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Stanford 41, Vanderbilt 23: Explosive plays, explosive plays

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Stanford had them and Vanderbilt... sort of did.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Five Factors

Five Factors Vanderbilt Stanford
Five Factors Vanderbilt Stanford
Plays 84 56
Total Yards 398 422
Yards Per Play 4.7 7.5
Rushing Attempts 43 26
Rushing Yards 256 207
Rushing YPP 6 8
Passing Attempts 41 30
Passing Yards 142 215
Passing YPP 3.5 7.2
Rushing Success Rate 48.80% 38.50%
Passing Success Rate 29.30% 50.00%
Success Rate 39.30% 44.60%
Avg. Field Position 22.5 36.8
PP40 4.6 5.13
Turnovers 1 0

Since this came up in the comments last week, I’m going to start with a quick explainer on what some of this stuff means.

The “Five Factors” referenced are: Yards Per Play, Success Rate, Field Position, Points Per Trip Inside 40, and turnovers. Yards per play and turnovers are pretty self-explanatory. Field position is the average starting position on your drives. Points Per Trip Inside 40 divides the number of points your offense scores by the number of drives that got a first down inside the opponent’s 40-yard line, and is preferable to red zone scoring percentage, which captures the major fuck-ups but might miss a team that’s frequently having drives stall at the other team’s 35. It also doesn’t differentiate between field goals and touchdowns.

Finally, there’s success rate, which is the percentage of a team’s offensive plays that are successful — “successful” here is defined as gaining 50% of the remaining yards on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third or fourth down. A team with a low success rate but a high yards per play is probably relying a lot on big plays.

(A couple of other notes: I count sacks as passing attempts — because they are — and I don’t count kneeldowns, so the numbers I have may differ slightly from the “official” numbers.)

Bill C. wrote about this at Football Study Hall a while back and the Five Factors, individually, correlate pretty well with winning football games. If you lose all five factors, as Vanderbilt did on Saturday night... well, you probably aren’t winning.

Granted, Vanderbilt lost on success rate, but it wasn’t by that much. They lost the turnover battle — by one. They lost narrowly on converting scoring chances, but scoring 4.6 per scoring chance isn’t that bad, all things considered (and it actually would be 4.8 had Vanderbilt converted an extra point on its final touchdown, but the extra point wasn’t attempted.) Stanford had a big margin on field position, largely because the Cardinal started two drives late in the first half deep inside Vanderbilt territory off a turnover and a big punt return, while Vanderbilt started drives at their own 2 and 3 yard line (but they scored a touchdown on one of those drives!)

The one that stands out, though, is yards per play. Stanford had seven plays of 20 or more yards; and when you consider that the Cardinal only ran 56 offensive plays, that means one of every eight plays they ran went for 20 or more yards. Vanderbilt, on the other hand, had four — on 84 offensive plays. And one of those, by the way, was the very last play of the game, when the Commodores scored a touchdown to take it from 41-17 to 41-23.

In a lot of ways, this was the reverse of the Colorado State game. Vanderbilt didn’t really look overmatched, though the big plays might have made it look that way; but for a while, the Commodores were able to sustain drives, and when they weren’t getting shredded for big plays, the defense was able to contain Stanford a bit. The difference is, Stanford didn’t give Vanderbilt anything. The Cardinal didn’t commit any turnovers and their special teams unit did a good job of repeatedly pinning Vanderbilt deep in its own territory to start drives. Going 98 yards in 14 plays is awesome when it happens, but if you’re actually looking to beat a superior team, you’re probably going to need some help — and Stanford wasn’t going to give it.

On the other hand, I didn’t really see anything wrong with Vanderbilt’s overall game plan or the coaching in this one. Vanderbilt just got out-executed... which frankly is what you expect when you play Stanford.

