Fun With The Numbers - Cal vs. Washington

<p class=txt> Cal 34 - Washington 27<br> Although 441 total yards -- 386 of them passing -- and 27 points might not say it, this game was won by the defense. Just when the second half stumble seemed inevitable, the Bear defense forced Washington to punt four times in the third quarter, and frustrated the Huskies into one of the strangest time-consuming drives that a team's ever had when they were a) ranked, b) at home, and c) down by 18 points.

In the second half, Washington was 16 of 32 passing for 161 yards -- throw in the four sacks and the three scrambles and the passing game netted 158 yards in 40 plays. That defensive effort would be remarkable even against a really, really bad team, but against Washington, this was pretty impressive. As many have said, Cal matches up fairly well against more conventional offenses -- which is much of what they'll be facing the rest of the year.
Boller's success percentage (see below) exceed 40% for the first time this year. Of his 13 completions, 10 went for touchdowns or 1st downs. By comparison, UW"s Pickett threw 34 completions, and only 15 were for first downs.
More than half of Cal's yards came on five offensive plays. This has to be the first time this has happened in years. It wasn't all that unusual for the defense to play a fairly strong game except for the five (or so) long plays that would kill them and usually result in the team losing the game.
Cal's first down numbers were very unusual. They averaged 1.2 yards on 17 1st down running plays and 16.7 yards on 12 passing plays -- which included three 40+ gains.
In their first three games, Cal was bolstered by large advantages in field position. During the past two games, the field position has evened out. Against Washington the field position numbers were about equal for the first half, but Cal did have a 100+ yard advantage in the second half. This put Washington in positions where they had to travel long distances if they were going to mount a comeback.
Tangent: Watching tonight's action with Tennessee-Arkansas on one side of the screen and USC-WSU on the other side of the screen, it hit me that there's not one other sport that I'd do this for during the regular season. Beyond Cal's entertaining and impressive turnaround, this is a terrific season to be a college football fan.
Acknowledgement: Since I couldn't attend this game or watch it on TV, I followed it by listening to KGO and using the GameTracker on the site. Without the play-by-play on GameTracker, this week's effort wouldn't have been possible, so if there are any of you out there who are responsible for putting that thing together, thanks!
Disclaimer + quibble: These numbers may not jibe completely with the box score -- for one) I tend to trust my eyes and ears, two) official box scores have been known to be wrong, three) for some of the numbers that I churn out, there's a highly subjective nature to them and I can refer back to my notes a lot easier than I can try to refer to a play-by-play (plus, I don't have to worry about tracking it down).

The other big difference is that I include sack yardage as passing. There will always be a handful of plays in any game when the QB goes down and it's not clear if it was a broken pass or a broken run. In a game like yesterday's, where there were several rollout sweeps that looked more like direct runs than original pass plays, deciding which classification (pass or run) to use requires lots of subjective judgment. However, since the NCAA classifies all sacks as runs, a semantic argument could be made about whether or not you can have a sack on a run play, thus bringing into question whether sacks, in a statistical sense, should be measured by either the NCAA or its member institutions. But however backwards the NCAA method is, to their credit at least they attempt to associate sack yardage with a QBs stats, unlike the NFL which buries sacks from individual rushing or passing yardage but keeps a separate team stat for them.

Cal 1st Down: 29-221, 7.6 (Run: 17/20, 1.2; Pass: 12/201, 16.7)

Cal 2nd Down: 22-101, 4.6 (Run: 15/67, 4.5; Pass: 7/34, 4.8)

Cal 3rd Down: 14-72, 5.1 (Run: 5/24, 4.8; Pass: 9/48, 5.4)

Cal 4th Down: 0-0, 0.0 (Run: 0/0, 0.0; Pass: 0/0, 0.0)

Cal 2pt Conv: 1-0, 0.0 (Run: 0/0, 0.0; Pass: 1/0, 0.0)

Cal Total: 66-394 6.0 (Run: 37/111, 3.0; Pass: 29/283, 9.8)
UW 1st Down: 37-162, 4.4 (Run: 11/22, 2.0; Pass: 26/140, 5.4)

UW 2nd Down: 28-132, 4.7 (Run: 3/24, 8.0; Pass: 25/108, 4.3)

UW 3rd Down: 19-106, 5.6 (Run: 3/5, 1.7; Pass: 16/101, 6.3)

UW 4th Down: 3-41, 13.7 (Run: 2/4, 2.0; Pass: 1/37, 37.0)

UW 2pt conv: 1-0, 0.0 (Run: 0/0, 0.0; Pass: 1/0, 0.0)

UW Total: 88-441, 5.0 (Run: 19/55, 2.9; Pass 69/386, 5.6)

Cal 1st quarter: 16-106, 6.6 (Run: 9/41, 4.6; Pass: 7/65, 9.3)

