noted earlier most of the successful plays for the Aggies were longer pass completions, which inflates their iPPP on the no-huddle plays accordingly. Texas A&M’s play-action pass game is a little different from your old-school fake handoffs out of the I formation, but they still ran that on over a fifth of their plays, and put up average numbers in the context of the Tide’s defensive performance on the year.

Personnel Breakdown
Group Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
10 39 60.0% 30.6% 33.3% 27.4% 1.2 1.1
20 14 21.5% 10.3% 28.6% 31.6% 1.8 2.2
00 10 15.4% 11.1% 50.0% 29.3% 1.0 1.0
11 2 3.1% 25.5% 0.0% 25.5% --- 0.9
21 0 0.0% 12.7% --- 31.9% --- 1.0

Observations

The Aggies don’t use tight ends much, with only two of their 65 competitive snaps featuring an additional big ugly on the line. Their most explosive grouping was 20 personnel, although that was also their least successful. The bread-and-butter was four wides with Tra Carson in the backfield, which they ran on 60% of their plays with middling results. Based on this small sample, they probably would have been better off running more plays with an empty backfield, as that was by far their most successful personnel grouping and one that produced decent value per iPPP.

Down and Distance Matrix
Distance Metric Down
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
Short
(0-3 Yds)
Plays 1 2 0 10 2 21 0 3
S. Rate 100.0% 50.0% --- 60.0% 100.0% 47.6% --- 66.7%
iPPP 0.4 0.4 --- 1.8 1.3 1.3 --- 0.2
Medium
(4-6 Yds)
Plays 0 2 7 27 6 26 0 1
S. Rate --- 50.0% 0.0% 14.8% 50.0% 38.5% --- 0.0%
iPPP --- 0.6 --- 0.7 1.8 1.1 --- ---
Long
(7-10 Yds)
Plays 27 133 11 62 8 36 0 1
S. Rate 40.7% 29.3% 18.2% 25.8% 25.0% 13.9% --- 0.0%
iPPP 0.8 0.9 2.7 1.2 1.6 1.4 --- ---
Very Long
(11+ Yds)
Plays 1 12 1 21 1 13 0 0
S. Rate 100.0% 8.3% 0.0% 28.6% 0.0% 23.1% --- ---
iPPP 2.1 2.1 --- 1.2 --- 1.7 --- ---

Observations

The Tide pass rush bothered Allen and Murray the entire game, with the Aggies putting up a middling 23% success rate on passing downs.[4] Unfortunately, continuing what seems to be a multi-year trend at this point, the Aggies averaged nearly 21 yards a successful play in these situations, including their longest of the day, a 44-yarder to Ricky Seals-Jones in the third quarter. As long as those big gainers aren’t chained together, and aren’t of the 93-yard-interception-return-for-a-touchdown variety,[5] you can live with a few big plays here and there with such a low success rate.

4 | Second downs with 8+ yards to go, or third and fourth downs with 5+ yards to go.

5 | *snicker*

Front Seven Performance

Rush Splits by Down, Distance, and Direction
Metric Attempts Rush % S. Rate iPPP LY/Att.
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
All Carries 14 30.0% 38.0% 42.9% 35.2% 0.3 0.2 3.3 2.4
1st Down 10 37.9% 49.7% 50.0% 23.0% 0.5 0.5 3.9 2.4
2nd Down 4 33.3% 34.5% 0.0% 28.1% --- 0.8 1.7 2.5
3rd Down 0 7.7% 20.5% --- 33.3% --- 0.2 --- 1.4
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
0 33.3% 60.0% --- 47.1% --- 0.2 --- 1.0
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
1 18.2% 34.6% 0.0% 7.1% --- 1.2 3.0 2.0
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
13 34.9% 38.3% 38.5% 25.0% 0.5 0.7 3.3 2.6
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
0 0.0% 22.7% --- 33.3% --- 0.9 --- 4.5
Left
End
3 21.4% 13.3% 33.3% 35.7% 0.9 0.6 3.7 3.0
Left
Tackle
2 14.3% 8.6% 50.0% 44.4% 0.5 0.6 1.1 2.2
Middle 3 21.4% 45.7% 0.0% 10.4% --- 0.4 2.7 1.8
Right
Tackle
1 7.1% 19.0% 0.0% 30.0% --- 0.5 3.0 2.7
Right
End
5 35.7% 13.3% 60.0% 57.1% 0.4 0.6 4.3 3.1

Observations

Another opponent, another middling performance on the ground. Running the ball is not exactly A&M’s specialty, but their rushing offense was fairly well-regarded coming in, at least in terms of efficiency. The Tide put a stop to that, however, holding the Aggies to just 55 yards on designed runs. A full fifth of that came on one play, a sweep with Kirk that picked up 11 yards in the second quarter. Aggie backs averaged just 3.2 yards a carry in competitive time, and you’ll happily take that any time it’s offered.

