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Inside the numbers on Boise State versus Southern Miss

No matter how many advanced stats the math geeks come up with, none will tell a better story of the Broncos win over Southern Miss than turnovers and field position. The Boise State defense had five takeaways and handed the offense a short field to work with time and again. To make matters worse for the Golden Eagles, the Boise State kickoff and special teams unit repeatedly pinned Southern Miss deep in their own territory.

After a scare against New Mexico, Bronco Nation is celebrating a comfortable 26-point victory. Do the advanced stats show that fans have a reason to be optimistic? A look inside the numbers shows, despite the score, the Broncos were not as dominant as the Sunday morning boxscore may appear.

Box Score

Score 40 14
Offensive Possessions 16 16
Offensive Pts Per Possesion 2.50 0.88
% of Total Possible Pts 35.7% 12.5%
Success Rate 43% 39%
Leverage Rate 65% 74%
Avg Starting Drive OWN 42 OWN 25
Field Position Percentage 57% 43%
Turnovers 1 5
Turnover % 6% 31%
Wasted Yards 110 295
% Yards Wasted 39% 45%
RedZone Trips 5 3
RedZone Point % 77% 67%
Swing/Explosion Pts 7 0
% of Total Points 18% 0%

THE GOOD - Kickoff Coverage

Boise State is 96th in the nation in touchback percentage, and that is by design. Only 26% of Trevor Harman's kicks off the tee find their way to the endzone. Southern Miss managed to return only one of eight kicks beyond the 25-yard-line. Three returns were stopped inside the 15-yard-line.

THE BAD - Third Down

Boise State was only 2 of 11 on third down conversions. The poor showing was a result of mixed results on second down. The Broncos either managed first down yardage on second down or they gained very little. This resulted in only two of the third down attempts needing four yards or less. One conversion was the misdirection crossing route to Kirby Moore for a touchdown and the other was a nine yard throw to Matt Miller. Otherwise, the Broncos gained a combined 11 yards on third down.

Prior to the game at Southern Miss, the Bronco offense had been pretty efficient on third down and dismal on fourth down. The good news is this week's opponent, Fresno State, is among the nation's worst on third down, converting just 36 percent of their attempts.

THE OBSCURE - By the Numbers

  • 0- Number of touchdowns thrown by opposing quarterbacks against the Broncos this season. The only passing touchdown surrendered by the Boise State defense was a halfback pass by Spencer Treadwell of Miami of Ohio. Starting quarterbacks are yet to rush for a touchdown as well, while the reserve quarterbacks have accounted for five rushing touchdowns.
  • 1- The total number of called runs for Boise State on third down for the entire game. Jack Field's carry late in the second half was the only planned run on third down. Southwick also had a third down scramble earlier in the game.
  • 12- Number of Broncos that had offensive touches in the game. Seven different players had rushing attempts and Southwick spread the ball around to eight different receivers. Grant Hedrick and Geraldo Boldewijn had their first offensive touches of the season.
  • 19- Longest kick return by Tracy Lampley of Southern Miss. He had been averaging over 24 yards per return coming into the game and had a 100 yard return against Nebraska. Against the Broncos he returned six kicks for an average return of 12 yards.


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 65%, Southern Miss 74%

Success rate by quarter (team)

Q1 // Boise State 42%, Southern Miss 42%
Q2 // Boise State 47%, Southern Miss 47%
Q3 // Boise State 47%, Southern Miss 31%
Q4 // Boise State 33%, Southern Miss 36%

From a standpoint of success rates and leverage, the game was fairly even, which makes the score so misleading. Southern Miss moved the ball efficiently, but was done in by turnovers and poor field position.

Boise State's struggles on third down were a result of poor leverage on those plays. Only 2 of the 11 third down plays were a situation where both a run or pass option was statistically viable. The third down distance was not a result of poor performance on second down. Boise State had a 43 percent success rate on second down and gained a first down on 9 of 23 tries.

