USC at Hawaii Offensive Recap

The first game of the season came out as a win for USC.  There was a lot to like and a lot to dislike from the game.  Offensively, USC rolled up 524 yards and 7 touchdowns, 5 of them through the air.  Despite having more yards with 588, Hawaii fell short with 4 touchdowns and 2 field goals.  This post will concentrate on the USC offense.  It will look at the run vs. pass play calling trends, “explosive” plays vs. negative yardage plays, long to go plays, and conversion rates.

Run vs Pass Play Calling

First, lets look over an initial impression on the pass vs run play calling by USC’s new Head Coach Lane Kiffin.  Overall, USC ran the ball 35 times (56%) and passed the ball 27 times (44%).  If you organize it by down, USC was relatively balanced on 1st and 3rd down but heavily favored running the ball on 2nd down.

Breaking it down by quarter, USC favored rushing on all quarters with the exception of the 2nd quarter.  In the 2nd, USC passed the ball 13 times and ran 7 times.

Explosive Plays vs Negative Yardage Plays

USC made 7 explosive plays (plays which gained at least 15 yards).  This accounted for 11% of our plays.  In comparison, USC had only 3 negative plays (5%).  Negative plays are defined here as plays which gain zero or negative yardage, not including incomplete passes.  USC had a 2:1 ratio between explosive plays and negative plays.  This is a great ratio to have considering 2009’s USC offense was closer to 1:1 (116 explosive plays vs 104 negative plays).  Now lets take a look at the histograms for Run and Pass gains.

The passing play for less than -5 yards was the sack on Matt Barkley for -6 yards.  There was a single pass for -2 yards.  The seven passes for no gain were all incomplete passes.  One great thing to note was there was only one run for no gain.  Every other single run was for a gain.  Only seven runs went for under 3 yards.  A whopping seven runs and nine passes were for 10 or more yards.

Long to Go Plays

In my 2009 recap analysis, one area of note I brought up was “long to go” plays.  These are plays which are 15+ yards to convert for the 1st down.  This usually signals negative plays or penalties during the drive.  2009 had 8% of their plays which were long to go, ranking them dead last in the Pac-10 in this category.  Unfortunately, against Hawaii, USC did not improve on this category.  15% of USC’s plays (12 plays out of 78) were long to go plays.

Conversion Rates

On the bright side, USC performed well on 3rd down conversions.  Against Hawaii, USC converted on 9 of 12 (75%) 3rd downs.  Just considering 3rd and shorts (3 or less yards to go), USC was 6 for 6 (100%).  This is a great improvement over last year’s 32% 3rd down conversion rate and 69% 3rd and short conversion rate.  Much of the improvement on the 3rd down conversions is the average distance to go was 5.67 yards (compared to 7.63 yards in 2009).  This implies that the 1st and 2nd downs were more successful on gaining yardage, setting up a successful third down conversion.  USC’s impressive average gain of 10.67 yards on 1st down explains the lack of extensive third downs (12 out of 61 total plays) needed as well as the high success rate of conversion (75%).

Another high note for USC’s offense was that 7 out of 10 possessions by USC resulted in touchdowns.  Every single drive converted at least one 1st down.  This is an improvement over 2009 when 34% of drives failed to produce a 1st down.

Next, I’ll do a statistical recap of the USC defense and the Hawaii offense.

Click here for the full excel sheet.


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