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Charting the Tide, Defense and Special Teams | LSU Tigers

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Defense and special teams won the day in perhaps their most dominant performance of the season

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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

But first, perhaps A’Shawn Robinson should go out for track and field

You know, for the high jump:

Yeah, that’s a 310 pound man jumping clear over another very large human being, essentially from a standstill. In your illustrious career as a football fan, and perhaps as a football player, you’ve undoubtedly seen your fair share of stunningly athletic plays, both from players in crimson jerseys and in those of other, less distinguished colors. You are unlikely, however, to see something that awe-inspiring again, unless Mr. Robinson elects to block more kicks during the remainder of this season or in his future career terrorizing the NFL.

This, incidentally enough, was the last play LSU would run against the Tide on Saturday,[1] and it was representative of the general futility we’re going to revel in over the course of this piece. Good snap, good hold, good kick, and none of it mattered because of the talent and execution of the athletes on the other side of the line.

1 | Second to last, if you count the ensuing kickoff.

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.
LSU
2015
Season
Total PBUs STFs INTs Sacks FFs BKs Total
Fitzpatrick, Minkah --- 7 1 2 2 --- 1 13
Humphrey, Marlon --- 8 2 1 --- 1 --- 12
Allen, Jonathan --- 2 2 --- 6 1 --- 11
Jackson, Eddie 1 2 2 5 --- 1 --- 10
Foster, Reuben --- 5 2 --- 1 --- --- 8

Observations

The Tide notched quite a few disruptive plays in this one, but they came from less-prolific sources than usual. LSU’s offensive identity pushed Minkah Fitzpatrick into primarily special teams duty, as there was little need for a nickel corner. Marlon Humphrey had a mostly quiet game outside of a stunning one-on-one takedown of Leonard Fournette that wasn’t quite deep enough in the backfield to accrue a Stuff. Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster played well, but were unable to get on the board this week.

Instead the big winner was Robinson, who added a pass break-up and two stuffs to his blocked kick to lead the Tide defense with four disruptive plays on the evening. Eddie Jackson, Reggie Ragland, and Dalvin Tomlinson all added stuffs of Fournette, with Tim Williams managing to get the Tide’s only sack of Brandon Harris in the game. Finally, perhaps the biggest play of the game goes to oft-forgotten Dillon Lee, who became the first player to intercept Harris this season on the first defensive play of the second half. The Tide proceeded to score a touchdown on the ensuing drive to push the score to 20-10, thus providing the winning points in the game.

Overall Defensive Performance

Quarter Breakdown
Metric 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
Plays 9 138 15 169 13 120 0 43
S. Rate 11.1% 33.3% 33.3% 29.6% 7.7% 23.3% --- 32.6%
iPPP 2.4 0.9 1.6 1.0 0.8 1.3 --- 2.0
Pass % 37.5% 48.9% 53.3% 61.7% 50.0% 65.5% --- 57.9%
P. S. Rate 33.3% 35.4% 25.0% 31.0% 16.7% 25.7% --- 45.5%
P. iPPP 2.4 1.2 2.7 1.1 0.8 1.7 --- 2.3
Rush % 62.5% 51.1% 46.7% 38.3% 50.0% 34.5% --- 42.1%
R. S. Rate 0.0% 33.8% 42.9% 30.6% 0.0% 23.1% --- 25.0%
R. iPPP --- 0.6 0.9 0.8 --- 0.5 --- 1.2

Observations

Among the many shocking occurrences in this game was the fact it was over by the fourth quarter, as LSU’s lone two drives in the final frame occurred with the margin in excess of 16 points. Prior to that they managed just 37 offensive plays, which is partially a result of their abhorrence of hurry-up football but more directly due to the Tide’s enormous time of possession advantage, which was roughtly 2:1 by the end of the game.

A few things jump out here — for one, the 7.7% overall success rate in the third quarter is among the lowest allowed by the Tide this season, and continues a season-long trend of dominance coming out of the half. Note almost all of LSU’s offensive production came on just a few completed passes that unfortunately went for big yardage. The converse to that, of course, is putrid results running the ball, as LSU was shut out in the first and third quarters, and put together just a few successful runs in the second.

