Advertisement

Posts tagged with Box

Box score breakdown: KU defense doesn’t deserve free pass against OU

Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 34-19 loss to Oklahoma.

A reminder: This box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.

KU-OU "new" box score

KU-OU "new" box score by Jesse Newell

A few quick takeaways ...

About that passing offense ...

I mentioned this on Twitter, but KU's passing offense might have been even worse than you originally thought on Saturday.

KU had 16 passing yards but also lost 19 yards on three sacks. In our "new" box score, sacks count against passing totals, as the team technically was trying to pass.

In essence, on plays when the Jayhawks tried to throw the ball against OU on Saturday, they went backwards. And that was against an OU defense that continued to bring defenders closer to the line to stuff the run.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps is sacked by Oklahoma defenders Charles Tapper (91) and Geneo Grissom on the Jayhawks' last drive of the game, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps is sacked by Oklahoma defenders Charles Tapper (91) and Geneo Grissom on the Jayhawks' last drive of the game, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

It's not all on KU quarterback Jake Heaps, and to be fair, he didn't have many opportunities to throw Saturday. But as the bad passing performances pile up, KU coach Charlie Weis has to at least consider shaking up the position because of its lack of production.

As bad as it was, KU's offense was better

Throw for negative-3 passing yards, and get better? Yep, that's the point KU's offense is at now.

Believe it or not, KU put up its best performance in Big 12 play against the Sooners. Take a look:

KU's Big 12 offensive performances.

KU's Big 12 offensive performances. by Jesse Newell

KU's 3.9 yards per play and 16.8 yards per possession are still not good, but they're better than what the Jayhawks put up in the previous two weeks.

The reason it doesn't look as good is because of context. KU (wisely) huddled on every play to slow down the pace of the game, and looking at the box score, it's one of the main reasons this game was close.

Give Weis credit for using this underdog tactic well (though he still needs a lot of work on fourth-down decisions). The Jayhawks will need to continue to shorten games against the Big 12's top teams to have a chance.

KU's defense takes step back

This game isn't like last week against TCU where nearly all the blame goes on the offense. KU's defense had its worst game in a few weeks.

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald turns back to the bench after giving up a touchdown to Oklahoma receiver Jaz Reynolds during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald turns back to the bench after giving up a touchdown to Oklahoma receiver Jaz Reynolds during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

KU allowed higher-than-NCAA-average totals in both yards per play (5.8) and yards per possession (31.9). The yards-per-possession number might have even looked worse if not for an OU game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter that gained a first down but netted just eight yards before a kneeldown.

On a windy day that should have hampered OU quarterback Blake Bell, KU's secondary wasn't its normal self. The Jayhawks had just two passes defensed (they average 6.7 per game) and also were burned repeatedly on third downs. Though OU averaged 6.8 yards to go on third downs, it converted seven of those 14 tries; the Jayhawks allowed third-down passing conversions on a third-and-12 (16 yards), third-and-6 (11 yards) and another third-and-6 (10 yards).

Though KU racked up the tackles-for-loss (nine), it overall didn't defend the run well, either. OU averaged a healthy 5.4 yards per rush and also had six 12-plus-yard runs on 44 carries.

Turnover luck helped Jayhawks

Honestly, it's tough from the box score above to see why this game was as close at it was.

Besides the aforementioned slow pace, KU's turnover luck also played the biggest role.

The Jayhawks had one interception while defending just two passes, which is a bit fortunate. Remember, about 21 percent of passes defended end up as interceptions.

On the flip side, OU's defense had five passes defended but no interceptions. Had one of those passes stuck, we're most likely talking about a blowout instead of a close game in the fourth quarter.

It's minor, but KU also recovered the only fumble of the game, which helped its cause as well.

Trevor Pardula doesn't save KU this time

The KU punter, who earned mid-season All-America recognition from Phil Steele earlier in the week, had by far his worst day while dealing with a steady wind and a flood of OU pressure.

Pardula's five punts netted just 27.8 yards; remember, this was the same player who netted 55.8 yards on five punts last month against LA Tech.

OU's punting wasn't any better (five punts, 25.8 yards), but on a day when OU clearly won the field-position battle (starting at its own 36 compared to KU starting at its own 30), the Jayhawks could have made up a lot of ground with an average game from Pardula. They didn't get it.

Can O-line keep it up?