Cal 2nd quarter: 21-131, 6.2 (Run: 12/21, 1.8; Pass: 9/110, 12.2)

Cal 3rd quarter: 16-78, 4.9 (Run: 9/45, 5.0; Pass: 7/33, 4.7)

Cal 4th quarter: 13-79, 6.1 (Run: 7/4, 0.6; Pass: 6/75, 12.5)

Cal Total: 66-394, 6.0 (Run: 37/111, 3.0; Pass: 29/283, 9.8)
UW 1st quarter: 16-130, 8.1 (Run: 5/26, 5.2; Pass: 11/104, 9.4)

UW 2nd quarter: 22-125, 5.7 (Run: 4/1, 0.3; Pass: 18/124, 6.9)

UW 3rd quarter: 18-63, 3.5 (Run: 5/15, 3.0; Pass: 13/48, 3.7)

UW 4th quarter: 32-118, 3.7 (Run: 5/13, 2.6; Pass: 27/110, 4.1)

UW Total: 88-441, 5.0 (Run: 19/55, 2.9; Pass 69/386, 5.6)

Cal: 15 poss., avg. starting field position: 32.3

UW: 14 poss., avg. starting field position: 27.8
Note: In the second half, Cal had a 111 yard advantage in starting field position. While some of this can be attributed to onside kicks, Cal's long drive (in terms of yardage) at the end of the 3rd/beginning of the 4th, put UW into field position holes early in the fourth quarter. UW had to start from their 5 and 18 in the 4th quarter, with the first possession ending in a turnover, and the second ending in a long time-chewing drive.

California: 4 poss: 3 TD, 1 punt

Cal scoring %: 3/4 -- 75.0%
UW: 6 poss: 2 TD, 4 FG

WSU scoring %: 6/6 -- 100%
Comment: Holding a ranked team at their place to 2 TDs when they have the ball 6 times inside your 30 is amazing -- and rare. Washington scored 100% of the time inside Cal's 30, but would have been more effective if they'd scored 67% of the time with the four scores being touchdowns. In other words, this scoring percentage inside the blue/red/greed zone is measuring the wrong thing. I have more on this below.

If a team has a scoring play longer than 30 yards, it's not included in the above table.

CAL-Boller, 24 att, 13 comp, 266 yds, 5 first downs, 5 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack for -10 yds, 4 scrambles for 27 yds, 0 pen. for 0 yds -- 29 plays for 283 yds, 9.8 avg, 41.7% success (10/24)

UW-Pickett, 60 att, 35 comp, 399 yds, 16 first downs, 0 TD, 2 INT, 5 sacks for -39 yds, 3 scrambles for 26 yds, 4 pen. for 42 yds -- 72 plays for 428 yds, 5.9 avg, 27.8% success (20/72)
Comment: From a success percentage standpoint, this was by far Boller's best game. So far his %s have been: 31.0%, 29.4%, 30.3%, 27.5%, and 31.3%. People will look at Pickett's 362 yards and think that he was passing the Cal secondary silly and that the Bears have major, major problems back there. But this was as unproductive an output as you can get out of 60+ pass attempts. Seven plays resulted in disasters (2 interceptions and 5 sacks), the first down percentage was relatively low, and in the second half, out of 40 pass plays, UW only had three of them go longer than 12 yards.
Note: Defensive pass interference and holding calls have been added into the total yardage figures for the QB comparison. All penalties here are automatic first downs and are computed into the success rate. The success percentage is defined as (first downs (via passing or scrambling) plus touchdowns) divided by (pass attempts plus number of sacks plus number of scrambles). The idea is to measure how often a quarterback is successful in helping the team to maintain possession (via first down) or score. It's not meant to be an all-encompassing measure of a QB's effectiveness. If it were, then allowances would have to be made for interceptions, interceptions for touchdowns, sacks, and a special knucklehead factor would have to be incorporated for sacks that take a team out of field goal range.

Which Cal receivers were thrown to most often on Saturday and with what levels of success?
Makkonen: 8 att, 4 comp, 70 yds

Ward: 5 att, 3 comp, 68 yds

Unknown: 3 att, 0 comp, 0 yds

Igber: 3 att, 2 comp, 21 yds

Strang: 2 att, 2 comp, 64 yds

Swoboda: 1 att, 1 comp, 23 yds

Hall: 1 att, 1 comp, 20 yds

Williams: 1 att, 0 comp, 0 yds
Note: I used the FansOnly GameTracker for the play-by-play -- it wasn't too along ago that play-by-play was done on long typewritten pages that were then photocopies. To my knowledge, play-by-plays aren't readily web-available, but for a non-TV game (and for Fun With Numbers), looking at these can be pretty darn useful. I wasn't listening to the game the whole time, so I couldn't guess who the 3 unknown incompletes were intended for. This is the second straight week that Makkonen has been Boller's first receiver of choice, followed by Ward. Just two pass to tight ends and no passes to the fullback this week. Not that this really means all that much because Cal's pass total was down and for much of the fourth quarter, Cal wasn't going to do much other than basic runs.

