USC at UCLA Defensive Recap

This post will look at the defensive side of the ball for USC in their recent game against UCLA.  This post will start with the play calling by UCLA in various situations.  It will then look at the average distance to go compared to the average yardage allowed by the defense and the conversion percentages allowed.  Finally, it will look at the yardage allowed histograms.

Play Calling

Overall, UCLA ran the ball 26 times (41%) and passed the ball 38 times (59%).  This is surprising since they are a running team out the pistol.  They found some success last week against ASU through the air, but did not have nearly the success early against USC that would warrant them to rely on the pass.  Let us take a closer look into this by first looking at the play calling by down.

UCLA was very balanced on 1st down.  2nd down started to lean slightly towards the pass.  However, once on 3rd down, UCLA was passing three times as often as they were rushing.  UCLA’s rushes on 3rd downs came on a 3rd and 10, in which they lost three yards on the QB keeper, and a pair of 3rd and 1s which resulted in gains of four and six yards.

Now let us look at the play calling per quarter.

UCLA stayed fairly balanced in the 1st and 3rd quarters.  The 2nd quarter actually featured much more of a rushing attack.  UCLA was likely attempting to establish their pistol rushing attack heavily in this quarter while the game was tied or still within seven.  However, in the final quarter, UCLA relied almost exclusively on the pass since they were playing from behind.  They passed the ball four times as often as they ran the ball in this final quarter.  Four of UCLA’s five runs in the 4th quarter came while they were still down 21-7.  Once USC extended the lead to 28-7, UCLA only ran the ball once more, which was a QB keeper by Brehaut.


Let us first look at the average distance to go per down compared to the average yards allowed by the USC defense.

Overall, USC allowed 8.4 yards per play to UCLA.  USC’s best down was 1st down where it allowed 4.9 yards per offensive play.  2nd down was USC’s worst down with 8.5 yards allowed.  This included explosive plays of a 59 yard rushing TD and a 42 yard reception.  Discounting these plays brings the average down to 4.4 yards per play allowed.  3rd down allowed a 6.1 yards per play.

Now let us look at the conversion rates allowed.

2nd down converted quite a bit for new first downs.  3rd down was actually converted less than 2nd downs.  4th down, USC allowed one of two conversions.  But lets take a closer look at 3rd downs.

USC was not able to stop either of UCLA’s two 3rd and shorts.  It is difficult to stop a rushing team from converting the 3rd and shorts, especially a team that relies on misdirection such as the pistol offense does.  USC stopped UCLAs only attempt at 3rd and medium.  For third and long, USC was able to stop seven out of UCLA’s nine 3rd and longs.

Yards Allowed Histograms

Let us first look at the yards allowed per quarter.

USC’ allowed quite a few yards on 2nd and 4th quarters.  The yards allowed on 2nd quarter were very likely due to USC’s fumble return for a touchdown.  This gave UCLA back to back drives which inflated their yardage stats.  As for 4th quarter, USC allowed two long and sustained drives.  The first went 64 yards and ended in a turnover on downs.  The final drive for UCLA went 77 yards and resulted in a UCLA touchdown.  This is an interesting drive as USC’s defense seemingly allowed UCLA to gain short yardage in exchange for the clock running down quite a bit.  UCLA ended the drive with only 0:22 seconds on the clock, which is a fairly good success in this position.

Now let us look at the yards allowed histogram.

On the rushing side of the ball, five rushes (19%) were stopped for a loss or for no gain.  12 runs (46%) were stopped for a gain of three or less.  On the flip side, USC allowed three runs (12%) which gained 10 yards or more, including a single run which was explosive and gained 59 yards and scored a touchdown.

For passing, six passes (16%) were complete and gained negative yards or were for no gain, including sacks.  If you include incomplete passes, this becomes 55% of passing plays for negative or no gain.  On the flip side, 10 passes (26%) gained at least 10 yards including seven passes (18%) which gained at least 15+ yards.


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