Kansas offensive lineman Gavin Howard raises up the crowd after tight end Jimmay Mundine's touchdown against Oklahoma during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas offensive lineman Gavin Howard raises up the crowd after tight end Jimmay Mundine's touchdown against Oklahoma during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks, who had no 12-plus-yard rushes last week against TCU and just two in Big 12 play coming in, had four in the first quarter and six overall against Oklahoma.

It was the most positive aspect of KU's game Saturday: The Jayhawks' offensive line showed flashes of knocking defenders off the ball after struggling with that virtually the entire season.

KU's linemen will have a chance to prove they can do it against Saturday against a shaky Baylor run defense

It'll sure help, though, if the Jayhawks can go forward — and not backwards — with their passing game.

Reply

Box score breakdown: KU has no chance if offense remains this bad

Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 27-17 loss to TCU.

A reminder: This box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.

KU-TCU "new" box score

KU-TCU "new" box score by Jesse Newell

Here are a few takeaways:

Buddy Bell could have been talking about KU's offense

After his team's 10th straight loss back in 2006, Kansas City Royals manager Buddy Bell famously uttered a quote that has come to define much of the last 25-plus years of Royals baseball: "I never say it can't get worse."

And that's about the point we're at with this KU offense.

In last week's blog, I marveled at the fact that KU's yards per possession against Texas Tech's defense were only half the NCAA average.

Turned out, it could be worse. This week, KU was at roughly one-third of the NCAA average for yards per possession, squeaking out just 11.6 yards each time it touched the ball.

Yes, KU's best playmaker Tony Pierson was out, but take a look at the Jayhawks' stats from the first five games. KU's offensive numbers are plummeting ... and in a hurry.

KU's last five games

KU's last five games by Jesse Newell

The ugly numbers against TCU didn't stop with what was posted above. KU gained just 4.0 yards per first down, but take out a 50-yard pass to receiver Andrew Turzilli, and KU's 24 first-down plays mustered 50 yards (2.1 yards). And remember, first down is the best play for the offense, as defenses have to respect the run and pass.

Quarterback Jake Heaps was inaccurate most of the day, completing just half of his passes and averaging a measly 3.9 yards per pass attempt.

There's also this: None of KU's 17 possessions lasted more than six plays. Seriously. KU's longest offensive possessions went six plays: one went for 10 yards and another for 12.

In his book, Bill Connelly discusses the term "six-and-outs," meaning those possessions that are six plays and shorter and end in a punt. Teams that had zero or one six-and-out in 2012 games won 76 percent of the time (77-25) and had an average winning margin of +14.7 points.

On the other end, there were only 48 instances a year ago where a team had nine or more six-and-outs. Those teams went 11-37 (23-percent win percentage) and had an average margin of -20.1 points.

KU had 10 (10!) six-and-outs against TCU on Saturday.

Kansas receiver Josh Ford (8) looks to catch a pass but behind TCU's Keivon Gamble (16) on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. KU lost, 27-17.

Kansas receiver Josh Ford (8) looks to catch a pass but behind TCU's Keivon Gamble (16) on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. KU lost, 27-17. by Richard Gwin

No matter what KU coach Charlie Weis tries to say about playing conservative or playing field position, know this: An offense that played as badly as KU's did Saturday has virtually no chance of winning, even if its defense and special teams do excel.

KU was good — and lucky — with turnovers

Connelly generally has found turnovers to be one part skill, two parts luck, and KU definitely had a bit of both in the TCU game.

Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd (24) takes a interception in for a KU touchdown against TCU on Saturday,  Oct. 12, 2013.

Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd (24) takes a interception in for a KU touchdown against TCU on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. by Richard Gwin

KU's defense and special teams combined to force five turnovers, though you wouldn't necessarily have expected that based on the statistics.

After recovering just one of seven total fumbles a week ago against Texas Tech, KU's luck swung the other way against TCU, as the Jayhawks recovered four of five fumbles.

KU, which led the nation in passes defensed per game coming into this weekend, tied a season-low with just four passes defensed against TCU. That didn't stop the Jayhawks from getting two interceptions, which again appears to be a bit fortunate (21 percent of all passes defensed nationally end up as interceptions).

KU's offensive line shuffle didn't help the run game

Moving Gavin Howard to center, Pat Lewandowski to left tackle and Aslam Sterling to right tackle didn't provide any run-game improvement against TCU.

