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Charting the Tide, Defense and Special Teams | Charleston Southern Buccaneers

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Because last week just wasn't enough, was it Cyrus?

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

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

But first, let’s marvel at #5 for a minute.

Last week, after coming oh-so-close to breaking out for about a month, Cyrus Jones returned a punt for a touchdown against the Bulldogs. It was an outstanding individual effort that was in no way aided by a block-in-the-back on the play, because that block officially never happened, and only appears as such on replays due to a rare optical illusion known as an REC Intervention.[1] It was Jones, making a man miss, planting his foot and jetting untouched for six.

1 | Fun fact: there’s apparently an optical illusion called a “Chubb Illusion”, which the DawgSports people need to jump on if they haven’t already.

This week, we got to see Jones do this:

Notice how the ball caroms off the foot of a Buccaneer gunner, spinning dead in the middle of the field. Notice how Jones fields said ball, running toward an away sideline with a vast expanse of green in front of him. Notice how Richard Mullaney is streaking in front of Jones the entire way, looking fruitlessly for someone to vaporize. 43 yards later, Jones had his second punt return touchdown in as many games.

But wait, there’s more:

Notice how the ball takes a funny hop,[2] requiring Jones to make a tough catch over his shoulder. Notice how in doing so he’s turned toward the home sideline, and between those two points is a green field effectively devoid of Buccaneers. Notice how Marlon Humphrey throws a legal block that does just enough to remove the one Buccaneer who had any chance of stopping this return. 72 yards later, Jones had his second punt return touchdown of the day, the only time that’s been done by a Crimson Tide player in the long and illustrious history of Alabama football.

2 | Gotta love rugby punts!

But wait! There’s more:

Notice how the Bucs start their standard triple option motion, eschewing the dive in favor of the keep or pitch options. Notice how at the pitch, there is a player in a crimson jersey who has maneuvered himself inbetween the pitcher and the pitchee. Notice that that player is Jones, and that he intercepts said pitch[3] and ends up just five yards short of his third return touchdown in twelve minutes.

3 | Officially, it was a forced fumble.

This was probably Jones’ best game in crimson, held back only by the short amount of time he played due to the ridiculous blowout it became. He would add two tackles for loss to his two punt return touchdowns and forced fumble, and he would double Charleston Southern’s eventual scoring output by himself. As bright as the future appears to be for the Tide secondary, Jones is one of many seniors who will be sorely missed next season.

A Very Special Edition of Charting the Tide

Usually, all of the stats presented in this series are adjusted for garbage time, which is defined as plays occurring when the score is not within 28 points in the first quarter, 24 points in the second, 21 points in the third, or 16 points in the fourth. Well, if I were to do that this week, we’d have only nine defensive plays to discuss — none of which were successful, for the record — which doesn’t leave me anything to talk about.[4]

4 | Every chart would be “Uh, well, Charleston Southern ran nine plays that didn’t work.”

Thus, for this week only, the in-game stats are not adjusted for garbage time, but the season stats (which include the results from this game) ARE adjusted for garbage time. Let me just reprint the important bit there in big, bold letters so there’s no confusion:

THE STATS ARE NOT ADJUSTED FOR GARBAGE TIME THIS WEEK.

Let’s get to it!

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.
CHSO
2015
Season
Total PBUs STFs INTs Sacks FFs BKs Total
Allen, Jonathan --- 2 2 --- 9 2 --- 15
Humphrey, Marlon 1 8 2 2 --- 2 --- 14
Fitzpatrick, Minkah --- 7 1 2 2 --- 1 13
Foster, Reuben --- 8 2 --- 1 --- --- 11
Jones, Cyrus 3 5 4 1 --- 1 --- 11

Observations

As you would expect this was another solidly productive outing for the Tide defense, although not to the insane degree of last week. For just the second game this season,[5] the Tide failed to record a single sack of the opposing quarterback, primarily because the Bucs only attempted 10 passes on the afternoon.

5 | The other was MTSU.

Instead, the Tide piled up eight stuffs: the aforementioned two for Jones, and one each for Reggie Ragland, Denzel Devall, Tony Brown, Shaun Dion Hamilton, and Bradley Sylve. Hamilton added an interception on a failed two-point conversion attempt out of the swinging gate (!), and good ol’ Jabriel Washington added a more conventional one of his own in the third quarter. Ryan Anderson notched the Tide’s lone pass breakup on the afternoon, and Humphrey and Ronnie Harrison joined Jones in forcing a fumble, though neither of theirs were recovered by the Tide.

