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Graphing the Tide vs. Florida: explosiveness, critical situations, and rushing

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The Tide won out on efficiency, but almost lost on explosiveness

NCAA Football: Alabama at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Whew. Look, a lot of us didn’t see the game playing out this way — plenty of Gumps (and others) were convinced that this would be an easy one against a very different offense than we saw out of Florida last year in the SEC Championship Game. But this is what we got!


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Team Success Rates over time (cumulative)

I was halfway convinced that I’d run these charts and see the Tide actually lose out on efficiency — one of those Clemson-y, Auburn-y games where you manage to pull out the win despite putting together an iffy performance — so was relieved to see that the efficiencies do map roughly to the final score. Basically, both teams were above-average efficient, with one team slightly less efficient that the other: that maps intuitively to a 31-29 score.

But the differences between the teams lie elsewhere in the graphs: I’ve broken it down into some rough themes of Explosiveness, Critical Situations, and Rushing.

Explosiveness

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

In something of a surprise, the Tide was more efficient than Florida in both rushing and passing: our relatively rare rushing attempts (more on that later) actually did end up as the more efficient part of our offense. Passing was close, but Bama edged ‘em out.

But look at that explosiveness gap! Per usual these last few seasons, Alabama’s rushing attack isn’t very explosive: this is low, but roughly in line with that trend we’ve had after the Sims, Jalen, Henry, LFK (etc.) variants of this offense. But Florida’s rushing attack was plenty explosive, and they beat the Tide on passing XR while they were at it, too.

We’ve talked about explosiveness around here recently, and yeah it’s a pretty critical part of putting together wins. But today was one of those days that the offense that was able to put together drives at the right times (and lengths) was the one that won, instead.

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

Whew — both of these charts are pretty erratic! Neither team had a back-breaking play, with the longest gains being 30 yards (twice, by Florida) and 29 yards (by the Tide). So mind the scale when looking at this one. It’s a lot of explosive plays — on both ends, but especially for Florida — but they weren’t incredibly explosive in terms of maximums.

The trends spell themselves out right there: the Tide put together great offense in the first quarter, but the second half was seemingly all Florida explosive plays ... with the Tide doing just enough to close the game out.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

... and those trends are clear on the quarters chart, too. Alabama won this game in the 1st quarter: in efficiency, in explosiveness, and on the scoreboard: all by a mile.

But offenses derped around in the 2nd quarter. Alabama only had 1/10 successful plays in the quarter, putting together the least efficient quarter in probably a few seasons. Good thing Florida didn’t do much to take advantage of it.

The second half was all offense, though! Florida came out of the locker room with whatever it was — adjustments, motivation, “momentum” — and lit the last two quarters on fire. It’s a good thing Bryce Young, Brian Robinson Jr., Jase McClellan and co. put up an efficient 4th quarter to burn some clock and get just enough points.

Critical situations

Success and Explosiveness by Down

Alright, let’s get these grumbles going: there are obviously a lot of factors, but the Tide probably won this game on late downs. That’s especially 3rd downs — the traditional box score could tell you so much — but notably on 4th as well. Florida was 2-for-3 on 4th down, and the tide was 1-for-1.

Encouragingly, the 1st and 2nd downs were also at or above average in terms of efficiency. Those 2nd downs have been lagging in games so far this year, setting Bryce Young up for bailing us out on 3rd and longs. We did still had some 3rd and longs in this one, but early down efficiencies set us up ok for them.

Florida was frustratingly explosive on 2nd and 3rd downs — that 3rd-and-19 play was a rare example of a team pulling off an explosive play that wasn’t technically successful (they converted after on 4th down ... on a shoddy spot, to my eyes). But the Gators just didn’t put together enough 3rd down conversions (only 4-of-12) to topple the elephant.

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

Florida’s great counterpoint to late downs lagging was their Red Zone performance. There were 24 Red Zone plays total (a pretty high number, actually), with 15 of those being Alabama’s. Florida didn’t have that many because they kept flaming out early, then converting them late: they didn’t score a TD from the Red Zone until the 3rd quarter, but then their last 3 Red Zone plays were all rushing touchdowns.

Those last 3 plays were what made this a nerve-wracking, rather than cruising, Tide victory.

Success and Explosiveness by Distance to go

I introduced this new graph last week with some caveats — I’m not sure that the breaks are dialed in to tell us much, but we’ll keep our eye on this one — but we had an interesting departure this week from what we’ve seen so far. So far, the 6-9 yard range has been where teams underperform, likely due to later downs and long distances. But in this one it was one of the stronger downs from both teams. I’ll chalk it up to the general up-and-down nature of these drives, but both defenses did seem to be playing a bit boom or bust.

And the =>10 yard category covers both 1st downs and long downs, but this is worse than Florida’s 1st down efficiency (see the earlier graph), and better than their 1st down explosiveness. So on those long downs, despite what we may have remembered in the “3rd and 19s” theme, the defense mostly shut the Gators down.

