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Graphing the Tide at USF: Not as bad as it looked

Though that doesn’t change how it felt to watch it.

Alabama v USF Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Box Score: Alabama vs. Ole Miss

Stat Alabama Ole Miss
Stat Alabama Ole Miss
Points 24 10
Total yards 356 301
Rush yards 131 56
Rush attempts 45 29
Yards per rush 2.9 1.9
Pass yards 225 245
Pass attempts 17-21 21-36
Yards per pass 10.7 6.8
1st downs 20 17
3rd down eff 6-13 3-14
4th down eff 0-0 3-4
Turnovers 1 1
Tackles 39 38
Sacks 4.5 4
Penalties-Yds 6-60 8-69
Possession 34:23 25:37

Plenty of ink to be spilled on this stink bug of a game, so let’s just get into it here. The box score looks like a garden variety win, not the blowout you’d hope for against this opponent, with some fight from an overmatched G5 opponent.

Similar to last week, ignore the Tacklers data, which is apparently unreliable and has been flaky in some games from this data source. If this continues to happen, I’ll remove it and the tacklers chart from the template on an ongoing basis.

Not seeing graphs below? Tap here to fix it.

Team Success Rates over time (cumulative)

All in all, it makes sense that the 2nd half “revived” this game — at least somewhat — for the Tide. And it was really towards the end of the first half, after the weather delay, that Alabama started to pull away on efficiency and create some separation. All in all the Tide ended up with a ~38% Success Rate (after dipping to as low as ~25% in the first half), which is below average but honestly not nearly as putrid as you’d expect after watching this game.

Alabama wasn’t explosive at all, though, with a slumbering 8% XR. Maybe there were some effects of weather and the related play-calling there — after all, USF was somehow even less explosive than Bama — but you have to think that a better offense, better execution, and maybe better coaching would’ve given us the usual “out-talent the relative cupcake with explosive plays” treatment regardless.

Rushing and Passing Success (cumulative)

And, well, the reason that our efficiencies on average weren’t that terrible is solely because of our run game. The rushing tame started off shaky as well, but recovered in the 2nd quarter en route to climbing to a really respectable 57% SR. The rushing game, hilariously, was also our source of the meagre explosive plays we were able to muster, with four explosive rushes to the single explosive pass — that Ty Simpson to DJ Dippre connection in the 3rd quarter — that the Tide offense put up yesterday.

And, yeah, the rushing game had to be that good because the passing was awful. If you read this blog you’ve already heard (and maybe have said) the things you need to hear to understand why this passing game was so bad. Weather and a, um, “live quarterback experiment in the field” both contributed to a passing attack that resembles Iowa’s more than any recent Tide offense.

Rushing rate (cumulative)

I’d like to think that our astute coaches noticed that rushing was working so much better than passing, and decided to lean on it more as the game went on. Maybe that happened in the 1st quarter once the rain picked up and we saw some live “quarterbacking” from Tyler Buchner, but we remained pretty balanced the rest of the game until it was time to bleed clock at the very end.

Funny enough, that little clock-bleed at the end was really efficient, 4/5 success on the final plays, which is not usually the case but we were trying to get a late TD to make the game feel better. Anyway, that Ty Simpson and Roydell Williams combo in that half was kinda interesting.

Success and Explosiveness by Play Type

The prior charts show it, but this one makes it plainly obvious: neither team passed well, but the Tide rushing attack was the (again, relative) outstanding performer on the day.

Play Map: Yards and Result by Play

Somehow this chart makes things look ... better ... than they were. For all of the empty white dots — unsuccessful plays, including some sacks in the 2nd-4th quarters — there’s an even sprinkling of successful Tide plays throughout. But per the prior charts this was not really a picture of consistent success, but rather success a bit spread out.

It’s like when you were a kid and didn’t want to eat some part of your meal — collared greens for me ... don’t come at me! — and you spread it around to convince a parent (or cafeteria worker at school lunch) that you’d eaten more of it than you really had. That similar to the illusion of “even success” we see in this chart. You just can’t tell what the real trend is here, it’s all mush.

That “Avg Extra Yards” line is an unusual one for the Tide: we were well negative on that metric for nearly 2 quarters, but finally had a few explosive plays in the middle of the 3rd — Ty to Dippre, Roydell for 26 — to give this metric an immediate bump. That said, we still ended up negative here, which is very bad for this metric.

At least we weren’t the South Florida Bulls, who posted a solidly negative Avg Extra Yards metric for the entire game! Straight as an arrow. And if you take a look at the Bulls’ side of this chart, see where those explosive plays actually end up. Will 15 yards being our “big play” cutoff, South Florida had three of their five explosive plays barely count, at 15, 15, and 16 yards gained. Their longest was 31 yards on another one of those QB scrambles. That suggests that our opponents’ XRs here are a little inflated, and it’s all good commentary about Alabama’s defense in this one.