Overall Defensive Performance

Quarter Breakdown
Metric 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
Plays 9 172 19 202 11 137 7 43
S. Rate 0.0% 30.2% 26.3% 28.7% 36.4% 26.3% 42.9% 32.6%
iPPP --- 1.0 0.5 1.0 0.6 1.3 2.1 2.0
Pass % 22.2% 47.6% 26.3% 62.5% 18.2% 66.1% 14.3% 57.9%
P. S. Rate 0.0% 33.3% 0.0% 30.0% 50.0% 29.8% 100.0% 45.5%
P. iPPP --- 1.3 --- 1.2 1.0 1.6 3.9 2.3
Rush % 77.8% 52.4% 73.7% 37.5% 81.8% 33.9% 85.7% 42.1%
R. S. Rate 0.0% 30.2% 35.7% 30.6% 33.3% 25.6% 33.3% 25.0%
R. iPPP --- 0.7 0.5 0.8 0.4 0.5 1.2 1.2

Observations

The Bucs ran just 46 plays in this one, and the main reason they got that many were the two extra possessions produced by Jones’ return touchdowns. Their success rate steadily improved over the course of the game, which makes sense as that tracks with the Tide going deeper and deeper into the bench. There’s not much to glean from the passing numbers — they got off one really good completion in the fourth, a 35 yarder over the top that set up their lone score of the afternoon — as the Bucs primarily operated out of various option looks, as expected. Unsurprisingly, the rushing numbers didn’t move much over the course of the game, as the Tide plays members from the third-team defensive line as part of the regular rotation. The Bucs got nothing on the dive and very little on the keep, and only had one decent pickup on the pitch, a 22 yarder in the fourth that got an extra four or five yards from a fumble that went out of bounds. A dominant effort, as expected.

Formation / Playcall Breakdown
Call Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
CHSO
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
Triple Option 18 39.1% --- 27.7% --- 0.8 ---
Speed Option 6 13.0% --- 0% --- --- ---
Zone Read 7 15.2% --- 42.9% --- 0.5 ---
Other 15 32.6% --- 26.7% --- 1.5 ---
Play Action 4 8.7% 13.7% 50.0% 39.5% 2.4 1.7

Observations

Little bit different chart this week, as you can see. As noted, Charleston Southern runs a triple option offense reminiscent of what the service academies use, which means they rarely line up in a formation that looks anything like a Shotgun or Pistol look, not to mention lining up a quarterback under center. I don’t recall seeing them huddle either, but as they usually didn’t line up with more than about 15 seconds left on the play clock and usually didn’t snap until three or fewer seconds remaining,[6] they might as well have on every play.

6 | They REALLY wanted to get out of here before somebody got hurt, and I don’t blame them.

As such, this week your QB alignment splits are replaced with option/non-option splits, and we’re skipping the Huddled / No Huddle splits. The Tide did a fine job against the triple option throughout the game, allowing a 29.4% success rate and an iPPP of 0.8, almost all of which was due to the 22-yarder mentioned in the last chart. Three of those 18 attempts were given to the dive man, six were kept by the quarterback, and the remaining nine were pitched.

The Bucs opted for the other two forms of the option[7] on a further 13 plays, consisting of six speed options and seven zone reads. The speed option was an absolute bust, as not one of the six attempts picked up successful yardage, and four of the six were stuffed for negative yardage. The zone read was their most successful look of the afternoon, but was also their least explosive.

7 | BADUM-CHHH.

The Other row addresses the Bucs’ 10 pass attempts on the afternoon, as well as five more conventional running plays. These tracked the success rate of the triple option pretty closely — there really wasn’t much there for Charleston Southern regardless of when or how they ran a play — but at a level of explosiveness nearly twice as high. That was due to the play-action passes — most notably the 35-yarder mentioned earlier — that were pretty good looks for the Bucs.

Personnel Breakdown
Group Plays Percent of Total Success Rate iPPP
VS.
CHSO
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
11 13 28.3% 30.8% 30.8% 30.6% 0.5 1.1
10 8 17.4% 28.3% 0.0% 26.3% --- 1.1
20 8 17.4% 8.3% 25.0% 30.4% 0.6 2.1
21 7 15.2% 10.3% 28.6% 28.1% 0.7 1.0
22 3 6.5% 2.7% 33.3% 20.0% 3.9 1.1

Observations

Nothing too crazy here, although they whipped out a three-back look a couple of times. All of the two-back looks were triple option plays, but the Bucs mixed up the presentation with different wide receiver / tight end alignments. The eight times they went four-wide were complete busts; many of these were the speed option looks mentioned in the previous chart.