Though KU had 30 running plays, none of them went for more than 12 yards (to compare, TCU had five 12-plus-yard runs in 38 attempts). Eight of KU's 30 runs (27 percent) went for no gain or a loss and 19 of 30 (63.3 percent) went for three yards or fewer.

Maybe this switch will pay off down the road for KU, bit the reshuffling of the offense line certainly didn't provide any quick fixes against TCU.

KU continues to impress with its pass defense

Kansas safety Isiah Johnson (5) gets all over TCU's Aaron Green (22) during a tackle in the second half on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013.

Kansas safety Isiah Johnson (5) gets all over TCU's Aaron Green (22) during a tackle in the second half on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. by Richard Gwin

This is easily the most positive development for KU this season. The Jayhawks have one of the top pass defenses in the Big 12, and though it didn't have its best game Saturday, it also didn't take a step back from its previously high level of play, either.

TCU managed just 6.2 yards per pass attempt (though that sounds OK, it's actually not great as far as passing numbers go), and that's even with a 75-yard reception from TCU's David Porter where KU's Dexter McDonald and Cassius Sendish converged but missed the tackle for what would have been a short gain.

All plays count obviously, but if you did take out that reception, TCU would have been under 100 passing yards in a game it had the ball 18 times. That's a pretty impressive showing by KU's pass defense, no matter the opponent or location.

KU's pass defense also created the two aforementioned interceptions (including a pick-six from JaCorey Shepherd) and was the main reason TCU averaged just 21.1 yards per possession.

With that kind of defensive effort, KU would have had a great chance of winning Saturday if it had an NCAA-average (or even slightly worse) offense.

KU even on field position ... but not because of the kicking game

The field position for the two teams was nearly even, as KU's average starting position was its own 31, while TCU's was its own 33.

Normally, special teams have a lot to do with this, but Saturday was an exception. KU punter Trevor Pardula did fine (10 punts, 38.7 net), but those numbers were nearly identical to TCU's (seven punts, 38.4-yard net). TCU held a slight advantage in kickoffs, meaning most of KU's positive field position was created by the defense.

KU's special teams did recover a muffed punt that helped the Jayhawks with field position, but other than that, KU's defense was the unit flipping the field with four other turnovers.

It's amazing when you look back at KU's scoring drives. One touchdown drive was a pick-six, the other TD drive was 27 yards and the field-goal drive was six yards. KU also received the ball another time on the TCU 34 before going back 11 yards and punting.

If instead of trying to run offense, Weis decided to put his field-goal team on the field right where the defense gave him the ball, KU would have had seven points from the pick-six, plus potential field-goal attempts from 42 yards, 51 yards and 51 yards.

So if KU decided to not play offense against TCU on Saturday, it most likely would have had 10 points instead of 17 and could even have gotten to 13 with a 2-for-3 day from kicker Matthew Wyman.

Like last week, the final score was misleading. Those who glanced quickly at the score might have thought KU's 17 points was an improvement for the offense when that certainly wasn't the case.

Zone-read still effective against KU's defense

Kansas junior Michael Reynolds eyes TCU's quarterback  Trevone Boykin (2) on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, during the teams' game in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas junior Michael Reynolds eyes TCU's quarterback Trevone Boykin (2) on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, during the teams' game in Fort Worth, Texas. by Richard Gwin

In the Big 12, you'd rather have a good pass defense than a good run defense, but the Jayhawks still have improvement to be made when trying to defend a mobile quarterback.

TCU had plenty of success on the ground against KU's D, averaging 5.9 yards per carry once you take out the sack numbers. The Horned Frogs also busted five "explosive" runs of 12 yards or more; Texas Tech had just three 12-plus-yard runs on 42 attempts a week ago with a less-mobile QB.

The Jayhawks will be seeing more of this type of running game in future weeks, and while KU shut the zone-read down better in the second half against TCU, it's the one part of the game keeping KU's defense from becoming elite.

Reply

Box score breakdown: Don’t blame KU’s defense for Texas Tech’s 54-point outburst

Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 54-16 loss to No. 20 Texas Tech.

A reminder: This box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.

"New" box score. Remember, sacks are counted against passing yards (and not rushing yards), as they technically were pass attempts.

