Red Zone Reaction

Like many statistics, productivity in the red zone goes a lot further than the simple scoring percentages used to rank teams.

Most red zone statistics are compiled by dividing the number of times a team scored into the total number of trips they have taken into the red zone (usually defined as a first down on or inside the twenty-yard line). While that percentage does give a broad view of a team's offensive (or defensive) performance from close range, it doesn't tell the whole story by a longshot.

One of the biggest items this simple ratio ignores is the difference between a touchdown and a field goal. With a boot being worth exactly half of a TD (42.8% if the extra point is added), teams that put the ball in the end zone (or keep their opponents out), are obviously going to have a big advantage. However, the standard red zone stats don't take that into account - it's either a score, or it's not.

On the defensive side of the ball, keeping opponents out of the end zone has been one of the strong points of the WVU defense, at least until the month of November started. A peek inside the numbers shows how West Virginia's fortunes have dropped over the past two games.

Before the Central Florida game, West Virginia had been ouststanding at keeping their foes out of the end zone. The bad guys had made 21 trips into WVU's red zone, but had scored just eight touchdowns on those possessions. The Mountaineers limited their foes to eight field goals and prevented any sort of score on the remaining five chances in the first seven games of the year. While opponents' scoring ratio was just over 76%, their touchdown ratio, which is far more important, was a meager 38%.

In the last two games, however, that ratio has gone a bit south. Central Florida was 2-2 in the red zone, while Boston College was 4-5. All six of those scores were touchdowns. For the season, that leaves WVU's opponents with 22 scores in 28 trips for a scoring average of 78.6%. More importantly, opponents' touchdown percentage has jumped to 63.6% after the past two weeks.

To put these numbers in perspective, WVU has converted 22 of their 25 red zone chances this year. That scoring ratio (88%) is enhanced by the fact that 17 of those scores are touchdowns, giving the Mountaineers a solid 68% touchdown percentage.

In no way should WVU's recent defensive performance be construed as a disaster. The Mountaineer defense remains an opportunistic and determined one, as demonstrated by their gritty performance at the end of the Boston College game. However, in order to upend the Panthers this Saturday, WVU's allowed touchdown percentage in the red zone will have to be more like their early numbers if the Mountaineers are to have a chance to celebrate another victory in the Backyard Brawl.

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