Formation / Playcall Breakdown
Call Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
LSU
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
Shotgun 21 56.8% 78.7% 23.8% 30.0% 1.9 1.2
Pistol 1 2.7% 3.2% 0.0% 46.7% --- 0.6
Under Center 15 40.5% 17.7% 13.3% 24.1% 0.7 0.9
No Huddle 1 2.7% 48.9% 0.0% 31.3% --- 1.2
Huddled 36 97.3% 51.1% 19.4% 27.5% 1.6 1.1
Play Action 6 16.2% 13.8% 16.7% 41.5% 1.0 1.6

Observations

”Old-school” is an excellent way to describe LSU’s offense. For example, Harris lined up under center on over 40% of LSU’s competitive snaps; the only other team to do so more often against the Tide was Arkansas. They also ran just a single play where they did not huddle; it did not work. Decent number of play-action passes, but they too were not very successful. Low success rates will be a theme in this piece, but note the sky-high iPPPs on Shotgun and Huddled plays. The only reason LSU was ever in this game was some explosiveness in the passing game.

Personnel Breakdown
Group Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
LSU
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
11 9 25.0% 31.0% 33.3% 31.7% 0.9 1.0
21 8 22.2% 11.8% 12.5% 29.1% 1.0 1.0
22 8 22.2% 3.0% 0.0% 21.4% --- 1.1
10 7 19.4% 27.6% 14.3% 27.9% 4.5 1.1
20 2 5.6% 9.6% 50.0% 31.1% 2.4 2.1

Observations

LSU dialed up two-back sets on over 50% of their competitive snaps, usually in some variant of the I-formation. The 4.5 iPPP in the 10 personnel row is pretty eye-popping, as is the 2.4 next to 20 personnel. The best personnel nugget from this game, though? The holy grail occurred on a 3rd and 1 in the second quarter — Darrell Williams was the lone set back behind Harris, who was under center. There were no wide receivers to be found. That’s right, LSU ran a play with four players lined up as a tight end/additional lineman. It was as beautiful as it was successful.

Down and Distance Matrix
Distance Metric Down
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
Short
(0-3 Yds)
Plays 0 2 0 12 2 25 0 3
S. Rate --- 50.0% --- 66.7% 50.0% 52.0% --- 66.7%
iPPP --- 0.4 --- 1.4 0.5 1.1 --- 0.2
Medium
(4-6 Yds)
Plays 0 2 2 32 1 30 0 1
S. Rate --- 50.0% 50.0% 18.8% 0.0% 43.3% --- 0.0%
iPPP --- 0.6 0.5 0.7 --- 1.0 --- ---
Long
(7-10 Yds)
Plays 16 174 7 80 4 45 0 1
S. Rate 12.5% 29.9% 0.0% 25.0% 25.0% 15.6% --- 0.0%
iPPP 1.3 1.0 --- 1.3 0.8 1.3 --- ---
Very Long
(11+ Yds)
Plays 0 15 2 29 3 19 0 0
S. Rate --- 6.7% 50.0% 31.0% 33.3% 26.3% --- ---
iPPP --- 2.1 4.5 1.6 2.4 1.9 --- ---

Observations

LSU lined up for 16 plays on first down, and were successful on just two of them. They lined up for 11 second down plays, and were successful on just two of them. They lined up for 10 third down plays, and were successful on just three of them.[2] That’s seven total successful plays in three quarters. There’s a whole slew of words you could use to describe that. I’m going to go with abysmal.

2 | Just HAD to ruin the symmetry, didn’t you? Jerks.