Down and Distance Matrix
Distance Metric Down
1st 2nd 3rd 4th
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
Short
(0-3 Yds)
Plays 1 3 1 16 2 27 1 5
S. Rate 100.0% 33.3% 100.0% 68.8% 0.0% 51.9% 100.0% 60.0%
iPPP 0.4 0.4 0.2 1.3 --- 1.0 0.2 0.4
Medium
(4-6 Yds)
Plays 0 2 3 36 3 33 0 1
S. Rate --- 50.0% 33.3% 25.0% 33.3% 45.5% --- 0.0%
iPPP --- 0.6 0.7 1.0 0.5 1.0 --- ---
Long
(7-10 Yds)
Plays 18 204 8 96 3 55 0 1
S. Rate 16.7% 28.9% 37.5% 21.9% 0.0% 18.2% --- 0.0%
iPPP 1.0 1.0 1.7 1.3 --- 1.7 --- ---
Very Long
(11+ Yds)
Plays 0 16 4 34 2 24 0 1
S. Rate --- 6.3% 25.0% 29.4% 0.0% 20.8% --- 0.0%
iPPP --- 2.1 1.0 1.5 --- 1.9 --- ---

Observations

One successful third down completion in ten attempts, with one additional picked up on a fourth down. Charleston Southern got 11 cracks at possessing the football, and finished 10 of them via punt or turnover. About the only positive takeaway for them was a 60% success rate on short yardage, but you saw how much a difference that made.

Front Seven Performance

Rush Splits by Down, Distance, and Direction
Metric Attempts Rush % S. Rate iPPP LY/Att.
VS.
CHSO
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
All Carries 34 78.3% 41.7% 26.5% 27.9% 0.6 0.7 1.5 2.2
1st Down 17 89.5% 51.9% 23.5% 23.4% 0.8 0.8 1.8 2.4
2nd Down 12 75.0% 39.2% 33.3% 28.6% 0.5 0.7 2.5 2.1
3rd Down 4 60.0% 25.2% 0.0% 42.9% --- 0.6 -2.8 1.9
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
5 100.0% 62.0% 60.0% 55.2% 0.2 0.3 0.2 1.8
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
2 66.7% 38.8% 50.0% 23.8% 0.7 0.8 3.8 2.5
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
23 79.3% 41.2% 21.7% 22.3% 0.9 0.8 1.4 2.2
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
4 66.7% 31.3% 0.0% 29.4% --- 1.2 2.5 2.5
Left
End
6 28.6% 13.7% 33.3% 42.9% 0.6 0.8 1.8 3.3
Left
Tackle
0 0.0% 11.8% --- 38.9% --- 0.5 --- 1.9
Middle 6 28.6% 39.9% 0.0% 13.1% --- 0.6 1.5 1.9
Right
Tackle
0 0.0% 19.6% --- 20.0% --- 0.5 --- 2.3
Right
End
9 42.9% 15.0% 33.3% 47.8% 1.0 0.7 1.5 2.6

Observations

Not surprisingly, the rates of occurrence here are sky-high compared to the Tide’s seasonal averages, as the option teams like to run early and run often. Overall they put up a 26.5% success rate on designed runs over the course of the game, which unsurprisingly was right in line with the Tide’s seasonal average for the reasons we discussed earlier. They got a whole lot of nothing up the middle, but picked up a little bit of yardage to the edges, which is to be expected given the propensity of triple-option looks that ended up as keeps or pitches. For the game the Bucs put up more yards on the ground than the Tide typically allows at 85 and 77 respectively, but given this offense typically averaged 230 rushing yards a game coming in, and that 89 of those 85 yards[8] came in garbage time and mostly against backups, that’s a fine day overall.

8 | They had -4 at the end of the first quarter.

Opposing RB Performance
Metric Attempts Opp. Rate Hlt. Yds. / Opp. RBR
VS.
CHSO
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
All Carries 34 28.6% 23.6% 3.8 3.3 1.1 0.8
1st Down 17 27.3% 23.3% 5.8 2.3 1.6 0.5
2nd Down 12 50.0% 21.7% 1.8 4.0 0.9 0.9
3rd Down 4 0.0% 30.8% --- 6.8 --- 2.1
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
5 0.0% 21.1% --- 2.1 --- 0.4
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
2 100.0% 12.5% 2.5 4.8 2.5 0.6
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
23 26.7% 22.3% 4.9 2.7 1.3 0.6
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
4 33.3% 60.0% 1.0 5.8 0.3 3.5
Left
End
6 50.0% 38.1% 1.5 4.5 0.8 1.7
Left
Tackle
0 --- 27.8% --- 2.6 --- 0.7
Middle 6 0.0% 10.5% --- 5.5 --- 0.6
Right
Tackle
0 --- 23.3% --- 0.9 --- 0.2
Right
End
9 33.3% 40.9% 6.2 3.0 2.1 1.2