Success and Explosiveness by Quarter

Well, after all of that, the Tide did outperform the Bulls in each quarter of this game in SR ... and almost did the same for XR (save that 4th quarter). I’m hopeful that this “wait until the 3rd quarter” thing isn’t a recurring one.

The Tide defense kept USF’s numbers fairly low and steady for the game, which is a relief after last week, though those explosiveness numbers started to pop a bit in the 2nd half due almost entirely to Bulls’ QB Byrum Brown escaping the pocket a few times for long scrambles.

SR, XR, and Play Count by Drive

Alabama didn’t have as many true 3-and-outs as you’d fear given the TV product — just one with Buchner and one with Simpson — but plenty of “only one 1st down” drives. Is there a name for that? Despite our relative rushing efficiency, we didn’t actually have many sustained drives (just one at 8 plays, and the last at 11).

USF’s side of the chart looks pretty bad — a few 3-and-outs, two “2-and-outs” given turnovers, and a few more short drives — but they put together more sustained drives than the Tide did. That 15-play one in the first half is crazy! It’s a pretty odd combination of circumstances (a long field, some efficiency but not that much, and likely 4th down conversions) to give a team a 15 yard drive.

Success and Explosiveness by Down

The Downs chart is kinda the opposite of what we usually see. It’s not a perfect trend, but the last few seasons we’ve had a relative weakness on 2nd downs for various reasons (including coincidence, probably). In the last few seasons, I kinda blamed it on play-calling then followed by Bryce Young’s “3rd down magic,” which made 2nd downs look worse in comparison. It’s happened again this season — big time against Texas — but now this game is showing the opposite. Maybe when we throw in so many novel factors into the game, we get a Bizarro World result of normal offensive performance.

We also didn’t go for it on 4th down. USF did ... a lot ... and fortunately the Tide held them for most of those. I’m supportive of the modern 4th down mindset we’re seeing in football the last few years. But still ... six 4th down attempts sounds like you might be going for it on 4th too often.

Success and Explosiveness in the Red Zone

Bama was better both in and out of the Red Zone, but Alabama was especially good in the Red Zone. Still, that was only 10 plays there for Alabama, and zero for USF. There’s another kudos for Alabama’s defense in there somewhere.

Success and Explosiveness by Distance to go

Due to Alabama’s relative rushing success, we did manage high efficiencies on short-yardage situations. This has been a pretty good season for short yardage this year so far — maybe that’s where giant offensive linemen come in handy? — so hopefully we see this trend continue. That said, USF also performed as well in short yardage, which is a ding for our defensive line.

The other distances were wacky and, I think, uninformative, though Alabama’s relative success from long distances is interesting.

Top Rushers

QB Tyler Buchner had a 100% rushing success rate (2/2) in this game! That’s exciting stuff right there. Ty put together a few runs, too, with a 50% SR.

Those rates — which are fine, not bad — pretty much held across all of the backs, but it was exciting seeing Roydell Williams get into the swing of things to put together a 53% rushing SR (12% XR) on a team-leading 17 attempts. Maybe we’ll see more Roydell in the coming weeks!

Top Passers

Oh boy ... here’s the passers chart. Look, I’m truly not sure to what degree external circumstances played a role here. It was raining like hell for parts of this game, the field was apparently a mess, and neither of these QBs had been given the trust and reps with the 1st team that you’d hope for before a start at an “away” game.

But ... this chart is bad. Sure, Ty Simpson had a higher efficiency on fewer passes — 5/9 completions on the traditional box score — but two of those completions weren’t for successful gains, so it’s only a 33% SR, paired with an 11% XR (which is low for passing).

That said, Buchner was even more miserable. Again, weather especially may have played a role in his quarters of play, but he put up a 25% SR, with zero explosive passes. All on more attempts than what Ty got. Ugh.

For what it’s worth, Milroe had much better SR/XR metrics against Texas last week, except for the interceptions. It’s hard to quantify how “relatively bad” interceptions are — how much efficiency/explosiveness is it worth in a tradeoff? — but it’s an interesting comparison nonetheless.

Top Receivers

There were so few catches, I barely even recall having a “standout receiver” while I was watching this game. But apparently there was one, and it was Isaiah Bond! CJ Dippre — in a surprisingly rare appearance for the transfer TE so far in 2023 — also pulled in that explosive catch in the 3rd.

Otherwise, this chart is pretty sad for the Alabama passing game.

Unfortunately, the Tacklers data wasn’t reliable from this one again. From what I can tell, the leaders appear from this one are: Deontae Lawson, Tim Smith, Malachi Moore, Terrion Arnold, Dallas Turner, Chris Braswell, and Jihaad Campbell.

Otherwise ... yeah this was a tough game. Let’s hope it was an aberration, or a step along the road to redemption in 2023. Roll Tide regardless.