Five Factors Recap: UAB 42, WKU 39

UAB's efficiency outlasts WKU's big plays and forced turnovers.

Western Kentucky suffered a tough home loss to UAB last night, falling to 2-3 on the season after leading by double-digits in all three losses.

How did the Blazers leave Smith Stadium with the "W"? Read below for more.


Explosiveness:

WKU points per play: 0.6

WKU yards per play: 7.7

WKU yards per rush: 6.6

WKU yards per pass attempt: 8.6


UAB points per play: 0.472

UAB yards per play: 6.6

UAB yards per rush: 4.5

UAB yards per pass attempt: 12.0


Despite UAB averaging a whopping 12.0 yards per pass attempt--attempt!--WKU was overall more explosive on the night.

A +1.1 yards per play in favor of WKU is pretty large, and the points per play gap (+.13) just as large.

According to SBNation’s Bill Connelly, teams who outgain their opponents between 1.0 to 1.5 yards per play in a contest win 86 percent of the time. Coincidentally (or not?,) a PPP margin of 0.1 to 0.2 also wins 86 percent of the time.

Advantage--WKU.

Initially looking at that, you'd think UAB somehow snuck out with a lucky win. But that's not true, they were much more efficient than WKU, and took advantage of some special teams miscues.


Efficiency:

Overall Success Rate: UAB 63 percent, WKU 50.

First Down: UAB 64 percent, WKU 58.

Second Down: UAB 58 percent, WKU 50.

Third Down: UAB 66 percent, WKU 30.

Fourth Down: UAB 100 percent (2-for-2,) WKU 33 (1-for-3.)

A 10 to 20 percent margin in efficiency gives you a 91.5 percent chance to win a game, again, according to Connelly. UAB was better than WKU across the board, including the vital later downs.

Tops actually led efficiency by 1 percent in the first half, at 65 percent to 64 for UAB. But the second half for WKU's offense was their worst half of the year. They were successful on only 10-of-30 plays, a 33 percent clip.

In six second half drives, WKU earned one touchdown, punted three times, and gave the ball back twice on downs. Only two of the drives lasted longer than 4 plays, with three going three-and-out, and a fourth earning only one first down.

Advantage--UAB. This is WKU's bread-and-butter stat. For them to get beat (badly) here shows how quickly the game took a turn for the worse in the second half, and how UAB might be a lot better than people expected.


Finishing Drives:

WKU: 11 drives, six scoring opportunities. Four touchdowns, one missed conversion, one missed field goal, one turnover on downs.

UAB: 12 drives, seven scoring opportunities. Four touchdowns, one missed field goal, one interception, one fumble.


Note: For this stat, I only count scoring opportunities as drives where a first down was snapped inside the opponent's 40-yard line.

This was a stat that pregame looked like it'd be in favor of UAB, but it actually was played pretty evenly. WKU averaged 4.5 PPT inside 40, compared to 4.0 for UAB.

The Toppers had left a lot of points on the field in a few contests this year settling for field goals instead of touchdowns. That wasn't the case last night.

Advantage--Tossup. 0.5 points per trip in favor of WKU isn't a huge margin, especially considering both teams had multiple opportunities that ended in goose-eggs.


Field Position: UAB started their drives on average at their own 29-yard line, WKU at their own 28.

Advantage--Tossup.


Turnovers:

If you had told me before this game that WKU would win the turnover battle 3-0, I would have predicted the Tops to win by two touchdowns or more.

WKU's offense is usually so good, the last thing a team can afford to do is give them more opportunities.

But UAB did just that, allowing WKU an interception (returned for a touchdown,) and two lost fumbles--and still found a way to win.

Advantage--WKU. A 3-0 margin is fairly sizable, and the Tops returned one of the turnovers back for a touchdown.


Summary: Usually a summary isn't needed, but we've looked at a lot of data here that's really all over the place. Not a lot of it correlates easily, this was a pretty wild game.

In short, I think WKU lost this one in a couple of ways.

1) Special teams miscues. The opening kickoff returned for a touchdown, a missed chipshot field goal, and the blocked extra point in the first quarter that made it necessary for WKU to try two-point conversions later in the game--Neither of which they converted. UAB got their fair share of bad breaks as well, so even if you acquiesce the kickoff return and missed field goal, just make that missed extra point (and consequently, the ones that would have followed,) and WKU is tied at the end of the game with the ball. Or just convert the first two-point try.

2) Start of second half. Trailing 27-14 at halftime, UAB came out firing on all cylinders. WKU went three straight drives without earning a first down, including turning one over on downs in their own territory. UAB scored three touchdowns, taking a sudden 35-27 lead with 5:52 still left in the third quarter.

3) Passing down defense--I still think people are too hard on the defense. I'm not saying they're good, but they lost a ton of talent from last year's team, we all knew this would be a rebuilding year for the "D". They forced 3 turnovers last night, including 2 late in the game that kept WKU in it when the offense was struggling. If there is one area that I do think is fair game though, it's passing down defense.

Here's every passing down situation WKU faced last night where UAB threw the ball. Success means WKU did a good job, failure means they didn't.

Third-and-8 at WKU 24: Cody Clements, 24-yard pass to WKU 0. FAIL.

Second-and-15 at UAB 48: Cody Clements, 12-yard pass. FAIL.

Third-and-7 at UAB 34: Cody Clements, 5-yard pass. SUCCESS.

Third-and-8 at UAB 30: Cody Clements, 12-yard pass. FAIL.

Third-and-5 at WKU 27: Cody Clements, 5-yard pass. FAIL.

Second-and-22 at WKU 23: Cody Clements, sacked for loss of 8 yards. SUCCESS.

Second-and-10 at UAB 25: Cody Clements, 75-yard pass to WKU 0. FAIL.

Second-and-8 at UAB 43: Cody Clements, incomplete pass. SUCCESS.

Third-and-8 at UAB 43: Cody Clements, 31-yard pass to WKU 26. FAIL.

Third-and-6 at WKU 22: Cody Clements, pass intercepted. SUCCESS.

Third-and-9 at UAB 41: Cody Clements, 44-yard pass to WKU 15. FAIL.

Second-and-13 at WKU 28: Cody Clements, 3-yard pass. SUCCESS.

Fourth-and-5 at WKU 20: Cody Clements, 12-yard pass to WKU 8. FAIL.

The national average success rate allowed on passing downs is 32 percent. WKU allowed 62 percent last night on passing down pass plays, and if you look at the most crucial downs (third/fourth,) WKU allowed 6 successful plays on 8 attempts--a 75 percent success rate allowed.

This is an area where even though I cape up for the defense some, you just can't allow these numbers. Even really bad teams luck into enough stops on third-and-long that their numbers aren't this bad. WKU can save themselves a lot of points earned just executing better on just a few of these plays.

Where do we go from here?:

While it leaves a bad taste in fans' mouths knowing WKU led by double-digits in all three of their losses thus far, I try to take a glass half-full approach.

If you made a projected record based on averages, the Tops sit somewhere between 3-2 and 4-1, probably closer to 3-2. I know I know, they aren't that--but again, glass half-full. Not all is lost on the season, there is potential with this team.

FAU is a game that WKU looks very favorable in, and even though it's on the road, the Tops seem to play better sometimes that way anyway.

Beat the Owls to get to .500, come home and find a way to outscore Old Dominion, and suddenly the Tops only have to win two of their last five to be bowl-eligible.


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