"New" box score. Remember, sacks are counted against passing yards (and not rushing yards), as they technically were pass attempts. by Jesse Newell

Here are a few takeaways:

KU's defense played horribly ... wait, no it didn't

This game is a perfect example that shows why it's best to give football box score numbers more context.

A quick glance at the numbers, and someone would see that KU gave up 54 points and 518 yards to Texas Tech and assume the Jayhawks played lousy defense.

That wasn't the case, as Texas Tech's yards per play (5.2) and yards per possession (30.5) were actually below the NCAA average.

So what gives?

Kansas defensive lineman Tedarian Johnson brings down Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive lineman Tedarian Johnson brings down Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Much like basketball, raw numbers can be skewed based on possessions. If North Carolina's basketball team leads the nation in scoring each year, that doesn't necessarily mean the Tar Heels have the best offense; it simply means they've scored the most points, which is affected by a team's scoring and pace.

The same applies to football. On Saturday, Texas Tech — mostly because KU's offense couldn't stay on the field for any length of time — ran a whopping 100 plays, which is 26 plays above the NCAA average.

And while KU's defense didn't necessarily have a good game, it certainly played well enough against a talented offense to not allow 54 points.

It's not easy to see at first glance (or with a standard box score), but Tech's high scoring on Saturday said was much more a result of KU's failures on offense rather than its defense.

Nothing is working for KU offensively

Let's not sugarcoat it: This was a truly putrid performance by KU's O.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps is sacked by Texas Tech linebacker Brandon Jackson during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps is sacked by Texas Tech linebacker Brandon Jackson during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks mustered just 16.1 yards per possession, which is barely half of the NCAA average (31 yards per possession).

But the bad news doesn't end there. Even after taking sacks out of the rushing equation, KU averaged just 2.1 yards per carry on 34 carries. What's scarier for KU: Just six of those 34 rushes (18 percent) went for five yards or more. Six. It can't be easy to commit to the run when an inexperienced offensive line is only clearing a hole on every fifth play.

Meanwhile, the passing game — after showing better efficiency against LA Tech — also regressed, as the Jayhawks completed just 18 passes on 38 dropbacks (attempts plus sacks). It's the third time this year in four games that KU hasn't been able to complete passes on half its dropbacks.

KU can be proud that it did produce some explosive plays (seven total), but that also is a bit of a downer. Tony Pierson, who had three of KU's 20-plus-yard catches, will most likely miss a few weeks after suffering a head injury in the third quarter.

In short, a KU offense that can't move the ball will now have to go without one of its only explosive playmakers.

Weis has quite a task ahead of him in preparing an offensive gameplan for TCU.

KU's defense not giving up big plays

Out of 100 plays, Texas Tech had just six that I would label "explosive" — runs of 12 or more or passes of 20 or more. Again, this is significant progress, as KU's defense is making opponents earn the points they get with long drives.

Remember just a couple years ago when Georgia Tech had four, 50-plus-yard plays against KU in a 66-24 win? Those days of the Jayhawks getting gashed for huge yardage appear to be gone, thanks to better players and also improved organization with defensive coordinator Dave Campo and linebackers coach Clint Bowen in charge.

Still ... KU's pass defense wasn't as good as past weeks

The Jayhawks allowed a season-high 6.8 yards per pass attempt and 10.9 yards per completion to the Red Raiders. While those numbers aren't awful, they are the highest KU has allowed this year (The previous highs against KU: LA Tech averaged 4.5 yards per pass attempt, while Rice was at 9.8 yards per completion.).

Though most of the plays were small chunks — KU allowed just three, 20-plus-yard passing plays — the Jayhawks did finally show some vulnerability in their pass defense after an excellent first quarter.

KU had some bad luck with turnovers

No, it wouldn't have made a difference in the final outcome, but the score would have been closer had KU gotten a few more bounces.

While forcing fumbles is a skill, studies have shown recovering fumbles is basically luck (and a 50-50 proposition for each team). Out of seven fumbles Saturday, KU fell on only one of them (14 percent). That might not seem like it would make much difference, but turnovers, on average, are worth about five points each when you take into account the field position lost by the offense and gained by the defense. Normal fumble luck (and three recoveries instead of one) could have resulted in a 10-point swing for KU.

The Jayhawks also continued to display active hands in the secondary. KU had 10 pass breakups, and studies have shown that over time, 21 percent of pass breakups result in interceptions. KU probably was "due" one extra interception based on the number of times it was able to knock away throws.