This measures how often a defense is pushing the opposition into a third down situation by dividing the number of third down situations by the number of first down situations. If this number is low, then the defense isn't doing a good job.
Cal - 51.4% (19/37)

UW - 48.3% (14/29)
Note: This game was Cal's strongest efforts in this respect this year. Usually they've been in the high 30s, but they were able to force Washington into 3rd down more than half of time.

This stat takes the total yardage of the five biggest plays the defense gives up and divides them by the total yardage the defense surrenders. From a consistency standpoint, a defense would want this percentage to be relatively low. It's technically possible for a team to have a low percentage while giving up 40 gains of 15 to 20 yards, but it's also highly unlikely.
Cal - 53.0% (209/394)

UW - 37.1% (150/404)

The number of plays run on the opponents' territory divided by total plays.

Cal - 18.2% (12/66)

UW - 42.5% (37/87)
Note: Cal's low number can be attributed to a few very long gains and a couple of turnovers which meant they didn't have far to travel. Washington have lots of short plays, but few long ones. In the first half, Washington ran 19 plays on Cal's side of the field, while Cal ran only 2 plays on Washington's side of the field.


Defense: 5 (Pass Interference 3, Def. Holding, Roughing the Passer)

Offense: 3 (Holding, Intentional Grounding, False Start)

Special Teams: 2 (Holding, and IB, whatever that means)

Offense: 7 (Holding 3, Personal Foul, Illegal Shift, Delay, False Start)

Special Teams: 1 (Interference)

For the past couple of weeks, Cal's announcers have been talking about the Bears high scoring percentage inside the 20. While a high scoring percentage is certainly desirable compared to a low one, you can have a high percentage and kick a lot of field goals. That isn't necessarily better than a lower percentage with more touchdowns. So let's look at how Cal and the opponents do inside the opponents' 30.

vs. UW -- 3 TD, 1 punt, 75% (3/4)

vs. WSU -- 5 TD, 1 FG, 100% (6/6)

vs. AFA -- 1 TD, 5 FG, 1 FGNG, 85.7% (6/7)

vs. MSU -- 3 TD, 3 FG, 1 FGNG, 85.7% (6/7)

vs. NMSU -- 4 TD, 2 FG, 100% (6/6)

vs. BAY -- 6 TD, 1 FGNG, 1 punt, 87.5% (7/8)

TOTAL -- 22 TD, 11 FG, 3 FGNG, 2 punt (33/38) -- 86.8%

UW -- 3 TD, 3 FG, 100% (6/6)

WSU -- 4 TD, 1 FG, 1 FGNG, 1 downs, 1 time, 62.5% (5/8)

AFA -- 3 TD, 1 FG, 1 TO, 80% (4/5)

MSU -- 2 TD, 2 TO, 1 downs, 40% (2/5)

NMSU -- 1 TD, 2 FG, 100% (3/3)

BAY -- 2 TD, 1 TO, 66.7% (2/3)

TOTAL -- 15 TD, 7 FG, 1 FGNG, 4 TO, 1 time, 2 downs (22/30) -- 73.3%
All right, so Cal looks pretty good here. I'm fairly certain that whatever stat the radio people were using during the game wasn't correct. But let's say that every possession inside the 30 is worth a maximum of 7 points. Now let's see what the numbers look like:

vs. UW -- 21/28, 75%

vs. WSU -- 38/42, 90%

vs. AFA -- 22/49, 45%

vs. MSU -- 30/49, 61%

vs. NMSU -- 34/42, 81%

vs. BAY -- 42/56, 75%

TOTAL -- 187/266, 70%

UW -- 30/42, 71%

WSU -- 31/56, 55%

AFA -- 24/35, 69%

MSU -- 14/35, 40%

NMSU -- 13/21, 62%

BAY -- 14/21, 67%

TOTAL -- 126/210, 60%
Comment: The difference between the first set of numbers (13%) and the second set of numbers (10%) is about the same. The first set assumes that a touchdown has the same value as a field goal. The second set gives a touchdown more value than a field goal and is a much more accurate representation of a team's scoring effectiveness inside the opponent's 30. Washington was the first team to surpass 70% against Cal.

Note: TDs longer than 30 yards and field goals attempted where the line of scrimmage beyond the 30 -- so long as the team hasn't crossed the 30 during that possesion - aren't included. If anything, the "red zone" should probably be stretched out to the 35. I used the 30, while most stats people use the 20. For this week's chart, I'm purposely neglecting the 2 pt. conversion. I'll find a way to work it in if I get around to updating this. 

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