A ”successful” play, as defined by Football Outsiders, is when a play gains enough yardage to keep the offense on track, i.e., 50% of needed yardage on 1st down, 70% on 2nd, or 100% on 3rd/4th. A ”big play” (aka “explosive play”) is any play that gains ≥15 yards (run OR pass).
Success by Quarters
Special feature: per JBeachum’s request last week, I’ve added an option below to get rid of that orange color in these charts. The editorial staff understands that some readers here in the RBR community simply cannot sit with a certain orange pigment, so you have the option to choose a calming pink tone instead. Roll Tide.
The pacing of the games were different, but the overall numbers for the Tennessee game were very similar to the Mizzou game last weekend. Tennessee was actually slightly more explosive and successful against the Tide than Missouri was... though neither was very successful overall. Roll Tide!
Tennessee was contained early during the 1st quarter—Alabama pretty much dominated on both sides of the ball for that frame—but the Vols actually had some success and big plays through the 2nd quarter. Good thing Bama was up by 4 scores by then.
Alabama’s overall SRs weren’t off-the-charts this week, but the success was pretty sustained (except for some slowdown in the start of the 2nd quarter). For the Vols, their chart is much more sparse on success, but after the 1st quarter Bama body slam they had limited success throughout the rest of the game.
All six of their explosive plays were passes, which is the first time that’s happened to the Tide this season: 15+ yard passes are more common than 15+ yard runs, certainly, but you still can usually expect to see a long run or two from an opponent. Part of it is the limited mobility of their quarterbacks, but it says something good about the Tide run defense, too.
Success by downs
Hey, it’s a new chart!
Sometimes this breakdown by downs is really interesting, like in Alabama’s lone loss last year, where Auburn got outsized success rates on 3rd and 4th downs... which obviously helped determine the outcome of that one. Sorry for bringing it up.
This week we don’t have big storylines around success—both teams performed relatively evenly across downs, aside from the Vols converting 2/2 fourth downs to Alabama’s 1/2—but the explosiveness tendencies were interesting. Alabama made the big plays on early downs: that may make sense given the playcalling flexibility that early downs provides, but we’ll keep an eye on this in the coming weeks to see if it’s a real trend from the Locksley/Tua offense.
Tennessee, though, seemed to get their big plays across the 2nd/3rd downs: that’s a frustrating thing to see from an opposing offense, especially big conversions on 3rd and long, which the Vols saw some of on Saturday.
Running and Passing
For all the calls to rest Tua Tagovailoa more during this game, coaches Locksley and Saban apparently didn’t... and we actually passed the majority of plays until the last few series! Starting in the 3rd quarter, though, we ran the ball almost exclusively and drove that run rate up to >50% for the game.
As for success, it was pretty even throughout; even the trends around run/pass success stuck closely together. A balanced offense is a lovely thing!
Running and Passing, Tennessee
Tennessee passed a lot until it was just about “giving-up time.” And it made sense: the Bama defense really stuffed them on the run, at least until late (presumably against a mix of backups and starters).
And the Vols did see some modest success passing the ball, notably with a few big plays during the 2nd and 3rd quarters. We’ll see if Alabama’s pass defense can tighten up (even more) in the coming games; that would be similar to how they’ve seemingly addressed concerns in run defense since the Arkansas game.