Western Kentucky earned a much-needed home win over visiting Old Dominion this weekend, in a game that certainly wasn't lacking action.
How did the Tops come out on top? Read below for more.
• WKU points per play: 0.930
• WKU yards per play: 8.5
• WKU yards per rush: 5.1
• WKU yards per pass attempt: 14.2
• ODU points per play: 0.689
• ODU yards per play: 8.7
• ODU yards per rush: 5.1
• ODU yards per pass attempt: 11.7
Some of these numbers are just silly, even by WKU's standards. 0.930 points per play means WKU scored a touchdown every 7.5 plays ran.
According to SBNation’s Bill Connelly, teams who earn a PPP margin between 0.2 to 0.3 win 96.7 percent of the time. WKU earned a +0.24 margin, so you'd think this was a blowout (and the final point margin was 15.)
But it was much closer than that, and the per play yardage indicates that. After a fourth quarter Mitchell Henry fumble at the ODU 1 that could have (maybe should have?) resulted in an easy WKU touchdown, ODU drove to a first-and-goal at the WKU 3-yard line, trailing 56-51. To this point in the contest, ODU had scored touchdowns on 7 straight trips inside the WKU 40.
But it wasn't meant to be for the Monarchs. Freshman safety Juwan Gardner intercepted Taylor Heinicke and ran it back 96 yards for a touchdown, giving the Tops a two-possession lead at 63-51.
Throw in a 94-yard kick return for a touchdown from Kylen Towner, a missed ODU extra point, you have your point per play margin.
Advantage--WKU. Looking at the yardage, this stat was much closer than you would have thought. But WKU's 14.2 yards per pass attempt gets them the nod. Six WKU players caught passes of 21 yards or longer, and four caught a pass of 31 yards or longer.
• Overall Success Rate: WKU 65 percent, ODU 52.
• First Down: WKU 53 percent, ODU 51.
• Second Down: WKU 80 percent, ODU 43.
• Third Down: WKU 71 percent, ODU 62.
• Fourth Down: ODU 100 percent (2-for-2)
A 10 to 20 percent margin in efficiency gives you a 91.5 percent chance to win a game, again, according to Connelly. WKU won the overall battle by 13 percent, but the biggest key was second down.
On 25 second down plays, WKU was "successful" on 20. This puts you in a spot to face mostly either third-and-short, or avoid third down altogether.
WKU only faced 7 third downs on the day, and 3 of those were third-and-1's.
A final note about about the Tops efficiency: 41 percent of WKU's playcalls so far in 2014 have been run plays, 59 percent pass.
But against Old Dominion, WKU ran the ball on 45 of 71 plays--A 63 percent clip.
New trend going forward, or just simply taking advantage of a matchup? I couldn't tell you.
Personally, I'd love to see a balance of right in the middle. Anywhere between 30-40 passes a game.
Bonus--WKU has allowed 10 straight conversions on fourth down, dating back to the UAB game. The Blazers were 2-for-2, FAU went 6-for-6, and ODU went 2-for-2. Has to be some kindof record, right?
• WKU: 13 drives, eight scoring opportunities. Six touchdowns, one field goal, one turnover.
• ODU: 12 drives, nine scoring opportunities. Seven touchdowns (one missed extra point,) one field goal, one turnover.
Note: For this stat, I only count scoring opportunities as drives where a first down was snapped inside the opponent's 40-yard line.
Pretty remarkable that Old Dominion was able to snap a first down inside the WKU 40 on 9-of-12 drives. They punted twice, and Cam Thomas had an early interception on the remaining drive. Once they got in-range for an opportunity, they made WKU pay almost everytime, until the fortuitous Gardner interception.
WKU didn't earn as many opportunities, but that's because they didn't need to. A kickoff return touchdown and a 45-yard bomb from Doughty to Joel German sprinkled in with a few punts and turnovers.
The big thing for WKU here was their touchdown rate. If they had settled for a few field goals instead of finishing the job, this might have been an entirely different outcome. But almost every time WKU earned an opportunity, they finished.
Advantage--Tossup. ODU scored 5.7 points per trip inside the 40, WKU 5.6.
Field Position: WKU started their drives on average at their own 39-yard line, compared to ODU at their own 25.
Advantage--WKU. +14-yard margin is pretty sizeable. The Tops earned two drives in the first quarter were they started in ODU territory, as well as numerous nice returns setting them up at the WKU 30 or better. ODU only started one possession in WKU territory, and only earned 15.4 yards per kick return (compared to 30.8 for WKU.)
WKU earned two interceptions but zero forced fumbles, compared to two forced/recovered fumbles by ODU but no interceptions. If you count the late squib kick as a turnover, WKU wins 3-2. Mitchell Henry's fumble at the ODU 1 could have proved very costly, but Gardner's following interception and return evened it out.
Where do we go from here?: This was a game WKU absolutely had to win, and it was this close to slipping out of their hands (heh.)
Marshall is in the Top 25 (ranked No. 23,) and their stats suggest they're maybe even better than that (in the No. 15-20 range.) Let's go ahead and count that one out.
I'd put the Tops as a slight underdog at Louisiana Tech, and probably a tossup at home against UTSA.
Find a way to get one of those two, and WKU is bowl-eligible for the fourth straight season.