Rushing

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative)

Both teams passed — a lot, and well — but rushing was the big gap between the Tide and Gater offenses. For the Tide ... they hardly tried! This was only 24 rushes in the game, with half of those happening in the 4th quarter. O’Brien seemed to pick our rushing opportunities carefully here, but once we got going in the 3rd quarter we came out with a respectable rushing efficiency.

As for Florida: again the explosiveness was there — it’s something that is very obvious on TV, in the highlight reels, and in the mind of Grumpy Gumps (TM) — but they weren’t especially efficient on the ground ... above average, a few points shy of where the Tide ended up.

Rushing rate (cumulative)

The rushing rate charts are about as drastic a spread as we’ve seen from this already-pass-happy 2021 Tide offense. At our lowest point towards the end of the 1st half, we had a 23% (!) rushing rate, which is incredibly row. Meanwhile, Florida kept a very balanced attack through the game and just started rushing more in the second half (presumably given that it was working so well).

For the Tide, I’m not positive where this is coming from. Yeah, I also thought that I saw the line putting up minimal push on rushing plays, and I know we’ve been griping about that on this here Tide site. But the plays were working often enough (at least according to efficiency) that you’d think we’d give it a shot more than we did. By the 4th quarter we got back to the #RTDB program and pulled off some solid rushes.

Hopefully the line gets it together and we see more rushing as a tone-setter (and to relieve some pressure on Young) earlier in games.

Top Rushers, Alabama

Look, you probably get my schtick by now: I like Brian Robinson Jr., aka “BRob,” and I think he deserves the RB1 spot he’s currently occupying. He’s not the flashiest, but he’s sturdy and flashes big plays (including some on Saturday). And, look, we all saw him dive into the pile more than once on Saturday an in the past few games: whether that’s the playcalling or the OL or otherwise, you’d hope that he’d add some tricks to his rushing style ... bounce outside, avoid the tackle rather than bull through it, etc.

But the efficiency charts continue to be quite kind to BRob: considering how little we ran the ball against the Gators, he put up a statline of a strong Bell Cow back, with eleven successful rushes (including an explosive one) for a sky-high 73.3% rushing SR. Sure, a lot of those were short gains that were just successful enough, but that’s what keeps drives going and clock burning. Believe me, you’d be angrier not having that kind of dependability in the backfield.

It surprised me to see Jase McClellan’s line look so bad! I feel like I remember those 2 successful rushes (again, short gains that were just enough), more than the 7 unsuccessful ones (-3, 2, 2, 3, 0, 0, 3).

Bryce took off a few times, but otherwise this chart is surprisingly short on rushers: I can’t remember the last time we had so few backs. Has McClellan locked down RB2 over Trey Sanders for now?

Top Rushers, Florida

As for the Gators: I just wanted to show a quick quirk. Malik Davis was (frustratingly) efficient with a 60% SR, but it’s weird to see how explosive BUT inefficient this RB group was in general. Similar to the broader trend of this game, the Tide defense was a bit of a “break don’t bend” one this weekend.

Passing

Ok, ok, fine we’ll talk about passing. It’s funny that given how often Alabama passed in this one, the rushing was such the difference between each team. But here we go anyway ...

Top Passers

Bryce Young kept things together all game, with a respectable ~49% Success Rate. Again, some of the unsuccessful plays were indeed catches ... and to my eye, a handful of those “incompletes” were definitely on the receivers, not Bryce. However, per some comments here on RBR, that seemed to also happen to Gator defenders that were trying to come down with INTs.

... which is important! Check out Emory Jones’ line, which is roughly similar to Bryce’s. The difference was that INT (imo, a lucky grab on Alabama’s part), while the Tide came away completely clean on turnovers (0 to Florida’s 1). I think a lot of us were surprised at Jones’s steady performance here ... you’d think we Gumps would’ve stopped underestimating “Joneses” by now!

Top Receivers, Alabama

A few tidbits:

  • Jameson Williams gets the title picture on the All Graphs chart this week for his solid 100% SR and 50% XR
  • Jase McClellan looks a lot better on this chart, coming in as the 3rd leading receiver with a 75% SR coming out of the backfield (plus an explosive play)
  • Two TE’s appear here. Jahleel Billingsley came in to “OJ Howard” it for an explosive TD catch
  • 5 receivers logged explosive plays! (Too bad 6 Florida players did the same — whoops!)
  • The refs were really bad. Oh, were we talking about receiver efficiency? I forgot.

I’m not sure how to feel about either team after this one — “hopefully” Florida is just a really good team that we underestimated? But at least the charts do not suggest that Alabama had no business coming out with this win. I mean, the Tide barely snuck out of a situation where they were out-Explosive’d, but they did so with solid efficiencies and late down performances. It’s really, really not my favorite way to win, but win they did.

So ... Roll Tide! Check out the all graphs article for the rest of the data from this game.