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First down tendencies and a correction

Posted by cuorange on September 17, 2009

cuorange_exclusiveI finally finished transcribing the play by play of the Georgia Tech game.  This means I can look at the tendencies of the Tigers on offense and provide a correction to my recent post on 3rd down conversions.
During the fall it was reported repeatedly that Billy Napier wanted to establish a power running game.  The Tigers have done this to some degree, averaging 163.5 yards per game during the first two games.  On the other hand, a 3.9 yard per rush average shows that there are still some issues on the line.
It’ll be interesting to see how Napier attacks the Boston College defense that is known for stopping the run.  To this point, (granted it’s only been two games, but…) Napier has called run 76.5% of the time on 1st and 10.  Interestingly enough, field position has mattered little.  On the Tigers side of the field Napier calls runs 75% of the time and when in the opponent’s territory runs have been called 78.3% of the time on first and 10.  Perhaps this is what Dabo meant when he said he thought Napier was a little more conservative than he (Dabo) would be.
Time will tell, but I think Napier would be wise to throw a few more passes on first and 10, especially short quick passes to help avoid a potential sack and big loss on first down. 

Down/Distance Field Position Run% Pass %
1/10 <=50 75.0% 25.0%
1/10 >=51 78.3% 21.7%
Total 76.5% 23.5%

One of Napier’s mantras during the fall was to avoid playing “behind the chains” and his strategy to this point bears that out – run on first down.  At some point, defenses are going to figure this out and the 5.4 yards per rush the Tigers are averaging on first down will shrink.  My guess is that will happen this week without some creativity and willingness to throw the ball on first down.
On to the correction.  Finishing putting the Georgia Tech game into the database allowed me to run reports to verify my manual calculations of third down percentages.  While the overall percentage remains at 33.33% there have been some shifts in the corresponding percentages for each category. 

Year 3rd and 1-3 3rd and 4-6 3rd and 7-10 3rd and 11 or more
2008 60.71% 38.10% 20.69% 8.33%
2009 40.00% 28.57% 33.33% 28.57%
2009 4/10 2/7 3/9 2/7

The numbers changed slightly, but they still bear out my over-riding concept:  To have any chance the Tigers need to improve on third and short.


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