Opposing RB Performance
Metric Attempts Opp. Rate Hlt. Yds. / Opp. RBR
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
All Carries 14 35.7% 23.0% 1.4 2.5 0.5 0.6
1st Down 10 50.0% 25.4% 1.4 1.4 0.7 0.4
2nd Down 4 0.0% 22.6% --- 5.0 --- 1.1
3rd Down 0 --- 12.5% --- 0.5 --- 0.1
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
0 --- 0.0% --- --- --- ---
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
1 0.0% 15.4% --- 4.8 --- 0.7
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
13 38.5% 25.0% 1.4 2.2 0.5 0.6
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
0 --- 66.7% --- 2.5 --- 1.7
Left
End
3 33.3% 28.6% 4.0 3.6 1.3 1.0
Left
Tackle
2 50.0% 33.3% 0.5 3.7 0.3 1.2
Middle 3 0.0% 6.8% --- 3.3 --- 0.2
Right
Tackle
1 0.0% 35.0% --- 0.9 --- 0.3
Right
End
5 60.0% 46.2% 0.8 2.6 0.5 1.2

Observations

Aside from Kirk’s sweep around the left end mentioned on the previous chart, there’s just not much here to talk about. Smothered’s a good word.

Secondary Performance

Opponent Quarterback Performance
Air Yards Metric Left Middle Right Totals
7 13 20 40
Behind
L.O.S
Comp. % 1/1 (100.0%) 2/2 (100.0%) 1/2 (50.0%) 5
S. Rate 100.0% 0.0% 0.0%
iPPP 0.6 --- ---
0-5
Yards
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 2/4 (50.0%) 1/2 (50.0%) 6
S. Rate --- 50.0% 50.0%
iPPP --- 0.7 0.3
6-10
Yards
Comp. % 0/1 (0.0%) 2/3 (66.7%) 2/3 (66.7%) 7
S. Rate 0.0% 33.3% 66.7%
iPPP --- 1.2 0.8
11-15
Yards
Comp. % 1/3 (33.3%) 1/3 (33.3%) 1/3 (33.3%) 9
S. Rate 33.3% 33.3% 33.3%
iPPP 1.4 1.1 1.7
16+ Yards
Comp. % 1/2 (50.0%) 0/1 (0.0%) 5/10 (50.0%) 13
S. Rate 50.0% 0.0% 50.0%
iPPP 4.7 --- 1.9

Observations

We knew, despite however well the secondary might have played,[7] that the Aggies were going to get theirs through the air, with matchup nightmares across the field and a still-promising prospect at quarterback in Allen. And they did, tallying nine completions of 15 yards or more. Unfortunately for them, the Tide defensed 11 total passes in this one, including the four interceptions, and when you’re getting that quality of ball-hawking it’s going to take sustained big-play success from the opponent to make a difference — Texas A&M simply couldn’t put that together in this one. Hard to get mad about completions to 6’4” and 6’5” guys being covered by 6’-ish freshmen, anyhow.

7 | They played really well, in case you hadn’t picked up on that yet.

Pass Splits by Down and Distance
Metric Attempts Pass % S. Rate iPPP
VS.
aTm
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
VS.
aTm
2015
Season
All Passes 42 70.0% 62.0% 38.1% 30.6% 1.5 1.4
1st 18 62.1% 50.3% 44.4% 33.8% 1.1 1.2
2nd 12 66.7% 79.5% 16.7% 28.4% 2.7 1.5
3rd 12 92.3% 65.5% 50.0% 30.0% 1.6 1.5
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
2 66.7% 40.0% 100.0% 71.4% 0.7 2.1
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
9 81.8% 65.4% 33.3% 35.3% 1.8 1.1
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
28 65.1% 61.7% 35.7% 27.7% 1.4 1.3
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
3 100.0% 77.3% 33.3% 20.6% 2.1 1.6

Observations

Third down passing success rate was pretty high, but again, huge receivers against inexperienced, not-so-huge defensive backs. Aside from going two-for-two passing on shorter downs, the Aggies were successful on more or less every third pass attempt, regardless of distance to go.

Special Teams Performance

Punts and Kickoffs Performance
Metric ALABAMA TEXAS A&M
Punt Hangtime 4.28s 4.39s
Gross Points per Punt 4.49 4.17
Net Points per Punt 2.32 3.59
Kickoff Hangtime 4.17s 3.83s
Gross Points per Kickoff 6.37 6.10
Net Points per Kickoff 3.64 3.93

Observations

This is one of those classic good news / bad news situations. The good news? Adam Griffith drilled all seven of his placements, and did a fine job keeping it out of Kirk’s hands on kickoffs. The bad news? The Aggies blocked one punt from J.K. Scott, and Kirk returned another one for a touchdown. The good news? The old Scott may be back, as he averaged over 48 yards a punt, and was mere feet away from pinning the Aggies deep in their own territory on several occasions. The bad news? Jones turned it over on one of his punt returns, and Damien Harris badly mishandled an admittedly-tricky kickoff that almost cost the Tide big. Special teams was really the only thing that kept this game from getting truly ugly, as aside from the aforementioned gaffes that went in favor of the Aggies, Drew Kaser had a strong day overall, and Taylor Bertolet hit two 50+ yard field goals to keep the Aggies within range early on.

ROLL TIDE