Scouting the Aggies: Week 4 Data

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Due to a busy week at work and whatnot, this week's post didn't come until Friday instead of the usual Wednesday. Please forgive me. To make up for it, I will personally guarantee that A&M beat Arkansas this Saturday, possibly causing them to quit in the third quarter due to embarrassment.

Now that that's out of the way, here are some numbers. And as always, my disclaimer stands in the event that some statistics slightly differ with others you see elsewhere. Another disclaimer to add is that I don't chart garbage time, and often I am just sorting the plays that include Johnny Manziel at quarterback. So any numbers you see here are not diluted by late-game garbage time, though some but not all full-season numbers will include the first half against Rice when Manziel didn't play. Typically I will alert you though if the stat I am quoting is only relevant to Manziel or if it's the whole season.

Also, last week I did some breakdowns of a couple offensive wrinkles we showed against Bama. It was a lot of fun putting that together and I received a lot of very nice comments. That's not something I will be doing regularly, but in the meantime, I will continue to have some in depth statistics and trends in each from my charting of the games.

First, some data from the SMU game.

  • Johnny Manziel had 12 carries in the game, nine of which were scrambles. On those scrambles he averaged 8.8 yards per carry, and he was not sacked.
  • With Johnny in the game, A&M averaged 7.96 yards per play. Yet another good game in that department.
  • Johnny himself averaged 10.48 yards per play (pass attempts plus rush attempts).
  • Mike Evans was only targeted three times by Johnny. Easily the lowest of his career. Still, as has been the case all year, those three targets led to a very high success rate.
  • I divide the field into 14 areas when I chart the passes. We typically spread the ball around fairly evenly. In Johnny's 21 pass attempts, he threw the ball to 11 of the 14 areas.
  • Against SMU, Johnny dropped back to pass 30 times (21 passes, and as mentioned above, nine scrambles). On those 30, SMU brought pressure (5+ rushers) seven times. For the first time this season, we actually didn't handle the pressure terribly well. We averaged 6.7 yards per play when we were blitzed, which isn't bad for a normal team, but we are not a normal team. Compare that to the Bama game, when we averaged 13.2 yards per play versus the blitz. For the season, we average 11.45 yards per drop-back against a blitz. I'm not sure why our numbers against SMU were off, but it could have just been a fluke.
  • So on the other 23 pass plays where SMU did not blitz, A&M averaged 12 yards per play. Against Bama we averaged 10.2 on such plays, and for the season, we average 9.76 per pass play. The fact is, our yards per play is very high whether the defense does or doesn't blitz, which is one reason our offense is so darn hard to stop. There just isn't a situation that we don't handle well.

Let's talk third downs for a minute. Third down conversions have been a strength for A&M ever since Manziel and Kevin Sumlin arrived. It's been well documented. Here is some very interesting info I found. With Johnny in the game this year, A&M is 22/32 on 3rd downs (69%). (Last year A&M led the nation with 55%) Here is how we've called plays on short, medium, and long third downs and how successful we've been.

  • 3rd and short (1-3): 5 runs, 5 passes, 8/10 conversions.
  • 3rd and medium (4-6): 0 runs, 10 passes, 8/10 conversions. Six times, Johnny scrambled, converting four. All four times he passed, it was complete for a first down.
  • 3rd and long (7+): 1 run, 11 passes, 6/12 conversions. Johnny was sacked once, scrambled twice (with one first down), and ran an option one time, which he kept and converted the first down.

So here's the takeaway from that. Are we great on third down? Yes. Why? JOHNNY MANZIEL. Notice how on all 22 third downs of longer than three yards to go, the ball has been in Johnny's hands. No draw plays, no hand-offs. The coaches know how good Johnny is, and their obvious thought process is that when we really need yards, give the ball to Johnny. And at an alarming rate, he gets the yards. We've converted 14/22 on 3rd and medium/long with JFF. 64%! Without even counting the short ones! That's mind-blowing. And that's why A&M scores on so many of their drives.

Here's another quick note about Johnny's ability to scramble. You may wonder if he has more success scrambling versus a three or four man rush than he does against a blitz (or vice versa). Well, here are the numbers on that so far this year.

  • 20 total scrambles this season with an average of 8.6 yards per carry.
  • Against the blitz, he has scrambled four times for an average of 9.25 ypc.
  • Against normal pressure, 16 scrambles at 8.4 yards per carry.

So it seems that so far this year, he is getting rid of the ball against the blitz more often instead of escaping on his feet. But when he does scramble, his yards per carry is pretty similar whether it was against a blitz or not. (FYI, these numbers did include sacks, just scrambles for positive yards).

Finally, I'd like to present a new stat I started sorting this week. It's simply a measure of whether a play was successful or not. Basically, I consider a play successful on first and second down if it gains at least half of the necessary yardage, and on third and fourth down if it gains 100% of the necessary yardage. Here are full season numbers excluding garbage time.

  • Against SMU 67% of our plays were successful (38/57). We had roughly the same percentage of success whether it was first, second, or third down.
  • Against Bama, 57.5% were successful (42/73).
  • Against SHSU, 63.5% were successful (47/74).
  • Against Rice, 65% (41/63).
  • For the season, we run a successful play on first down 61% of the time.

So from that statistic I'm experimenting with how to apply it to the whole game. For now, one measure I'm looking at (who knows if it's valid...) is taking the total number of yards gained and dividing it by the total number of yards we needed for a first down on each play. That provides a sort of overall number value to how successful our offense was. Here are those numbers.

  • SMU: 1.03
  • Bama: 1.00
  • SHSU: 1.10
  • Rice: 1.07

A number of 1.00 would mean that on average, you're gaining exactly the amount of yards needed for whatever the down and distance is. So as you can imagine, anything over 1.00 is insanely good, and anything approaching 1.00 is really good, and then as the number drops, the worse you are. For instance, Colorado State got a .42 against Bama. The stat, I suppose, is really just another way of looking at total offense and yards per play, but I still find it interesting.

Another way I'm looking at the total yards gained is to then compare it with how many yards of field were available. So if you start on the 20, 80 yards would be available, and if you scored on the first play, you'd have a perfect score of 1.0. But if you gained 20 yards four straight times, your 80 total yards would be divided by (80+60+40+20) for a score of .4. Basically, the more big plays you have, the higher your yards per play, the higher this number will be, but it's a little deeper than just pure yards per play because it takes into account the amount of available yards. Again I'll admit that I don't yet know just how relevant these numbers are, since I just came up with the idea of looking at them. Here are those numbers:

  • SMU: .21
  • Bama: .18
  • SHSU: .23
  • Rice: .16

Finally, a big picture stat. Last year, A&M was amazing on offense, we all know that. Second in the nation (by .01 yards) in yards per play, third in the nation in total offense. Well, last year, in six of our 13 games, our offense gained less than 7.0 yards per play. This year? Four games in, and all four have been above 7.0 yards per play, including an amazing 8.85 against Bama.

So there you have it for this week. No graphs, but next week I plan on putting some visuals back into it. Feel free to ask questions in the comments or hit me on Twitter @mattywatty01.

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