Front Seven Performance

Rush Splits by Down, Distance, and Direction
Metric Attempts Rush % S. Rate iPPP LY/Att.
VS.
LSU
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
All Carries 17 51.4% 41.5% 17.6% 29.4% 0.9 0.7 1.7 2.3
1st Down 8 60.0% 53.2% 12.5% 24.7% 1.6 0.7 2.6 2.4
2nd Down 8 72.7% 38.9% 12.5% 28.8% 0.5 0.7 0.5 2.1
3rd Down 1 11.1% 22.9% 100.0% 52.9% 0.5 0.6 4.5 2.5
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
1 50.0% 63.4% 100.0% 54.2% 0.5 0.3 4.5 1.4
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
2 66.7% 39.3% 50.0% 25.0% 0.5 0.8 3.8 2.6
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
13 56.0% 41.6% 7.7% 24.8% 1.6 0.8 1.4 2.4
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
1 20.0% 27.6% 0.0% 30.8% --- 1.2 -1.2 2.5
Left
End
2 13.3% 14.1% 0.0% 40.0% --- 0.6 0.4 3.2
Left
Tackle
4 26.7% 12.7% 0.0% 38.9% --- 0.5 0.3 1.9
Middle 2 13.3% 40.1% 50.0% 14.0% 0.5 0.6 2.8 1.9
Right
Tackle
7 46.7% 19.7% 0.0% 21.4% --- 0.5 1.5 2.3
Right
End
0 0.0% 13.4% --- 52.6% --- 0.7 --- 3.2

Observations

A few words about this chart — JTad’s a pretty observant guy, and pointed out that I had the Viles’ success rate running the ball on first down at 68%, which is, uh, pretty damn high. Turns out I had a bunch of errors in the spreadsheet for calculating rushing success rate splits — specifically, whether or not quarterback runs of various types are included. The intent of this chart is that only designed running plays — handoffs to skill players, as well as intentional quarterback runs like draws and zone reads — are reflected, because I’m mostly looking for run blocking performance here. Before I had quarterback scrambles lurking where they weren’t supposed to be, which inflated numbers a bit. All that’s fixed now — thanks again to Mr. Chatham.

With that, oh my goodness. I’ll call your attention to the run direction portion of the chart, which shows one successful carry up the middle. That was the aforementioned four tight end look with Williams, which means that Fournette — generational superstar running back, nation’s rushing leader, Heisman Trophy lock, etc. etc. — got stoned every single time he put his hands on the ball, at least while the game was still competitive.[3] Like most folks, I figured he’d be limited, but still become one of the few running backs to eclipse 100 yards on a Saban era defense. I was wrong.

3 | He finally broke loose for an 18 yarder in garbage time. Just like Nick Chubb!

Opposing RB Performance
Metric Attempts Opp. Rate Hlt. Yds. / Opp. RBR
VS.
LSU
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
All Carries 17 6.7% 23.4% 0.5 3.1 0.0 0.7
1st Down 8 0.0% 23.8% --- 1.8 --- 0.4
2nd Down 8 0.0% 20.9% --- 4.4 --- 0.9
3rd Down 1 100.0% 33.3% 0.5 6.8 0.5 2.3
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
1 100.0% 16.7% 0.5 2.0 0.5 0.3
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
2 0.0% 13.3% --- 4.8 --- 0.6
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
13 0.0% 22.3% --- 2.4 --- 0.5
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
1 0.0% 60.0% --- 5.8 --- 3.5
Left
End
2 0.0% 35.0% --- 3.4 --- 1.2
Left
Tackle
4 0.0% 27.8% --- 2.6 --- 0.7
Middle 2 50.0% 9.4% 0.5 6.5 0.3 0.6
Right
Tackle
7 0.0% 25.0% --- 0.9 --- 0.2
Right
End
0 --- 44.4% --- 3.1 --- 1.4

Observations

One successful carry allowed in three quarters. Against a top-10 rushing offense and a top-20 run blocking line. Ridiculous!

Secondary Performance

Opponent Quarterback Performance
Air Yards Metric Left Middle Right Totals
6 3 5 14
Behind
L.O.S
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 0
S. Rate --- --- ---
iPPP --- --- ---
0-5
Yards
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 0/1 (0.0%) 0/0 (---) 1
S. Rate --- 0.0% ---
iPPP --- --- ---
6-10
Yards
Comp. % 0/1 (0.0%) 1/2 (50.0%) 0/2 (0.0%) 5
S. Rate 0.0% 50.0% 0.0%
iPPP --- 0.8 ---
11-15
Yards
Comp. % 1/2 (50.0%) 0/0 (---) 0/1 (0.0%) 3
S. Rate 50.0% --- 0.0%
iPPP 1.0 --- ---
16+ Yards
Comp. % 1/3 (33.3%) 0/0 (---) 1/2 (50.0%) 5
S. Rate 33.3% --- 50.0%
iPPP 4.5 --- 2.4

