Inside the numbers on Boise State versus UNLV

Otto Kitsinger III

Good teams control inferior teams, great teams dominate them and elite teams destroy them. After Saturday we learned that Boise State's offense is good and their defense is among the elite. Playing without budding superstar DeMarcus Lawrence, the Bronco defense was buoyed by the stellar play of Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins. A deeper look into advanced stats reveal a steady offense, solid special teams, and salty defense guiding the Broncos to a blackout blowout over UNLV.

Box Score

BSU UNLV
Score 32 7
Offensive Possessions 12 11
Offensive Pts Per Possession 2.1 0.0
% of Total Possible Pts 30.0% 0.0%
Success Rate 49% 29%
Leverage Rate 77% 67%
Avg Starting Drive OWN 40 OWN 22
Field Position Percentage 59% 35%
Turnovers 3 3
Turnover % 25% 27%
Wasted Yards 149 210
% Yards Wasted 38% 100%
RedZone Trips 5 1
RedZone Point % 71% 0%
Swing/Explosion Pts 7 7
% of Total Points 0% 0%

THE GOOD - The Blackout

I was not a fan of the idea of the blackout prior to the game since so many teams are doing it. I even wore a white t-shirt to the game.

However, attendance was up, and the atmosphere and crowd noise was far better than it has ever been for a lower tiered opponent. The players obviously love the look and feel it is intimidating. If the defense plays like they did Saturday, I don't care what color of jersey they wear.

THE BAD - Field Goals Beyond 35 Yards

Lost in the question marks presented by the passing game and red zone troubles, the kicking game has relatively flown under the radar. Chris Petersen has said that he is looking to get non-pressure reps for kicker Michael Frisina from longer distances. In a week where a high school kicker booted a 67 yarder, the Broncos enter the second half of the season with a kicker that has hit only 67 percent of his field goal attempts with a career long of 37 yards. More concerning is that there is a former starter and another scholarship kicker waiting on the bench that can't seem to take the job away from him.

It could be worse - opponents' kickers have only hit 4 of 9 field attempts on the season.

THE OBSCURE - By the Numbers

  • 1/2 - Number of MWC Conference Player of the Week honors awarded to a Boise State player in 2012. D.J. Harper shared the offensive award with Robbie Rouse in week three, otherwise the conference's only undefeated team has gone without individual recognition. In my mind, Derek Carr can win the Offensive POY award and place it on a high, dog-proof shelf, as long as Boise State takes home the conference title.
  • 1 - Successful fourth down conversions by the Bronco offense in 2012. Boise State ranks 122nd in the nation in fourth down conversions going 1 for 10. Florida State is the only team in the country yet to convert a fourth down play, coming up short on their single attempt thus far.
  • 1 - Victories by the Broncos at home in a helmet that is not blue. The blackout resulted in a rare game where the Broncos did not don a blue lid while playing on the blue turf. Boise State went with white helmets against TCU last season ending a decade-long (regular season) home win streak. For superstitious types in the loss prior to TCU, Boise State wore white jersey tops as the "away" team in the bowl game, losing to Boston College. The last loss at home with blue jerseys came against Washington State in 2001.
  • 7 - Yards of the longest touchdown surrendered by the Bronco defense so far this season. New Mexico's option attack managed to score from seven yards out and thus far that has been the longest scoring play allowed by the Broncos defense. UNLV's 30 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown would be the longest scoring play by an opponent in 2012.
  • 22 - Number of turnovers created by the Boise State defense in 2012, good for second in the FBS. Only SMU has created more turnovers with 25. The total turnover margin of 11 places the Broncos in the top ten nationally.

***

Success and Leverage Rate

Successful plays are defined as plays that gain 50 percent of needed yards on first down, 70 percent of needed yards on second down, and 100 percent of needed yards on third and fourth downs.

