USC at Stanford Defensive Recap

Where to start?  Stanford gained 478 yards against USC, which is right in line with their season average of 471 yards per game.  USC’s defense did force three fumbles after forcing only two in the first four games (one against Minnesota and one against Washington).  Scoring wise, USC allowed 37 points to a Stanford team which averages 43.3 points per game.  However, in terms of scoring drive %, the defense did slightly worse than Stanford’s average.  Out of the 67 drives that Stanford had in its first 5 games, 29 were touchdowns (43%) and 37 were scoring drives (55%).  Against USC, 5 out of Stanford’s 10 drives were touchdowns (50%) and 6 were scoring drives (60%).

In this post, we will look at the play calling used by Stanford against USC, third down conversions allowed by USC’s defense, the yards allowed per quarter, and the yards allowed histograms.

Play Calling

Overall, Stanford ran the ball 35 times (58%) and passed the ball 25 times (42%).  But lets take a closer look.  First lets look at the play calling by down.

This is very reflective of the overall gameplan.  A slight leaning towards the run in every situation.  However, if we look at their play calling per quarter, we see a different view.

To start the game, Stanford actually threw slightly more than they ran.  They put our young secondary to the test early to see what type of success they could get.  Stanford relied much more heavily on the run in the 2nd and 3rd quarter.  The final quarter was very balanced.

3rd Down Conversions

Prior to our game with Stanford, my program logged a 69% 3rd down conversion rate.  This included an 80% conversion rate on 3rd and short.  Against USC’s defense, Stanford converted on six out of eight 3rd downs (75%) and two out of three 3rd and shorts (67%).  Part of this high conversion rate is Luck’s accuracy and decision making.  He threw only about half as much as Barkley did, but he was accurate when he got the chance to throw.  Luck completed 20 out of 24 passes (83%) and averaged 11.9 yards per pass.  Luck also ran the ball successfully for 9.2 yards per carry.  This includes scrambles for 19 yards and a pair of 14 yards runs.  This quick decision making by Luck kept drives alive for Stanford and kept the chains moving.

Yards Allowed per Quarter

Lets take a look at the yards allowed per quarter by USC.

USC’s best quarter was actually the 4th quarter.  In this quarter, USC’s defense held Stanford to 69 yards over 13 plays (5.3 yards per play).  The other three quarters averaged 8.9 yards per play.  However, 47 of those 69 yards in the 4th quarter came on Stanford’s final drive to win the game.

On a side note, I don’t disagree with the play calling for the final drive’s defense, but the execution wasn’t quite there.  Cover the sidelines and the deep pass very tightly, allow the offense to have the underneath routes in the middle of the field.  But you can’t allow the 5-7 yard underneath pass that we allow to gain a 1st down.  Stanford threw that underneath pass three times to start that drive.  The first time was stopped successfully, but unfortunately was flagged for a personal foul.  The 2nd and 3rd time, we allowed Stanford to get a 1st down on those passes, generally with yards after catch.  Had we stopped those passes before the sticks and not committed the personal foul, the clock continues to run, and Stanford must either call another play quickly (which has a higher chance of miscommunication, poor execution, etc), spike the ball, or use one of their timeouts.  All of which would have aided USC and put us in a better position to win the game.

Yards Allowed Histogram

Finally, let us look at the yardage allowed histogram.

The run gained a wide distribution of yards and averaged at 5.4 yards per carry.  It also had nine carries which gained at least 10 yards.  On the bright side, however, seven of Stanford’s 35 runs (20%) were stopped for a loss and 18 runs (51%) were stopped for 3 or less yards.

On the passing side, Andrew Luck really tore the secondary apart, as is his usual.  Along with only having four incompletions, there were only five passes which gained less than seven yards.  So a total of nine passes (36%) were for a gain less than seven.  That means 16 passes (64%) gained more than seven yards.  12 of these passes (48%) gained more than 10 yards and seven (28%) gained more than 15 yards.


Defensively, there is still a lot of room for improvement.  But, the defense is young, inexperienced, and thin.  All of which affect the play calling and scheme that we can use.  Execution needs to be improved, especially in the end game.  But if there is ever a year to have a post season ban, this might as well be the year to give us the time to learn and improve our abilities when the season doesn’t really matter.


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