This is a big reason why I believe KU will win at least one Big 12 game this year: Turnovers make a huge difference in games, and the Jayhawks' secondary has shown a tendency to always be around the ball.

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald gets called for interference on an endzone pass to Texas Tech receiver Bradley Marquez during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald gets called for interference on an endzone pass to Texas Tech receiver Bradley Marquez during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks should be intercepting quite a few more passes before the year is out.

KU killed by field position

Another reason Texas Tech racked up 54 points that wasn't KU defense's fault? Terrific field position for the Red Raiders.

TTU's average start was its own 44, while KU's was its own 26 ... an 18-yard difference.

In games between FBS teams last year, teams with a 16-yard-or-greater advantage in field position went 62-2 (96.9 percent win percentage).

Field position is a combination of many factors, but obviously the Jayhawks' six three-and-outs, four turnovers and failed fake punt all contributed to Tech's domination in the stat Saturday.

Reply

Box score breakdown: Should we still consider KU a run-first team?

Here's a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 13-10 victory over LA Tech.

A note for first-time readers: this box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.

KU-LA Tech "new" box score

KU-LA Tech "new" box score by Jesse Newell

Here are a few takeaways from the box score:

Turnovers saved the Jayhawks

Kansas defensive lineman Keon Stowers comes away with the ball after recovering a Louisiana Tech fumble late in the fourth quarter to give the Jayhawks the ball back.

Kansas defensive lineman Keon Stowers comes away with the ball after recovering a Louisiana Tech fumble late in the fourth quarter to give the Jayhawks the ball back. by Nick Krug

One glance at our "new" box score shows that LA Tech was the better team Saturday. The Bulldogs were better in yards per play, yards per possession, average field position, explosive plays ... pretty much any category you want to look at.

That sometimes isn't enough, though, when you can't hold onto the football.

Though Tech had only one more turnover than KU (3-2), the Bulldogs' miscues were much more costly. If we look at equivalent points — the number of points a team is likely to score on a drive from a certain yard line, plus the average number of points the opponent is likely to score on the ensuing possession — we see that quarterback Ryan Higgins' fumble cost his team an estimated 6.79 points (the ball at the opponent's 2 is worth 7.11 points; KU getting the ball at its own 20 is worth -0.32 points to KU) and Kenneth Dixon's fumble cost his team an estimated 5.54 points.

Add it up, and those 12 points given to KU — along with some timely offense from the Jayhawks — made up for KU's other deficiencies.

It's time to be concerned about the run game

Remember, for this box score, any negative yards on sacks go in to "Passing Yards" category, which makes the Jayhawks' 3.8-yard-per-carry rushing average look even worse.

KU coach Charlie Weis said after the game that his offensive line was getting beaten routinely inside by Tech's front four, so he altered his game plan to try to attack the Bulldogs with the passing game on the edges.

Playing musical chairs with the offensive line probably didn't help, either. At times, the right side of KU's line (Dylan Admire, Damon Martin, Riley Spencer) featured three players that didn't even start in the team's previous game against Rice.

After watching this year's struggles, it seems likely we probably didn't give enough credit to offensive linemen Tanner Hawkinson, Trevor Marrongelli and Duane Zlatnik for clearing the holes they did for the running game a season ago.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with our Div. II assistant coach from the breakdown blog last week.

After I showed him the video of KU's offensive line getting blown up by Rice's front four, "Coach" made the comment that there was a possibility that this year's Jayhawks might not be suited to be a run-first team.

"You have to tailor your offense around the type of players that you have," Coach said. "Last year was the 2012 KU Jayhawks. The 2012 KU Jayhawks are only going to happen once ever. The 2013 Jayhawks are a new team, so maybe they’re not going to be as great at running the ball, so maybe they need to do other things."

It's looking more and more like that with each passing week.

KU's passing game much more efficient

Kansas receiver Christian Matthews hauls in a pass with Louisiana Tech defensive back Xavier Woods on his back during the fourth quarter.

Kansas receiver Christian Matthews hauls in a pass with Louisiana Tech defensive back Xavier Woods on his back during the fourth quarter. by Nick Krug

For the first time this year, KU completed more than 50 percent of its passes in a game, as Jake Heaps was 28-for-46, good for a 61-percent completion rate.

