To try to combat some of the hysterical madness I've witnessed in the last 48 hours, I went back and watched the game and charted our offensive possessions. I took down some attributes of each play call, and noted the success (or lack thereof) of each play. I wanted to do some analysis on some data to try to cut through the general sky-is-falling type of talk, and look at some specifics.
I'll include my full "dataset" at the bottom of the post, and some summary statistics and comments at the top. I hope you'll suggest new ways to use the data I took, as well as new fields that might be worth capturing in future games. I learned a lot from this, so I think I'll try to keep it up.
(1) Average pass attempt length --- 11.0 yards. This seems reasonable to me. Suggests we're keeping the corners and safeties honest with the threat of the deep ball.
(2) Average completion length --- 6.6 yards. Not surprising, this is going to be a lot lower than the average attempt. You catch the short ones and don't connect on the long ones.
(3) Average YAC per completion --- 3.9 yards. This seems downright poor. Since this is the first time I'm doing this, I don't have anything to compare it to. However, my impression is that faster teams have much more yardage after the catch. So many completions were caught falling down, or in smothering coverage that meant no YAC was to be had. I would love to track this for a team like Boise State or Oregon.
(4) Percent thrown to the side of the field (conservative) --- 71%. Actually seems pretty reasonable (particularly for a freshman quarterback still getting his feet wet). There were some definite risky throws over the middle.
(5) Completion % for attempts under 10 yards --- 77%. No surprise here, when you throw screens and slants and quick out routes, you should be completing a lot of passes.
(6) Completion % for attempts 10 yards and over --- 19%. Wow. This seems really really bad. Bolden was 3 for 16 in pass attempts over 10 yards. I don't know whether this was poor throwing, poor play calling, drops by receivers... probably a mix of all three. In general, the lack of yards after catch and connection on the deep balls seems the most concerning to me.
(7) Yards per playaction pass attempt --- 3.3 yards.
(8) Yards per standard pass attempt --- 4.8 yards. There was a suggestion in one of the posts that we should abandon the playaction pass since we really don't have the threat of a running game. I tend to agree since it gives Bolden less time to assess the rush and make reads, and doesn't seem to have better results. Small sample size though.
In general, I thought this game was promising on both sides of the ball. We locked down on defense after the first quarter, once again. The players seem capable of playing well, it's just a matter of getting that going sooner, which seems attainable. The offense started to move the ball well, and adjusted to the pressure with some quick throws/dumpoffs/screens. I think they made the best of a difficult situation. Regarding Bolden's stat line, I thought he actually got away with a lot, having thrown nearly an extra four interceptions. Things really could have gotten out of hand if those had materialized. So, while we did catch a few bad breaks (Refs not seeing Joe's timeout, Bolden/Zordich not getting into the end zone, receivers dropping passes), I think the score differential is pretty representative of what should have happened. That being said, I don't think that's a horrendous outcome. Iowa's strength played perfectly into our biggest weakness. If you look at this game from the perspective of a re-building season, I saw a lot of promising things.
I have to conclude with how delighted I was to see players supporting Bolden after what could have been a traumatizing evening. Also, Kevin Newsome's enthusiasm when he was in the game was so inspiring. This guy could be complacent and bitter (see: Forcier, Tate), but instead he is trying to make the best of what I can only imagine is a very frustrating situation. There wasn't sulking, there wasn't quitting, there won't be drunk driving arrests or agent parties in Miami from members of our team. I was as proud to be represented by this team as any Penn State team, and I hope those of you spewing with anger and frustration can try to see the positives in this team and encourage them for the future.
*Notes about data. (1) Pass length is the ball through the air distance. A 10 yard screen would be pass length of zero, with YAC of 10. (2) When sacked, I guessed whether he was trying to throw to the side or middle. (3) Does not include the Newsome drive at the end. Total yards are low for that reason also.