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Inside the Numbers: Boise State versus Brigham Young

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Otto Kitsinger III - Getty Images

The Broncos came out the victors in a defensive struggle Thursday night in a game that neither team's defense struggled. The offenses did struggle in a game that was universally panned as being ugly, but if this game had been played in Tuscaloosa, nobody would bat an eye and all the talk would be about the greatness of SEC football. Instead, two historically prolific offenses put up a combined six points. What do the numbers beyond the standard box score say about each team's performance last week?

Box Score

Score 6 7
Offensive Possessions 13 12
Offensive Pts Per Possesion 0.92 0.00
% of Total Possible Pts 6.6% 0.0%
Success Rate 36% 26%
Leverage Rate 63% 62%
Avg Starting Drive OWN 29 OWN 26
Field Position Percentage 39% 61%
Turnovers 5 0
Turnover % 38% 0%
Wasted Yards 105 261
% Yards Wasted 53% 100%
RedZone Trips 2 3
RedZone Point % 43% 0%
Swing/Explosion Pts 0 7
% of Total Points 0% 100%

THE GOOD - Turnover Battle

Both defenses played lights out on Thursday night, but it was Boise State's defense that created more opportunities for their team on the other side of the ball. With five takeaways and a touchdown of their own the defense did everything in their power to turn the game into a blowout.

THE BAD - Red Zone Production (again)

Once again the Bronco offense sputtered in the Red Zone. Three more trips inside the 20-yard-line yielded zero points. The Broncos have only scored on six of 12 trips to the Red Zone and only three of those scores have been touchdowns. The 50 percent scoring rate places the Broncos at 123rd for efficiency rate in the Red Zone. Only Bowling Green has struggled more on a short field.

THE OBSCURE - By the Numbers

  • 0- Total number of successful plays Boise State ran in the Red Zone. The Broncos only ran six plays in the Red Zone the entire game, four of which came as gift with a defensive fumble recovery on the one-yard-line.
  • 0- Total number of fourth down conversions the Broncos have converted this season. The five attempts against BYU puts the Boise State offense at 0 for 6 in 2012
  • 8- Total number of rushing plays this season that BYU has allowed 10 or more yards. Boise State was responsible for two of those plays.
  • 9- The total number yards rushing for the Broncos in the second half on 10 attempts.
  • 45- Combined number of plays by both offenses that went for no gain or a loss. 37 percent of all plays were just as successful as spiking the ball. One-half (61 of 122) of all plays went for two yards or less.


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 62%, Brigham Young 63%

Success rate by quarter (team)

Q1 // Boise State 29%, Brigham Young 25%
Q2 // Boise State 28%, Brigham Young 46%
Q3 // Boise State 22%, Brigham Young) 27%
Q4 // Boise State 23%, Miami (OH) 44%

The success rates dipped in the second half as the Broncos became more conservative, content to avoid mistakes and let the defense seal the game. The Broncos were successful on just 26 percent of all snaps and the Cougars weren't much better at a 36 percent success rate.

Leverage rates reflect the play of both defenses when first down is removed from the equation. Teams had a run or pass option on only 40 percent of 2nd, 3rd, or 4th down. On average BYU still had a remaining 9.5 yards-to-go on third down.

Quarterback success rate

Boise State

Joe Southwick 9 for 25 (36%)

Brigham Young

Riley Nelson - 3 for 9 (33%)
Taysom Hill - 3 for 10 (30%)

Despite completing 65 percent of his passes, Southwick was only successful on 36 percent of his throws. This was still good enough to be the most successful passer on the field Thursday night. Southwick had a long completion of just 23 yards and only seven pass plays went for more than 10 yards.

Running back success rate

Boise State

DJ Harper - 7 for 31 (23%) 
Jay Ajayi - 0 for 1 (0%) 
J.C. Percy - 0 for 1 (0%)
Joe Southwick - 1 for 6 (17%)

Brigham Young

Michael Alisa - 5 for 17 (29%) 
Taysom Hill - 8 for 12 (67%) 
Riley Nelson - 1 for 7 (14%)
Rest of Team - 1 for 3 (33%)

Harper accounted for all but three of the Broncos standard rushing attempts. It is clear that the coaching staff does not trust any other back when it comes to ball security. In the second half the Broncos were determined not to make a mistake and let their defense bring home the victory. This led to Harper being given the ball 17 times in the second half with only three of those runs resulting in success against a keyed-up Cougar defense.

Wide receiver completion and success rate

Boise State

Matt Miller - 5 for 11 (45%) 
Mitch Burroughs - 1 for 3 (33%)

pre>Kirby Moore - 1 for 1(100%)

DJ Harper - 1 for 4 (100%)  
Aaron Burks - 0 for 1 (0%)
Rest of Team - 1 for 3 (100%)

Brigham Young

Cody Hoffman - 2 for 6 (86%) 
J.D. Falslev - 2 for 3 (67%) 
Ross Apo - 1 for 2 (50%) 
Michael Alisa - 0 for 1 (0%) 

Matt Miller continues to be Southwick's favorite target. Five of the seven completions to Miller were successful. There were only four other successful completions thrown to the rest of the team. Brigham Young's dynamic receivers were held to a combined five successful receptions of their own.

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 - 37 stops (37 of 56 for 66%), 23 defeats, 11 stuffs (11 of 39 for 28%)
Brigham Young - 49 stops (49 of 66 for 74%), 22 defeats, 11 stuffs (11 of 40 for 28%)

J.C. Percy paced the Bronco defense with 12 tackles, seven of which qualified as stops. Percy also led the defense with four defeats. Jamar Taylor, Dextrell Simmons, and Sam Ukwuachu each were credited with three defeats.

Ezekiel Ansah was a force for the Cougars with nine tackles, all for stops. Seven of his tackles were solo and he stuffed the Bronco running game five times.

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 - 79 yards, 40 attempts, 1.9 average - 68% of total rushing yards
Brigham Young - 87 yards, 39 attempts, 2.2 average - 63% of total rushing yards 

For all of the heartache directed toward D.J. Harper, it is the performance of the offensive line that has been disappointing. The line has particular been dominated in short yardage situations. In six situations against BYU where three or fewer yards were needed for first down, Boise State only had one positive gain, which was a two yard sneak by Joe Southwick. The success of the Bronco offense is predicated on establishing the run game, and having only six rushes for more than five yards will not be enough to set up playaction or other creative aspects of the offense.

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
Brigham Young - 0

Wasted yards

Boise State - 261 (100% of total net yards)
Brigham Young - 105 (53% of total net yards)

Michael Atkinson saved the Broncos with his 36 yard interception return. For the first time in at least 25 years, the Broncos didn't score on offense at home.

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 - 61%
Brigham Young - 39%

Boise State's defense and special teams helped Boise State win the battle of field position. BYU used their punt team to flip the field position early, but turnovers and defensive dominance results in 61 percent of all plays taking place on Boise State's side of the field. BYU only took 17 offensive snaps beyond the 50-yard-line.

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.