One encouraging sign for KU was that many of its pass plays were simpler. Heaps said after the game that the Jayhawks took quite a few "free" yards on rollout plays, simply taking advantage of what the defense was giving to pick up some short yardage.

The Jayhawks still aren't much of a threat to break a deep pass play, but some passing game is better than none. With KU's run getting stuffed all game, Heaps at least showed the ability to get moderate gains through the air, while the receivers limited their drops to help the pass game's efficiency.

KU's run defense starting to show some holes

KU's pass defense once again was a bright spot, coming up with nine pass breakups while holding Tech to an excellent 4.5 yards per pass attempt.

On the other hand, the Jayhawks continue to get gashed by a variety of running plays.

Against Rice, it was the read- and speed-option that burned KU. Against LA Tech, KU struggled against more traditional running plays, allowing an "explosive run" (12 or more yards) on nearly a-fourth of the Bulldogs' rushes (seven of 29 run plays).

Almost every team in the Big 12 is pass-happy, so KU is better off having a team that is built to defend the pass rather than the run.

Still, KU is about to face better running backs, so some improvement is needed to get opposing offenses into passing downs so KU can take advantage of the impressive secondary it has assembled.

Take a bow, Trevor Pardula

I believe I'm safe in saying this is a game KU definitely would have lost a year ago without punter Trevor Pardula.

The juco transfer saved the Jayhawks on Saturday when it came to field position. Though KU didn't get good field position often (average start of own 19), Pardula made sure that Tech didn't have better field position, as his booming punts ensured that Tech's average drive start was its own 28.

Field position matters, too. Tech had a nine-yard advantage on average field position, and in 2012, FBS teams won 71.6 percent of the games when their field position was eight-to-12 yards better than their opponents.

As mentioned in the first week's blog, when two FBS teams played in 2012 and one team had an advantage of 12 yards or more per drive in field position, that team's record was 151-10 (.938). And without Pardula netting 55.8 yards on his five punts, KU most likely loses the field-position battle by at least 12 yards.

Through three games, Pardula has probably made the biggest impact of any juco player Weis brought in for this season.

Playmakers needed

Kansas receiver Rod Coleman has a pass broken up by Louisiana Tech defenders Thomas McDonald (33) and Le'Vander Liggins (13) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas receiver Rod Coleman has a pass broken up by Louisiana Tech defenders Thomas McDonald (33) and Le'Vander Liggins (13) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

KU had more possessions and more plays than an average contest, yet the Jayhawks mustered just six "explosive" plays.

What's also troubling is that KU had quite a bit of issues on first down — a down where a team should have most of the playbook open. KU averaged just 3.1 yards on first down, with the same number of first-down plays going for negative yards (three) as 10-plus-yard gains (three).

The Jayhawks performed some second-down miracles while doing a good job of avoiding sacks to keep their third-down distances manageable (6.1 average yards to go), but the fact is, KU's offense is going to continue to struggle if someone doesn't emerge to break off 30-plus-yard plays every once in a while (KU had none against LA Tech).

Weis did a better job of getting speedy Tony Pierson the ball on Saturday, but there's still work to be done to get him more opportunities in the open field.

Through three games — and a 2-1 record — I'd argue that Pierson and receiver Rodriguez Coleman are the most significant players for this team moving forward.

Those guys provide KU with the best hope at breaking off big plays, which will be vital if the Jayhawks can't get their offensive line — and running game — back to last year's form.

Reply

Box score breakdown: KU’s running game against Rice wasn’t what we’re used to

Let's take a look at our "new" box score for Kansas' 23-14 loss to Rice.

For those who didn't check out last week's blog, this box score is meant to give some of the most relevant stats so we can take a deeper (and better) look into the numbers.

KU-Rice updated "new" box score

KU-Rice updated "new" box score by Jesse Newell

Here are a few takeaways from the box score:

KU's pass defense, once again, was stellar

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald celebrates his interception during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Kansas cornerback Dexter McDonald celebrates his interception during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. by Nick Krug

If you're looking for positives, this has to be the biggest one. After a dominating pass defense performance in Game 1 against South Dakota (2.8 pass yards allowed/attempt), the Jayhawks backed it up with an effort that was nearly as impressive against respected Rice QB Taylor McHargue (4.1 pass yards allowed/attempt).