Observations

Almost all of the highlight yards came on one run, the 22-yarder in the fourth quarter referenced a couple of times in this piece. That boosts the overall highlight yardage average and RBR a bit higher than you might expect, but only in comparison to the Tide’s seasonal averages — for most teams, those are amazing numbers overall, and again this isn’t adjusted for garbage time at all. Even against the backups the Bucs put up goose eggs on third down and up the middle, and while the success rate on short yardage plays was good, none of those carries went for at least five yards.

Secondary Performance

Opponent Quarterback Performance
Air Yards Metric Left Middle Right Totals
5 2 3 10
Behind
L.O.S
Comp. % 1/1 (100.0%) 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 1
S. Rate 0.0% --- ---
iPPP --- --- ---
0-5
Yards
Comp. % 0/2 (0.0%) 0/0 (---) 2/3 (66.7%) 5
S. Rate 0.0% --- 0.0%
iPPP --- --- ---
6-10
Yards
Comp. % 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 0
S. Rate --- --- ---
iPPP --- --- ---
11-15
Yards
Comp. % 1/1 (100.0%) 0/0 (---) 0/0 (---) 1
S. Rate 100.0% --- ---
iPPP 1.0 --- ---
16+ Yards
Comp. % 0/1 (0.0%) 1/2 (50.0%) 0/0 (---) 3
S. Rate 0.0% 50.0% ---
iPPP --- 3.9 ---

Observations

The option teams are always going to pick up a few pass completions on you, because the wishbone is actually a great passing offense, as numerous coaches[9] have pointed out over the years. Force a team creep to the line of scrimmage to defend the run, and the play-action stuff opens up nicely.

9 | Most notably one Paul William Bryant.

The good thing here is only two of those completions picked up significant yardage, and the long completion was again the 35-yarder that set up the Bucs’ lone touchdown. A 50% completion percentage only wins football games when it’s paired with an enormous YPA average, and as a team Charleston Southern managed just 49 yards through the air. That was far from enough to get it done against this group.

Pass Splits by Down and Distance
Metric Attempts Pass % S. Rate iPPP
VS.
CHSO
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
VS.
CHSO
2015
Season
All Passes 10 21.7% 58.3% 20.0% 31.9% 2.4 1.4
1st 2 10.5% 48.1% 0.0% 34.6% --- 1.2
2nd 4 25.0% 74.8% 50.0% 30.8% 2.4 1.6
3rd 4 40.0% 60.8% 0.0% 30.5% --- 1.5
Short
(0-3 Yds.)
0 0.0% 38.0% --- 63.2% --- 2.0
Medium
(4-6 Yds.)
2 33.3% 61.2% 0.0% 41.5% --- 1.1
Long
(7-10 Yds.)
6 20.7% 58.8% 16.7% 29.3% 3.9 1.3
Very Long
(11+ Yds.)
2 33.3% 68.7% 50.0% 21.7% 1.0 2.0

Observations

Nothing much to glean here on just 10 attempts. Both successful completions came on second down, for whatever that’s worth.

Special Teams Performance

Punts and Kickoffs Performance
Metric ALABAMA CHARLESTON
SOUTHERN
Punt Hangtime --- 2.66s
Gross Points per Punt --- 3.07
Net Points per Punt --- 1.39
Kickoff Hangtime 4.01s 3.41s
Gross Points per Kickoff 6.41 3.42
Net Points per Kickoff 3.70 2.34

Observations

Perhaps the most obvious non-scoreboard evidence of the Tide’s dominance was that J.K. Scott did not punt a single time and there were no turnovers, which means the vast majority of the Tide’s possessions ended in points. Scott, oddly enough, took the game’s lone field goal attempt, and pushed it comically far from the right goalpost — I’m guessing he doesn’t get much practice placekicking these days. Charleston Southern’s punter abandoned the rugby-style punts after Jones’ second touchdown, but by then the damage had already been done in the metrics above.

Adam Griffith did a fine job on all of his kicks as usual, pushing all but one into the end zone — the lone “short” one came from the 20 yard line as a result of a taunting call on the preceding touchdown, and still went 64 yards. That was one of only two kicks where Charleston Southern was not starting from their own 25 or worse, with the other coming on Scott’s lone kickoff attempt, which was pushed out-of-bounds and taken at the 35 by the Bucs. The Bucs’ two kickoffs were abysmal.

ROLL TIDE