Leverage Rate measures the percentage of plays a team runs on standard downs. Standard downs are those plays where a team statistically has both a run and pass option. 1st and 10, 2nd and 7 or less, and finally 3rd/4th down with less the four yards to go are considered standard downs. Leverage Rate can be a more meaningful measurement of offensive efficiency than the traditional third down conversion statistic.

Leverage rate (team)

Boise State 76%, UNLV 63%

Success rate by quarter (team)

Q1 // Boise State 65%, UNLV 8%
Q2 // Boise State 50%, UNLV 28%
Q3 // Boise State 32%, UNLV 47%
Q4 // Boise State 46%, UNLV 30%

The tone was set for the game in the first quarter. With a 65 percent success rate, the offense experienced the most efficient quarter of the season, but the defense was even more impressive limiting UNLV one successful play in the initial period. First down success is key to any game plan and Boise State shined with a success rate of 50 percent on their 30 first down snaps. UNLV was stifled with only a 26 percent first down success rate and was no better on second down with the same 26 percent.

Quarterback success rate

Boise State

Joe Southwick 16 for 29 (55%) - 22 completions (76%), 243 yards
Grant Hedrick 1 for 3 (33%) - 2 completions (67%) 14 yards

UNLV

Nick Sherry - 5 for 30 (17%) - 14 completions (47%), 71 yards

Many called this Southwick's best performance of the year. 243 yards, zero touchdowns and 55 percent success rate are not flashy or career defining numbers. Hopefully, the contentment for Southwick's performance is a result of the fanbase judging Southwick by his own standards rather than the unrealistic expectations set by his predecessor. Southwick deserves credit for his leadership and for not taking unnecessary chances that lead to turnovers.

Nick Sherry was under pressure all day and faced a stiff Bronco defensive backfield, leading to a day where only five pass plays were statistically successful. The longest completion for the rebels on the day totaled 10 yards.

Running back success rate

Boise State

D.J. Harper - 4 for 12 (33%) - 59 yards, 4.9 YPC 
Jay Ajayi - 6 for 8 (75%) - 37 yards, 4.6 YPC
Jack Fields - 3 for 10 (30%) - 28 yards, 2.8 YPC


UNLV

Bradley Randle - 7 for 16 (44%) - 64 yards, 4.0 YPC
Tim Cornett - 4 for 16 (25%) - 61 yards, 3.8 YPC 
Rest of Team - 5 for 10 (50%) - 28 yards, 2.8 YPC

The runing game provided some much needed offensive balance with a success rate of 48 percent on non-kneeling plays. While the four-plus yards per carry by Harper and Ajayi was very encouraging it was the success in the power running game that was most welcomed. Both Harper and Ajayi were perfect in short yardage power situations including short touchdown runs by both running backs.

Wide receiver completion and success rate

Boise State

Matt Miller - 3 for 6 (50%) - 5 catches, 53 yards 
Chris Potter- 3 for 4 (75%) - 4 catches, 52 yards
Kirby Moore - 3 for 5 (60%) - 3 catches, 30 yards  
Dallas Burroughs - 2 for 3 (67%) - 3 catch, 50 yards
Shane Williams-Rhodes - 2 for 4 (50%), 4 catches, 21 yards

UNLV

Marcus Sullivan - 0 for 8 (0%) - 6 catches, 19 yards 
Devante Davis - 3 for 10 (30%) - 4 catches, 31 yards 
Rest of Team - 2 for 7 (29%) - 4 catches,  21 yards 

Once again Southwick spread the love, hitting nine different receivers in the game. Normally sports writers refer to "by committee" when there is no clear-cut star, but the Bronco way has been to utilize different packages in the passing game and distribute the ball. The approach may not result in conference player of the week awards, but you can't argue with the overall production put up by the receiving corps.

Clearly, the Broncos are more committed to keeping defenses honest with the deep ball. Dallas Burroughs hauled in a 47 yard strike from Southwick and Aaron Burks open twice with Southwick and Grant Hedrick overthrowing him once each.