Not only that, KU's secondary is making plays on the ball. KU's 11 passes defensed (pass breakups plus interceptions) is a huge number that hints the Jayhawks should me more competitive defensively this year in the pass-happy Big 12. Through two games, KU's 7.5 passes broken up per game leads the conference, while Dexter McDonald is tied for fourth nationally with five pass breakups of his own.

KU's pass offense, once again, was pretty bad

Remember, in our "new" box score, sacks are counted against the passing totals, as technically, they are passing plays. Through this prism, KU's passing numbers go from bad to cover-your-eyes awful.

The Jayhawks mustered just 4.2 net passing yards per attempt after posting an identical 4.2 net yards per attempt against South Dakota the week before. Notice that if you look at yards per completion, KU's passing numbers jump up to 9.8 yards per catch. So what does that tell us? In short, KU isn't completing enough passes. For the second straight week, quarterback Jake Heaps failed to complete more than 50 percent of his throws, and once again, costly drops kept KU from having a more efficient passing game.

Trevor Pardula had another great game

Again, if optimism is your thing, KU punter/kickoff guy Trevor Pardula is another reason to believe KU can be competitive in Big 12 games. After seven punts, the junior still maintained a healthy 40.4-yard net punt average, and that was a big reason KU stayed close in the field-position game (KU's average start was its own 27; Rice's was its own 30). Pardula also blasted three more touchbacks, and through nine kickoffs this season, his six touchbacks are already more than KU had in all of 2012 (five in 47 kickoffs).

KU's offensive numbers were even worse considering the opportunities

In 2012, during games between two FBS teams, the average squad had 13 possessions per game. The Jayhawks had it 15 times against the Owls and still never managed to find a rhythm. To be fair, one of those possessions was a kneeldown at the end of the first half, but the numbers are ugly regardless. KU managed just 18 yards per possession, which is barely half of what an NCAA team averaged a year ago (31.1 yards per possession). Remember, that was against a Rice defense that allowed 52 points in 14 possessions to Texas A&M two weeks before.

It was a weird game for KU's running game

The last few years, KU has had success in the running game by getting modest gains to keep the chains moving. Against Rice, the Jayhawks were the total opposite of that, featuring a boom-or-bust tendency while playing without backup RB Taylor Cox.

Kansas running back Darrian Miller is upended by Rice linebacker Nick Elder during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas.

Kansas running back Darrian Miller is upended by Rice linebacker Nick Elder during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. by Nick Krug

KU had three rushes of 12 yards are more, and all were by James Sims, who has been more of a grinding back during his career. On the opposite side of the spectrum, though, KU had seven rushes that went for no gain or a loss, indicating the Jayhawks' offensive linemen were getting overpowered too often.

That made for some weird stats. KU's 4.2-yard-per-carry average might be more acceptable if the Jayhawks were better able to avoid losing plays. Instead, KU averaged just 2.6 yards on first down because of all the run stuffs, and that put the team in tough situations on third downs, where the Jayhawks' average gain to go was 7.9 yards — much too high for a team that is still trying to find itself in the passing game.

The pick-six was a killer

The box score above shows this game wasn't dominated by Rice. The Owls had slightly better numbers across the board, but statistically this game was close enough for KU to win if it had a positive turnover margin.

Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, Heaps' pick-six in the first quarter put the team in a huge hole. Bill Connelly has done the math to compile an NCAA football chart for equivalent points — the number of points a team is likely to score on a drive from a certain yard line.

When Heaps threw the pass, KU was on the Rice 46 — a yard line worth 1.62 equivalent points to KU. The interception return for TD then gave the Owls seven points, and the ensuing kickoff was a touchback, putting KU on the 25 — worth 0.01 equivalent point.

Do the math, and that was a 8.61-point swing because of a single play — definitely enough to swing the balance of a game that the Owls won by ... nine points.

Reply

Box score breakdown: 3 positives and negatives following KU’s win over South Dakota

The football box score hasn't changed much over the past decade.

Some of the basic stats listed from box scores in the 1930s — like total yardage and passing yardage — still appear today.

But which stats are useful, and which are junk?

Advanced stats expert Bill Connelly examined that exact topic in his recently released book, and in one of the chapters, he proposes a "new" box score.

Basically, his goal is to leave in the important stats that are most telling while leaving out some of the garbage. For example, yards per play and possession are important, as they give some additional context in an age where some offenses are going faster than ever.