Observations

The two deep pass plays were annoying, particularly the first of those, which came on the most LSU series ever. After a fantastic special teams play by Fitzpatrick pinned LSU deep in their own territory, two consecutive handoffs to Fournette yielded a whopping -4 yards. LSU then received two consecutive delays of game,[4] setting up a third and 18 from their own 2 yard line. On the ensuing play, Harris throws a gorgeous ball to the deep right sideline, and Travin Dural leapt over two defenders to snag a 37 yarder. Two more unsuccessful Fournette carries and a failed pass attempt later, the Tigers were punting it back to the Tide, but the field had already been flipped.

Aside from that, a whole lot of nothin’. Dural added a 40 yard touchdown later in the game on a busted coverage, set up in part by Cyrus Jones rushing in on the Javier Arenas Corner Blitz Package. Two more attempts were caught for 10 and 13 yards, but that’s it.

4 | See, Les, the drawback to relying on passion to win ballgames instead of execution? Stupid stuff like that happens when your team gets flustered.

Pass Splits by Down and Distance
Metric Attempts Pass % S. Rate iPPP
VS.
LSU
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
VS.
LSU
2015
Season
All Passes 17 48.6% 58.5% 23.5% 31.8% 2.2 1.4
1st 6 40.0% 46.8% 16.7% 35.2% 1.0 1.2
2nd 3 27.3% 77.1% 33.3% 30.7% 4.5 1.6
3rd 8 88.9% 61.1% 25.0% 29.8% 1.6 1.5
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
1 50.0% 36.6% 0.0% 66.7% --- 2.1
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
1 33.3% 60.7% 0.0% 35.1% --- 1.0
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
11 44.0% 58.4% 18.2% 29.9% 0.9 1.3
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
4 80.0% 72.4% 50.0% 23.8% 3.4 2.0

Observations

Again, the iPPPs are a bit on the high side, but that’s irrelevant when paired with such low success rates. I’ll take four successful pass plays out of 17 attempts any day of the week.

Special Teams Performance

Punts and Kickoffs Performance
Metric ALABAMA LSU
Punt Hangtime 3.89s 3.94s
Gross Points per Punt 4.19 3.80
Net Points per Punt 4.02 3.45
Kickoff Hangtime 4.23s 4.10s
Gross Points per Kickoff 6.49 5.92
Net Points per Kickoff 4.38 3.55

Observations

First, what’s not reflected here: Adam Griffith went three for three on field goals, including a 55 yarder he drilled and then calmly walked away from like the boss that he is.[5] He was also perfect on extra points because he is an outstanding kicker of extra points, but probably also because Mr. Robinson does not play for the Tigers. He left his first kickoff of the evening a bit short, but the next six were all drilled into the end zone. His counterpart was less effective — Cameron Gamble pushed one out of bounds, and was dangerously close to doing it again before a lucky bounce sent the Tide scrambling to avoid disaster.

5 | Assassin of the Placekicking Arts.

J.K. Scott didn’t get much work and shanked his last punt, but each was sent at least 40 yards, and his average net was in the low 40s. While a departure from the excellence of the last few games, that’s still solid work, and eclipsed that of Jamie Keehn. Keehn didn’t get much hangtime on his punts, aside from a gorgeous 56 yarder that stayed aloft for nearly five seconds in the first quarter. Two more were downed inside the 10 yard line, but most of his punts set up the Tide in great field position.

The coverage units did a fine job against LSU, and we were treated to big hits by Tony Brown and Michael Nysewander, as well as some outstanding plays from Fitzpatrick. Kenyan Drake paired a great day running the ball with equally encouraging work returning kicks and Jones was his usual dependable self in the punt game. Both return units had a blocking penalty this week, but all in all this was a complete, solid performance from the special teams.

ROLL TIDE