Quarterback success rate

Boise State

Joe Southwick 13 for 27 (48%) - 18 completions (67%), 195 yards
Grant Hedrick 1 for 3 (33%) - 1 completion (33%) 6 yards

Southern Miss

Ricky Lloyd - 11 for 21 (52%) - 12 completions (57%), 143 yards
Anthony Alford - 5 for 15 (33%) - 7 completions (47%), 100 yards

Southwick completed 67 percent of his passes which may have masked his overall performance. His success rate of 48 percent was lower than Ricky Lloyd who was benched in the second half. The big difference was Southwick recovered from his early interception and came up with big throws in tough situations.

Running back success rate

Boise State

D.J. Harper - 5 for 13 (38%) - 47 yards, 3.6 YPC 
Jay Ajayi - 4 for 9 (44%) - 38 yards, 4.2 YPC
Jack Fields- 2 for 4 (50%) - 12 yards, 3.0 YPC

Southern Miss

Desmond Johnson - 7 for 15 (47%) - 114 yards, 7.6 YPC 
Anthony Alford - 5 for 8 (63%) - 50 yards, 6.3 YPC 
Ricky Lloyd - 1 for 6 (17%) - 8 yards, 1.33 YPC
Rest of Team - 3 for 12 (33%) - 31 yards, 2.6 YPC

The running game was efficient enough to keep the defense honest, but it was far from explosive. The Broncos did have five runs go for more than 10 yards, but they also had nine rushes stuffed at the line for a loss or no gain. They particularly struggled on first down, averaging just 2.5 yards per carry.

Wide receiver completion and success rate

Boise State

Matt Miller - 3 for 6 (50%) - 4 catches, 32 yards 
Mitch Burroughs - 1 for 2 (50%) - 1 catch, 7 yards
Kirby Moore - 3 for 6 (50%) - 5 catches, 61 yards  
Aaron Burks - 3 for 3 (100%) - 3 catches, 35 yards
Shane Williams-Rhodes - 2 for 2 (100%), 2 catches, 15 yards
Chris Potter - 1 for 3 (33%) - 1 catch, 33 yards

Southern Miss

Tracy Lampley - 3 for 7 (43%) - 4 catches, 62 yards 
Francisco Llanos- 1 for 4 (25%) - 2 catches, 11 yards 
D.J. Sullivan - 6 for 7 (86%) - 7 catches, 63 yards
Rest of Team - 6 for 12 (50%) - 6 catches, 107 yards 

Kirby Moore stepped up against the Golden Eagles as he had the lion's share of targets for the game. The Broncos once again utilized their bigger possession-type receivers in Moore and Matt Miller when attacking the middle of the field. The loss of Linehan and the youth at tight end may be showing with only one attempt to that group on the day.

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.

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 - 49 stops (49 of 80 for 61%), 16 defeats, 10 stuffs (10 of 45 for 22%)
Southern Miss - 36 stops (36 of 63 for 57%), 15 defeats, 9 stuffs (9 of 33 for 32%)

The Bronco defense spread the tackles on Saturday. There were 19 different Broncos credited with a tackle on 80 plays from scrimmage. Tommy Smith and Sam Ukwuachu led the team with two stuffs each.

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 - 61 line yards, 33 attempts, 1.8 average - 57% of total rushing yards
Southern Miss - 101 yards, 45 attempts, 2.2 average - 56% of total rushing yards 

The Bronco offensive line continues to struggle. The rotating injuries and limited help from the tight end have contributed to the woes of the running game. Look for the Broncos to use more stretch plays and a whole lot more Dan Paul to get the running game back on track.

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
Southern Miss - 0

Wasted yards

Boise State - 110 of 310 (35% of total net yards)
Southern Miss - 295 of 424 (70% of total net yards)

Great field position and defensive takeaways allowed the Broncos to cruise to a blowout win despite being outgained by 114 yards. Tyley Gray's interception led to the only swing points of the game, and the momentum never swung back.

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 - 54%
Southern Miss - 40%

With an average starting field position of their own 42-yard line it is surprising that only 54 percent of Boise State's plays took place in Golden Eagle territory. The Broncos were explosive and opportunistic when given the short field.

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.