Monday Analysis: The Passing Game

After a week where the Longhorns focused largely on establishing the run, Texas went back to more of a passing offense on Saturday, throwing the ball 35 times compared to 29 runs. The difference could have been even greater, as three of the rushes came from quarterback Garrett Gilbert.

That represented a fundamental shift from week one against Rice, where Texas ran the ball extensively and where Gilbert threw the ball half as many times (23) as Texas ran the ball (46).

As with the running game last week, we charted every time Gilbert threw the ball against Wyoming. Long situations meant the offense had seven-plus yards to go to make a first down or the end zone. Medium plays were distances between six and four yards. And short situations meant plays where the Texas offense faced three or fewer yards to its goal.

Rather than chart "successful plays," we instead charted explosive plays, meaning plays of 10 or more yards, as well as third-down conversions.

First-and-long: 8-13-127, four explosive plays (one touchdown)

First-and-medium: 0 attempts

First-and-short: 0 attempts

Second-and-long: 6-9-28, no explosive

Second-and-medium: 1-2-4, no explosive

Second-and-short: 0 attempts

Third-and-long: 3-5-27 two explosive plays, one conversion

Third-and-medium: 4-6-46 one explosive play, three conversions

Third-and-short: 0 attempts

Fourth downs: 0 attempts

Total: 22-35-222, seven explosive plays (one touchdown)

Gilbert averaged nearly one explosive play per three completions, while averaging slightly more than 10 yards per completion and 6.3 yards per attempt. Out of his seven explosive plays, four occurred on first down (half of his first-down completions), which is also when Gilbert threw for more than half of his yards. His completion percentage was slightly worse on first down, but it should be noted that several of his incompletions came when the Longhorns tried for big plays on first down, resulting in potential big plays with a lower chance of completion.

When compared with the Rice game, Gilbert threw the ball much more on second down. Against Rice, the Longhorns threw the ball just four times on second down, compared with 20 rushes. It should be noted that Gilbert's second down numbers, however, were his worst of any down (7-11-32 yards). It should be noted that the small yards per completion might be by design — getting the first down isn't a necessity, whereas creating a makeable third-down situation is. A four-yard completion might not sound like much, but if it takes a team from second-and-seven to third-and-three, it has to be considered a fairly successful play.

That statement rings especially true when looking at Gilbert's third-down numbers. Put him in third-and-long, and Gilbert was able to convert just once out of his five attempts (20 percent). Put him in third-and-medium, and he converted 3-of-6 tries (50 percent). The Longhorns would like to convert 45 percent of their third-down conversions, so it makes sense to try and get Gilbert into third-and-medium to third-and-short situations.


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