Cal Game Statistical Review

OCT. 21 -- UCLA's offense does decently, considering it was going up againt Cal's poor defense, but UCLA's defense has one of its best statistical days against what was an explosive Cal offense...

The numbers last week suggested a close, high-scoring matchup in the Strawberry Canyon graveyard of dreams, and that’s what happened. Luckily, the Bruins were able to survive a third straight game of catastrophic turnovers and poor field position to get a win in the first round of our de-facto Pac-12 Playoff.

As always, we are using:

  • Yards Per Stop to measure efficiency
  • Yards Per Play to measure explosiveness
  • Points Per Drive to measure scoring
  • Points Per Trip Inside the 40 to measure drive finishing
  • Field Position Margin to measure field position
  • Turnover Margin to measure turnovers
Here is the report card for the Cal game and the season to date:


The offense performed reasonably well, but grading against the curve of a terrible Cal defense we probably expected more. The turnovers really hurt the numbers here; despite punting only three times, the offense posted a just-ok efficiency number of 56.7 Yards Per Stop, well beneath the 62.28 the Bears have been giving up on the season.

We can’t quibble too much with the Bruins’ solid 6.4 Yards Per Play, but that is still beneath the 6.7 Yards Per Play Cal had been giving up on the year. A couple more attempts over the top (APB for Kenny Walker) might have proved fruitful against this bad Cal defense. The Bruins did a good job of taking advantage of scoring opportunities, with 5.14 Points Per Trip Inside the 40 a pretty unassailably great number.


Just like the offense gets dinged slightly for performing just ok against an awful defense, the defense gets a boost for holding what had been a fantastic Cal offense well beneath their season averages. The defense even finally forced a game-winning turnover, and was probably unlucky to not recover at least one fumble on a sack-strip of the impressive Jared Goff.

The defense held Cal a whopping 16 yards beneath their season Yards Per Stop average, and 1 full yard beneath their Yards Per Play average. That is an impressive job of holding down both the explosiveness and efficiency of a good offense. The defense also held the Cal scoring numbers beneath their season averages.

If there is one place we might have issues with the defense, it is that they probably need to toughen up their mindset after the offense turns the ball over. The UCLA defense allowed a touchdown after every single turnover (plus the turnover on downs), a week after similar post-turnover capitulation against Oregon. Just turning two of those turnovers into field goals instead of touchdowns would have made this a much more comfortable game.


Turnovers are incredibly important, and as much as we like Caleb Benenoch and congratulate him on his first entry into the Rushing stat sheet (2 yards on 0 carries!), the Bruins are just not doing a good enough job of holding onto the ball right now. UCLA has probably been a little unlucky as we usually expect the average turnover to be a five point swing, yet every single turnover over the last three games has turned into an opponent touchdown. In the end, the Bruins pretty decisively outplayed Cal in all statistical categories, but the turnovers allowed the Bears to have a chance to win. Happily, the UCLA defense was finally able to force a turnover of its own and end the final threat.

The turnovers were a big contributor to the third straight week of an enormous average starting field position deficit for the Bruins. Even with Cal basically handing UCLA the ball beyond the 30 yard line after every kickoff and Ka’imi Fairbairn booming his consistently excellent kickoffs (the Bruins inexplicably evacuating the outside lane on the one long Cal return was probably not his fault), the Bears still didn’t need to travel as far to score as the Bruins did. The two longest drives for Cal were 54 yards each, and the three other touchdowns the Bears scored were 32, 20, and 18 yards. Protect the ball, Bruins.

The Bruins survived a scare in their first round game, but they did survive, which is all that matters. The Pac-12 Championship Playoff still has 6 games left.

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