Cardinal Numbers: The "D" Has Been Devilish

For those of us obsessed with the collection, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data, Terry Johnson breaks down the numbers to show how the Oregon game really came down to the first six possessions of the second half: three that worked for the Ducks and three that did not do so for the Cardinal. Read on for more, including an update on where the Card is stacking up against the Pac-10.

It was a tale of two halves. Stanford recovered from a shaky start and came on like gangbusters in the first half, scoring four touchdowns in the second quarter. At the half, Stanford had a seven-point lead, a total yardage advantage of 275 yards to 217 yards, and a lot of momentum.

The turning point came in the third quarter. Stanford's first three possessions of the third quarter gained a total of only 17 yards and no first downs. Stanford gave the ball back to Oregon on all three possessions. Oregon's three possessions in the third quarter, on the other hand, gained 197 yards and produced three touchdowns.

Oregon's domination of the third quarter allowed Oregon to turn its seven-point halftime deficit into a 14-point lead. As it turned out, that was the ballgame.


Some of Stanford's key offensive statistics:

 First HalfSecond Half
Rushing Attempts1913
Rushing Yards12317
Rushing Yds/Att.6.51.3
Pass Attempts2024
Pass Completions1213
Passing Yards152110
Passing Yds/Att.7.64.6
Total Offense275127

The running game was working for Stanford in the first half, as Stanford averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Excluding sacks, Stanford averaged an outstanding 7.2 yards per carry in the first half, with Anthony Kimble running for 115 yards.

The second half was a completely different story. Stanford averaged only 1.3 yards per carry in the second half. Excluding sacks, Stanford's second half average was just 2.6 yards per carry (29 yards on 11 carries). On those crucial first three possessions of the second half, Stanford tried five running plays and gained just eight yards.

For the game as a whole, Stanford averaged 4.4 yards per carry. That's a good average, and most times, we would be happy to average 4.4 yards per carry. However, in this game, the overall average of 4.4 yards per carry hides the fact that there was such a big difference between the first half and the second half. Stanford's inability to run effectively in second half, especially on the first three possessions of the third quarter, was a big part of the story of the game.

For the season, Stanford is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Excluding sacks, Stanford is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. That's very good. Only twice in the last 25 seasons has Stanford averaged over 4.0 yards per carry for the season (4.4 yds/carry in 2001 and 4.1 yds/carry in 1999). The productivity of Stanford's running game to date is a good sign, and a welcome change. In the last five seasons, Stanford's average yards per carry have been:

Yards Per Carry
* First three games

Yards Per Carry
(excluding sacks)
* First three games

There is a long way to go this season. I doubt that Stanford will maintain its current average of 4.4 yards per carry. Still, Stanford's performance to date in the running game looks like progress. However, Stanford needs to figure out what happened to the running game in the second half against Oregon, and needs to fix it.

Last week, I suggested a benchmark of 7.0 yards per attempt for Stanford's passing game. In the first half, Stanford's passing game met that standard, with 7.6 yards per attempt.

In the second half, with Oregon taking the running game away from Stanford, Stanford needed to be able to rely more heavily on its passing game. But Stanford's passing game instead became less effective, averaging just 4.6 yards per attempt in the second half. That's far below the level of productivity we need to make this offense work.

Most damaging was the lack of productivity on Stanford's first three possessions of the third quarter. Stanford completed just 1 of 5 passes for 9 yards on those three possessions. That was not all on the quarterback – there were a couple of dropped passes during those three possessions. But the bottom line was that the passing game was not able to take up the slack when the running game slowed down.

For the game as a whole, Stanford averaged just 6.0 yards per pass attempt, roughly the same as Stanford's average in the UCLA game, and well below Stanford's 7.7 yards per attempt in the San Jose State game.

For the season, Stanford is averaging 6.3 yards per pass attempt. That's the lowest in the Pac-10, and it's well short of my proposed benchmark of 7.0 yards per pass attempt. With some better accuracy and fewer drops, Stanford could keep a few more drives going, and could bring its average yards per attempt up to 7.0 or so.


Some of Stanford's key defensive statistics from the Oregon game:

 First HalfSecond Half
Rushing Attempts2026
Rushing Yards Allowed84138
Rushing Yds/Att. Allowed4.25.3
Pass Attempts1621
Pass Completions Allowed1116
Passing Yards Allowed133234
Passing Yds/Att. Allowed8.311.1
Total Yards Allowed217372
Points Allowed2431
Opponent's Turnovers20

Statistically, Stanford's defense against Oregon was awful. The defense gave up 589 yards, which is the 12th-most yards allowed in a game in Stanford history. Oregon actually had 602 yards of total offense at one point late in the game, but went backwards while trying to run out the clock. The 624 yards that Stanford allowed to UCLA earlier this season were the 8th-most yards ever allowed by Stanford in a game, which gives Stanford two of the 12 worst defensive performances in its history in the last few weeks.