Some other stats, like penalties (studies have shown penalty yardage does not correlate strongly to wins and losses) and time of possession (total plays is a better stat) are left out.

With that in mind, I compiled the "new" box score for KU's 31-14 victory over South Dakota on Saturday. Let's take a look:

The "new" box score

The "new" box score by Jesse Newell

A few quick definitions:

• "Passes defensed" is the number of interceptions plus the number of pass breakups a team has in a game. About 21 percent of passes defensed are intercepted in college football, so this number can let us know if a team might have gotten a bit of luck in the turnover department.

• In this box score, sacks are counted against passing totals. If you think about it, that makes sense, as negative yardage from a team trying to pass shouldn't penalize its rushing numbers.

Here are a few takeaways from the box score:

KU's pass defense was stellar

Kansas safety Dexter Linton snags South Dakota recevier Terrance Terry by the jersey before bringing him down during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas safety Dexter Linton snags South Dakota recevier Terrance Terry by the jersey before bringing him down during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Yeah, it's only an FCS opponent, but KU's pass defense still deserves praise for completely shutting down South Dakota. The Coyotes averaged just 2.8 net yards per attempt while managing only 55 net passing yards. Those criticizing KU coach Charlie Weis for taking a 15-yard penalty to make it third and 19 in the fourth quarter only need to look to these numbers to see why he did it. USD had no chance throwing it against KU until that one particular play, where the Coyotes completed a 37-yard pass for a first down. The odds were in Weis' favor when he accepted the walkoff.

KU's pass offense was pretty bad

The Jayhawks' 4.2 net passing yards per attempt has to be a huge concern considering KU's opponents only will get tougher in the coming weeks. This wasn't all on quarterback Jake Heaps, as he was victimized by a handful of drops on some well-thrown passes. KU's yard-per-completion number wasn't horrible (9.2), but the Jayhawks' efficiency was hurt because of the high number of incompletions.

Special teams played a huge role for KU

Here's a stat for you from Connelly's book: In 2012, when two FBS teams played and one team had an advantage of 12 yards or more per drive in field position, that team's record was 151-10 (.938). That stat held true Saturday for KU against an FCS foe, as the Jayhawks held a 12-yard advantage in the statistic, meaning special teams helped turn what could have been a close game into a three-possession win. KU's biggest edge was on punts, as contributions from Connor Embree (four returns, 92 yards), Josh Ford (blocked punt) and Trevor Pardula (42.2 net yards per punt) gave KU a nearly 20-yard per punt edge over USD.

The Jayhawks put themselves in some tough third-down situations

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps turns to throw against South Dakota during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps turns to throw against South Dakota during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

KU's average third-down distance needed was 7.7 yards, which was higher than I'd have expected against USD. Though the Jayhawks averaged 6.6 yards on first downs, most of that success came in the second half. On 16 first downs in the first half, KU gained 71 yards (4.4 yards/play); on 17 first downs in the second half, KU gained 147 yards (8.6 yards/play). You could take this a few different ways. Maybe KU improved in the second half because Weis committed himself more to the run. Perhaps KU was the better conditioned team, and that played a factor late. Either way, KU's 6.2-yard-per-carry average is a strong number, and with it, the Jayhawks should be able to avoid third-and-longs better than they did Saturday.

KU's running-back depth appears to be legit

The Jayhawks ripped off 10 12-plus-yard runs against USD, and five different backs had a 12-yard run of their own (James Sims, Brandon Bourbon, Darrian Miller, Taylor Cox, Tony Pierson). I've mentioned this before, but with so many options, there's no reason for KU's coaches to turn Sims into a workhorse back this year. The Jayhawks have enough talent to keep fresh legs on the field.

As good as the run game was, KU's pass offense was bad enough to make it a below-average offensive performance

You can see on the top that KU's yards (404), yards per play (5.5) and yards per possession (31.1) all were almost exactly on the NCAA average from a year ago. That average, though, only reflects games between two FBS opponents. KU's offense should have been expected to do better against USD, but as mentioned before, the Jayhawks' lack of passing efficiency dragged all the numbers down. The 31 points scored Saturday had a lot to do with KU's defense and special teams providing great field position and not necessarily the overall success of the Jayhawks' offense.

KU's receivers and tight ends appear to have the most to prove heading into Week 2 against Rice.

Reply