USC at ASU Offensive Recap

The offense put together about one quarter of play in its loss against ASU.  The rest of the game was spent trying to find rhythm, which unfortunately lead to a lot of turnovers.  This post will look at the offensive side of the ball for USC in the loss.  We will first take a brief look at the play calling.  We will then apply this to the one good quarter that USC played.  Finally, we will look at conversion rates.

Play Calling

Here are some quick looks at the play calling by USC.  Overall, USC ran the ball 31 times (47%) and passed the ball 35 times (53%).  This is a fairly balanced effort.  USC was actually fairly balanced based on down as well.  So let us take a look at the play calling based on field position.

USC favored the pass when behind midfield.  However, they tended slightly towards the run when beyond midfield.  Now let us look at the play calling by quarter.

USC started the game on the ground.  Unfortunately, this did not lead to much success.  The second quarter showed a heavy reliance on the pass. Unfortunately, this only lead to six points in the 2nd quarter.  The powerful third quarter was fairly balanced with a slight lean towards the run.  The final quarter had a lean towards the pass and did not succeed much.

USC’s One Quarter

Let us look at the yardage production per quarter by USC.

USC really spiked in the third quarter.  USC’s third quarter was only 40 yards shy of the rest of their yardage in the other three quarter combined.  I decided to take a closer look into the yardage gained and I looked at the rushing yards per half, as this seemed to be the thing that kicked off the most after halftime.  In the first half, USC was averaging 3.0 yards per carry.  However, after halftime, USC’s yards per carry jumped to 9.1 yards per carry, over three times as much productivity.  Looking at Marc Tyler’s productivity shows a similar jump: from 2.36 yards per carry in the first half to 11.4 yards per carry in the second half.

Likewise, the passing game received a boost after halftime in the yardage productivity, but not nearly as much as the run game.  Prior to halftime, Barkley had 6.0 yards per attempt and 10.8 yards per completion.  After the break, Barkley had 8.07 yards per attempt and 11 yards per completion.

Remember back to the play calling per quarter.  USC re-balanced itself in the third quarter when things started clicking.  Prior to halftime, USC struggled to move the ball effectively.  By looking at how much the run game improved at halftime, it is fairly safe to say that USC struggled before halftime due to the lack of the run game.

Conversion Rates

USC was a horrible one for nine on 3rd down conversions (11%).  However, let us take a closer look into this stat.  First, let us look at the average distance to go versus the average gain per down.

USC was actually fairly successful on first and second downs. 45% of USC’s first down plays were successful and gained at least five yards.  However, second down is much more interesting.  USC gained a huge average of 9.22 yards on second down.  This included a 52% conversion rate and 65% successful play rate on second down (a play on second down is considered successful if it gains at least 70% of the remaining yardage to convert).  These are great numbers to have.

However, that is where the good news ends.  USC averaged a paltry 3.25 yards to go on third down when they had an average distance to go of 9.0 yards.  USC’s only third and short came in the final six minutes of the game.  To make it worse, USC did not even convert that 3rd and 1 as it was stuffed for no gain.  Next, there were two 3rd and medium plays.  One of these plays was USC’s only 3rd down conversion.  The rest of the third down plays were six 3rd and longs, none of which were converted.  USC needs to put itself into a position to succeed, and that isn’t by creating a lot of 3rd and longs.  Instead, USC had 66% of their 3rd down situations being seven or more yards.  Regardless of how many first or second downs USC converted (which was 21% of 1st downs and 52% of 2nd downs, btw), USC must limit the amount of 3rd and longs.

Coach Kiffin noted this discrepancy in production between first and second downs compared to third downs in his Sunday night tele-conference, as reported by the OC Register Blog (found here).  He is aware of the situation and hopefully has a solution.

As a side note, USC converted on one of two of its fourth downs.  The distance to go in the attempts that we tried were from two and five yards out.  The second attempt should have been a fourth and one, but a false start pushed us back.


So far, we have only seen one game in which USC played from start to finish and that was against Syracuse.  This time against ASU, execution errors lead to turnovers which ultimately doomed us.  ASU earned 22 points off turnovers and won the game by 21 points.  If USC were to get even field goals on all of its turnover drives in the red zone, we have a completely different game.  USC is currently ranked #113 in turnover margin at -6 and is last in the Pac-12 in that category.  If we want to see success, this trend has to turn around.


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