Stanford's defensive statistics against Oregon don't show such a dramatic difference between the first half and the second half as we saw with respect to the offensive statistics. The first half was bad, and the second half was even worse. One note on the numbers: Oregon actually ran the ball better in the second half than these numbers suggest. Before the last two Oregon possessions when Oregon was running out the clock, Oregon had 151 rushing yards and 6.6 yards per carry in the second half.

The big play was once again a problem for the Stanford defense. Oregon gained 209 yards on just four plays – touchdown passes of 71, 50, and 33 yards, and a 55-yard run.

However, big plays were not the only problems for Stanford's defense. Stanford's pass defense allowed Oregon virtually to pass at will on shorter patterns. On any given play, it seemed like Oregon had a receiver or two who lined up without a Stanford defender anywhere near them. The short, quick passes were open, and Oregon took them. Dixon's completion rate was 75%. He completed 27 passes, only 4 of which gained more than 17 yards. It was too easy for him. Stanford needs to fix that.

On Oregon's three drives in the third quarter, the Ducks were dominant offensively. On those three drives, Dixon picked apart the Stanford defense, completing an impressive 12 out of 12 passes for 156 yards. Oregon added 41 rushing yards on nine attempts. Altogether, Oregon had 197 yards, 11 first downs, and three touchdowns on those three possessions. Stanford's defense managed to force Oregon into only two third down situations, both of which Oregon converted. Those three drives gave Oregon more than enough to win.

Granted, Oregon is leading the Pac-10 in total offense (537 yards per game), so the Oregon game was a tough test. But things aren't going to get much easier any time soon. In the next two games, Stanford must face the second and third most productive offenses in the Pac 10: Arizona State (450.5 yards per game) and USC (462 yards per game). Stanford's defense needs to come up with some answers in a hurry.

The Cardinal did have some good moments defensively. The two turnovers forced by the defense, along with the one turnover forced by Stanford's special teams, were a big positive. After forcing only one turnover in two games, it was encouraging to see Stanford come up with three takeaways against Oregon.

Stanford continues to make a relatively high number of tackles for loss – seven tackles for loss against Oregon, and an average of 7.7 tackles for loss per game for the season (third in the conference behind Oregon and Oregon State, at 8.0 each).

Overall, however, Stanford's defensive statistics are not a pretty picture. For the season, Stanford's defense ranks ninth in the Pac-10 in scoring defense and 10th in total defense, rushing defense, and pass efficiency defense. Nationally, Stanford ranks 92nd in scoring defense, 100th in total defense, 93rd in rushing defense, and 111th in pass efficiency defense (out of 119 teams).

In its two conference games, Stanford is now allowing an average of 606.5 yards per game and 50 points per game. You can't win football games being that generous.

Random Numbers

After three games, Anthony Kimble is on a pace to finish the regular season with 1,072 rushing yards. The Stanford single-season record for rushing yards is 1,084 yards by Tommy Vardell in 1991...

Kimble leads the Pac-10 and is fourth in the nation in all purpose yards, with 220.7 yards per game. He's on a pace to gain 2,648 all purpose yards in the regular season, which would break Glyn Milburn's single-season school record of 2,222 all purpose yards in 1990. I certainly hope Kimble doesn't keep going at his current pace, however, because he's getting more than half his yards on kickoff returns, and if he continues to gain kickoff return yards at his current rate, it would mean our opponents were kicking off far too often...

Bo McNally continues to lead the Pac-10 in tackles with 10.7 tackles per game...

True freshman Taylor Skaufel had nine tackles against Oregon, leading all of Stanford's defensive backs in tackles. For the season, he's fourth on the team in tackles (behind McNally, Maynor, and Osaisai, tied with Snyder). Who saw this coming? This is a guy who wasn't highly recruited, wasn't offered by the Harris staff, and wasn't on our radar until Harbaugh offered him in January. Now he's getting major playing time as a first-year player, and showing some promise...

There was a little-noticed statistical oddity last season: Stanford's opponents were successful on an extraordinary 18 out of 19 field goal attempts, with the only miss coming in the last game of the season. This year, things are balancing out a little bit. Stanford's opponents have made only 3 of 7 field goal attempts so far...

At T.C. Ostrander's current rate of 276 passing yards per game, he would end up with 3,312 passing yards. That would be the second highest total in Stanford history, behind Steve Stenstrom's 3,627 passing yards in 1993. The only Stanford quarterbacks to pass for 3,000 yards in a season have been Stenstrom, John Elway (3,242 yards in 1982), and Todd Husak (3,092 yards in 1998)...

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