USC at Stanford Offensive Recap

Not much to complain about for USC’s offense.  It gained 498 yards of total offense and Barkley had a breakout game which showcased his greater decision-making ability.  Lane Kiffin continues to open up the playbook by adding Dillon Baxter to the mix in the Wildcat and incorporating the Wildcat sweep (even tho it was only faked), the Wildcat handoff (even though it resulted in a fumble), and the Wildcat pass.

There were five USC drives which did not result in a touchdown: two punts, the end of the 1st half, a lost fumble, and a turnover on downs.  The other five drives all scored touchdowns.  USC averaged 48.8 yards on each drive which is pretty exciting.

So lets take a look at the offensive stats.  This post will cover the playcalling, drive statistics, and the gain histogram.

Play Calling

Overall, USC called a run 27 times (36%) and pass 47 times (64%).  This isn’t the balance that USC is used to, but the run game was stuffed early and often while the pass was extremely productive.  First lets look at the play calling by down.

As you can see, 1st down was where the bulk of our runs came from.  We tended to stay fairly balanced on 1st down but proceeded to rely on the pass on subsequent downs.  Now lets take a look at the play calling by quarter.

We tended to pass more on every single quarter.  It was fairly balanced up until the 4th quarter where we just started passing a lot.  In fact, USC’s final two drives featured only four rushes.  Two of those rushes were in the redzone with USC in prime position to score and wanting to wind down the clock as much as possible (in which there was its own controversy where the clock, in fact, did not run, but that’s for another blog to discuss).

Drive Statistics

From the big picture, USC’s offense did about as much as could be asked of it.  Drives were sustained and lead to touchdowns to keep pace with Stanford’s offense.  Only a single play out of 60 offensive snaps was 15 yards to go for the first down.  This was a 2nd and 16 after Barkley was sacked on 1st down.

Lets take a closer look at what happened offensively though.  First let us look at the average gain per down.

The surprising thing here is how low the average gain on 1st down was.  Our gain on 1st down was nearly a third of what we gained on 2nd down.  In fact, 12 plays on 1st down either lost yards or were for no gain.  The most productive play was Barkley’s scramble for 27 yards.  This is in stark contract to USC’s Hawaii game in which USC averaged over 10 yards gained on 1st down.

Could the poor 1st down gains be attributed to the play calling?  Remember that 55% of plays run on 1st down were runs.  Taking only 1st down runs, we have an average yards per carry of 3.8, which is right in line with our overall game average.  However, if you take out Barkley’s 27 yard scramble, we now have an average yards per carry of 2.4 yards.  On the passing side, Barkley was 6/13 for 58 yards on 1st downs and was sacked once as well.  This turns to 3.7 yards per pass and 9.7 yards per completion.

It’s unfortunate to have such low production numbers on first down.  However, Barkley performed well on 2nd and 3rd down and kept drives alive.  USC averaged 7.4 offensive plays per drive.  This was actually the highest average this season, with the next highest coming at Hawaii with 6.0 plays per drive.  The low point this season was at Minnesota with 5.15 plays per drive.  These sustained drives kept points coming onto the board, scored touchdowns instead of field goals, and gave our defense some time to rest.

Next lets take a quick look at conversion percentages.  USC converted on 67% of 3rd downs by my program’s count.  This included 3 out of 5 (60%) of 3rd and shorts.  USC also converted on 40% of 2nd downs.

Gain Histograms

Let us look at the Gain Histogram for USC.  The 18 incomplete passes have been removed for ease of reading.

First lets look at the run game.  14 runs gained 3 yards or less.  On the flip side, USC had only three runs which gained 10 or more yards.  USC’s only explosive run play was a 27 yard scramble by Barkley.

For passes, USC did very well.  Of the completed passes, only two gained less than 5 yards.  USC had 14 plays gain 10 or more yards, including 10 which gained over 15 yards.


USC’s offense was able to do about all it could be asked to do.  The playbook continues to open up.  Barkley and Robert Woods had an explosive game which showed the potential of this offense and showed a capable alternative to passing to Ronald Johnson.  The only major complaint is the low production on 1st down.


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