USC vs Washington Defensive Recap

This post will look at the defensive side of the ball for USC.  The post will first look at the play calling by Washington throughout the game.  Then we will look at the conversion rates allowed by USC, the field position battle, and the yards allowed per quarter.

Play Calling

Overall, Washington relied on the pass over the run.  Washington ran the ball only 17 times this game (30%) and passed 40 times (70%).  This is odd since I would have assumed Sark would keep a fairly balanced offense.  I would have especially expected them to rely on the rushing attack of Chris Polk to establish the run game.  However, this does not seem to be the case.  First let us look at the play calling by quarter to see how the play calling evolved as USC grew their lead.

As can be seen here, Washington never really established the run game, even early in the game when it was close.  While USC was still within a touchdown score to tie, Washington passed the ball over twice as often as they ran with only six runs (29%) and 15 passes (71%).  Washington kept this percentage fairly consistent regardless of the score margin.

Now let us look at the play calling by down.

As can be seen here, the largest threat of the run was on first down.  There was a semblance of balance in this down for Washington.  However, once Washington was on its later downs, they relied heavily on the pass.  Washington’s only run on 3rd down came on a 3rd and 10.

Conversion Rates

USC had a phenomenal 3rd down conversion rate defense this game.  In fact, Washington did not have a 3rd down conversion until the 4th quarter.  Part of this was due to very strong defense on early downs by USC.  Washington was in 3rd and long for every single 3rd down until the 4th quarter, when they finally had a trio of 3rd and mediums.  Even still, Washington was only able to convert one out of three 3rd and mediums (33%) and one out of ten 3rd and longs (10%).

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

USC held fairly strong on early downs, but the key number here is that USC allowed an average of only 1.3 yards on 3rd down.  All this while Washington had an average distance to go of 10.1 yards on 3rd down.  USC was able to achieve this low average gain on 3rd down due to the sheer number of sacks USC had, especially on 3rd down.  Of the seven (yes, seven) sacks USC had in the game, four of them came on 3rd down.

Field Position

This is a real quick look at the field position battle, which encompasses all phases of the game.  Washington had an average starting field position of their own 27 yard line.  They only took 25% of their offensive snaps on the USC side of the field.  Compare this to USC who averaged starting on their own 31 yard line, but took 39% of their offensive snaps on the Washington side of the field.  USC also forced six out of 12 Washington drives to end without converting a single first down.

Yards per Quarter

Let us take a real quick look at the yards per quarter allowed by the USC defense.

As can be seen here, USC’s best quarter was the second, where it allowed only 32 yards of offense.  Part of this is due to the negative yardage drive that USC’s defense was able to force which resulted in a safety.

USC’s defense allowed the most yardage in the 4th quarter where Washington scored a very late touchdown.  However, this may have been due to USC bringing in the backups for mop up duty.


USC’s defense played well in this game.  They were able to prevent Washington from converting first downs, which kept their offense off the field.  This is seen with a nearly 10 minute advantage for USC in time of possession.  They were able to apply a lot of pressure against a team that wanted to establish a passing game and resulted in seven sacks.  This defense played well overall.  We’ll just have to see if that will translate into next week’s road game against a very potent Oregon offense.


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