Passing Stats

Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Rate YPP
Passing Comp Att Comp % Yds TD INT Sacks Yds Lost Net Yds Success Rate YPP
Ken Seals 16 37 43.20% 120 1 1 1 9 111 26.30% 2.9
Mike Wright 2 3 66.70% 31 1 0 0 0 31 66.70% 10.3

Hoo boy. It’s probably way too soon to yell “QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY!!!1” but, well, that’s not a good line for Ken Seals, and unlike the ETSU game, Mike Wright didn’t play until the last drive — so this can’t be blamed on Seals getting jerked around by the coaching staff and being unable to get in a rhythm. Suffice to say, 2.9 yards per passing attempt (counting sacks) is exceptionally bad, as is a 43.2% completion rate. Now, how much of that is Seals and how much is that Stanford’s defense (which had four quarterback hurries, a sack, and seven pass breakups)? That’s more of a Patrick question.

Rushing Stats

Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Rushing Att Yds YPA TD Success Rate
Rocko Griffin 18 110 6.1 0 27.80%
Re'Mahn Davis 11 75 6.8 1 72.70%
Ken Seals 6 25 4.2 0 66.70%
Mike Wright 3 36 12 0 100.00%
James Ziglor III 2 8 4 0 50.00%
Patrick Smith 1 4 4 0 0.00%

Re’Mahn Davis went into the injury tent early on, came back, and then didn’t have a single carry in the second half — I have no idea if he didn’t play at all or what, but I’m sure we’ll get an answer from Clark Lea on Tuesday. Lea has been surprisingly up front about injury stuff. As for Rocko Griffin, well, solid performance, but success rate kind of tells you why he’s the backup: he can break a big run here and there, but he’s not moving the chains as consistently as Davis does.

Also, true freshman James Ziglor III got his first career carries on the final drive. Ziglor was recruited as a defensive back and his presence here is entirely a reflection on how thin the running back room is. As for Patrick Smith, well, I hope we’re not going to burn his redshirt so he can get a handful of carries, but if Davis is out for an extended amount of time then he’s going to play quite a bit.

Receiving Stats

Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Rate
Receiving Targets Catches Yds TD Catch Rate Yds/Target Yds/Catch Success Rate
Chris Pierce 13 6 52 0 46.20% 4 8.7 30.80%
Will Sheppard 13 6 43 0 46.20% 3.3 7.2 30.80%
Devin Boddie 5 1 3 1 20.00% 0.6 3 20.00%
Cam Johnson 3 2 28 1 66.70% 9.3 14 33.30%
Amir Abdur-Rahman 2 1 5 0 50.00% 2.5 5 50.00%
Rocko Griffin 2 1 1 0 50.00% 0.5 1 0.00%
Gavin Schoenwald 1 1 19 0 100.00% 19 19 100.00%

I don’t think I expected to see a game where Devin Boddie would be targeted more often than Cam Johnson in the passing game, and yet here we are. Even weirder, one of Johnson’s three targets was the touchdown at the end of the game. Seals seems pretty locked in on Chris Pierce and Will Sheppard, I guess. Also here, Boddie scored the first touchdown of his Vanderbilt career, and Gavin Schoenwald got his first catch — hell, that might have even been his first target. Vanderbilt doesn’t keep track of that but I don’t actually remember him getting targeted before. And Amir Abdur-Rahman’s playing time continues to be a mystery; both of his targets came on the final drive.

Defense

Nothing too weird here, Anfernee Orji led the team in tackles (albeit with six), and Dashaun Jerkins, De’Rickey Wright, Brendon Harris, and Ethan Barr each had a pass breakup; Harris also had a QB hurry. Jaylen Mahoney had a tackle for loss, and Michael Owusu and Daevion Davis combined for the team’s first sack of the season.

Notes

Devin Boddie got the first start of his Vanderbilt career as the Commodores opened the game in a four-WR set. I think that was Julian Hernandez’s first start, too, though I’d have to look; Hernandez was the starting center in the place of the injured Michael Warden. On defense, Lorenza Surgers got his first career start in place of Elijah McAllister, and De’Rickey Wright got a start as well.

Nothing too notable on the participation report. True freshmen playing were Patrick Smith, James Ziglor, Errington Truesdell, Quincy Skinner, and Terion Sugick. None of these guys are playing a whole lot (in fact, I think Truesdell and Skinner are playing exclusively on special teams) and I’d hate to see guys burn through redshirts for that. Of course, the coaching staff might just be getting some guys’ four games out of the way early and then playing other true freshmen down the stretch.

What’s Next

Vanderbilt hosts #2 Georgia on Saturday at 11 AM CT. That’s going to be fun.