Successful plays are defined as plays that gain 50 percent of needed yards on first down, 75 percent of needed yards on second down, and 100 percent of needed yards on third and fourth downs.

This year receiver success rate accounts for the number of successful plays per pass that was targeted at that receiver. The play-by-play data does not always list an intended receiver, so these numbers may vary for those of you scoring at home.

Stops, Stuffs, and Defeats

Boise State - 51 stops (51 of 73 for 70%), 17 defeats, 10 stuffs (10 of 42 for 24%)
UNLV - 35 stops (35 of 62 for 56%), 17 defeats, 10 stuffs (10 of 36 for 26%)

Much like the situation with the receiving corps, the defensive front seven rotates so many players it is difficult for one player to put up gaudy stats. This week it was Blake Renaud that paced the team with 10 tackles with stellar special teams play and an increased role on defense.

The Bronco defensive has been very stingy when it comes to explosive plays. On 73 snaps, UNLV only managed three plays with gains over 10 yards.

Stops are defined as plays that prevent a successful play by the offense. Stuffs are running plays resulting is a loss of yards. Defeats are any stop on 3rd/4th downs or any other play resulting in no gain or a turnover.

Line Yards

Boise State - 84 line yards, 36 attempts, 2.3 average - 62% of total rushing yards
UNLV - 90 yards, 42 attempts, 2.1 average - 64% of total rushing yards  

Still trying to get a handle on how to judge and compare the line yards statistic. With seven games of data, it is starting to appear that 3.0 line yard per attempt would be a measure of a good performance (3.0 against Fresno) and an average over 3.5 would be a great performance. (3.7 against Miami)

Boise State managed a line yard average of 2.3 yards per play which seems pedestrian, but is identical to the average Michigan State managed against the Broncos in the opener. That probably says more about the underrated performance of the Bronco defense against the Spartans, than it does for the performance of the O-line thus far.

Line yards measure the effectiveness of offensive line play by assigning value to rushing yards gained near the line of scrimmage. View the complete formula.

Swing Points and Wasted Yards

Swing/Explosion points

Boise State - 7
UNLV - 7

Wasted yards

Boise State - 149 of 394 (38% of total net yards)
UNLV - 210 of 210 (100% of total net yards)

Each team scored a defensive touchdown, but the timing of those swing points were at very different stages of the game. Gavins' return blew the game open, while UNLV's fumble return was meaningless to the outcome of the game other than to prevent the shoutout. With the sole points coming from the defense, UNLV wasted 100 percent of their offensive production.

Swing points account for points scored on defense, special teams, or drives of 25 yards or less. I have also added field goals for 50 yards or greater to the swing points metric. Any points scored from a field position that most teams would be punting should be considered a bonus. Explosion points are accrued when a team has a play of over 60 yards that scores or leads to points being scored.

Wasted yards are the yards gained on non-scoring drives.

Field Position Rate

Boise State - 59%
UNLV - 35%

Special teams once again pinned the opponent deep allowing Boise State to win the battle of field position. The first six Bulldog drives had an average starting position of the 12 yard line. The field position advantage allowed the defense to put pressure on the UNLV offense and gave the Broncos time to find their offensive footing.

Field Position Percentage shows the percentage of a team's plays that took place on their opponent's side of the field versus the number of plays the opponent snapped in their side of the field. The higher the number, the better. Good teams have over 40 percent. Great teams get over 50 percent. There are a few different interpretations of Field Position Rate on the various sites. For this column, FPR accounts for the percentage of all plays in BSU territory versus plays in the opponents territory.

A brief thesis on advanced stats

Good statistics should reinforce what you see on the field. And they should have cool-sounding names.

Inside the Numbers seeks to settle both accounts with some advanced stats analysis of the Boise State football team. Make no mistake: Some of these stats are confusing. But most of them are the type of information that will give a well-rounded look into the why and how of Boise State domination. Swing by the OBNUG glossary for a primer on some of the more advanced stats.

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