USC at UCLA Offensive Recap

This post will look at the offensive side of the ball for USC in their victory at the Rose Bowl against cross-town rival UCLA.  We will first look at the play calling by USC throughout the game.  Then we will look at the average distance to go vs the average gain per down and the conversion rate per down.  Finally, we will look at the yardage gained histograms.

Play Calling

Overall, USC ran the ball 39 times (57%) and passed the ball 29 times (43%).  First let us look at the play calling by down.

As can be seen in the graph, USC was fairly balanced on 1st, 3rd, and 4th downs.  However, the interesting thing is 2nd down.  USC ran the ball more than twice as often as they passed the ball on this down.  Upon further inspection, USC ran the ball all four times it was on 2nd down and 3 or less yards to convert.  USC also ran the ball all three times it was on 2nd down and 11 or more yards to go.

Now let us look at the play calling per quarter.

USC was relatively balanced in the 1st and 3rd quarters, leaning slightly towards the pass.  However, the 2nd and 4th quarters relied almost solely on the run.   In the 2nd quarter, USC’s only passes were on a 2nd and 9 which was completed for 16 yards (plus an additional 15 yards for a personal foul) and another pass on 4th and 13 on a failed fake field goal attempt by Mitch Mustain.  In the 4th quarter, there were passes on 3rd and 3 and 2nd and 6.  These passes gained nine yards and 47 yards (TD) respectively.


First let us look at the average distance to go per down compared to the average gain.

Overall, USC gained 6.97 yards per offensive play.  USC had great success on 2nd down, averaging 11.6 yards per play.  This was aided by a 47 yard receiving TD and a 73 yard rushing TD, both by Allen Bradford.  Taking out these two plays and USC averaged 6.27 yards per offensive play on 2nd down, which still makes it USC’s best down by a slight margin in terms of production.

Now let us look at the conversion rates per down by USC.

USC didn’t have a great conversion rate percentage, but it was enough to sustain some drives.  It was unfortunate that USC was able to move the ball deep into UCLA territory a number of times and failed to produce any points.   USC had drives ending on the UCLA 22, 17, and 35 which all ended in a turnover on downs.  Luckily, UCLA was unable to capitalize on turnovers committed by USC or turning the ball over on downs.  On drives immediately following one of these drives, UCLA was forced to punt twice and fumbled the ball twice as well.  One of those fumbles lead to a game changing 68 yard TD return.

Gain Histograms

First let us look at the yards gained per quarter.

USC gained the most yardage in the 1st and 4th quarters.  But it is worthy to note that the 2nd quarter only featured a single full drive by USC and a single play drive to end the half.  This was thanks to the fumble returned for the touchdown which forced UCLA to take two drives in a row.  The third quarter featured a ton of turnovers which killed drives.  There were two interceptions and a turnover on downs committed by USC.

Now let us look at the gain histogram for USC.  As always, the 12 incompletions are not included in the histogram for ease of reading the chart.

First let us look at the run game.  Five runs (13%) were stopped for a loss or for no gain.  14 runs (36%) were stopped for a gain of three or less yards.  On the flip side, there was a good chunk of yards that gained a solid 4-5 yards.  Nine runs (23%) gained 10 or more yards but only two runs (5%) gained 15 or more yards, one of those being Bradford’s 73 yard TD run.  Not a whole lot of explosive home run plays on the ground by USC, but good consistency in getting what they needed.

For the passing game, four completed passing plays (14%) were for negative or no yardage gained.  This includes the one sack for -4 yards.  If you include incompletions, this number bumps up to 55% of total passing plays gaining no yardage or negative yardage.  However, nine passes (31%) gained at least 10 yards and six passes (21%) gained at least 15 yards.  It wasn’t Barkley’s best night, but it was enough to manage the game and get the win.


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