Trysten Hill, not Randy Shannon deserves all the credit for the defensive turnaround vs. Memphis in the AAC Championship

UCF’s defense did one of those things where they let up a bunch of points in the first half and barely any in the second again in the conference championship.

When this happens, everyone seems to want to praise Randy Shannon for his “defensive adjustments” during halftime.

I wrote about why I don’t think this has necessarily been true throughout the season and that there are many more factors that go into points allowed then people realize. 

In the AAC championship, there was one difference on the defensive side of the ball. That was Trysten Hill. UCF would not have come anywhere close to winning this game without Hill and he deserves all the credit, not Randy Shannon.

Everyone knows how talented Hill is, but what the difference he made on Saturday was Ed Oliver like. You probably noticed him making a couple of big TFL throughout the game, but other guys had a few too.

Let me explain:

In about the middle of the 2q, Hill had his first big play and  I thought to myself, why don’t I keep track of every play Hill is on the field and compare it to when he’s not.

Hill didn’t play a single snap on the first defensive plays of the game. Memphis scored 3 TD’s in those 10 plays on 3 drives.

His first drive came after Mack’s second fumble where Memphis took over at Midfield. UCF held Memphis to a FG. Memphis’ next TD drive? A 2 play TD drive, Hill not on the field. So of Memphis’ 28 points, Hill wasn’t on the field for a single snap on any of the drives. He was on the field for the TD that came after the Otis muff.

Numbers:

Overall, Memphis ran 74 plays, 38 runs with a 52.63% success rate, averaging 10 ypc. Not great. Without Hill on the field, Memphis ran the ball 16 times. 81.25% of them were successful and Memphis averaged 19.13 yards per carry.

WITH Hill on the field, Memphis ran the ball 22 times. Only 7 of them were successful (31.82%) and Memphis only averaged 3.36 ypc.

That is what you call a difference maker. And no, this isn’t by coincidence.

Hill’s first defensive drive, immediate impact. Beats the initial blocker and beats the tight end for a nice 4 yard loss.

Memphis ended up scoring on this drive, but it wasn’t anywhere near Hill’s fault. If you’ve ever wondered what a run disruption was, there is no better example of one than this. It’s why raw stats and box scores are dumb. There’s about 3 guys in on this tackle and Hill isn’t one, but he’s the one makes the whole play. He beats his guy off the ball, gets in the way of the pulling guard which causes the pulling tight end to run into the guard. Hill essentially forced three guys to block him on this play leaving the LLB (Evans) and the LOLB (Titus) with one guy to block two, and that one guy was late.

First defensive play of the 2h, nice to see Hill starting the half, Hill forces the double team leaving Grant waiting in the hole for Henderson. This isn’t a run disruption to me, because it didn’t happen at or behind the LOS, but it’s still a major impact play by Hill without it showing up in the box score.

Another play Hill makes, but Causey will get credit for the TFL. Forces a the guard and tackle to block him off the snap, and then bull rushes the guard so Magnifico can’t get over to block.

Here are two more plays Hill makes, that I won’t go into detail because you should get the point by now.

Hill played 46 snaps, by my count, he had 10 combined run disruptions and hurries. That is unheard of. UCF is lucky to have 10 of these in a game, let alone by a single player. The Cincinnati game was easily the best defensive line play of the season. UCF had 24 of these on 81 plays. On a little more than half the snaps, Hill had a little less than half the RD’s/H/K by himself.

Memphis Run Game:

Memphis clearly busted off some big runs and had some decent success on the ground, but it wasn’t all as bad on a per play basis that you would think.

Runs to the left end had been something UCF struggled against all season. Against Memphis, it was the right end.

But, a 52.63% success rate against this rushing attack isn’t bad. Runs to the left end were 3/4 on plays weren’t on the field as well so his impact continues to show.

The explosive runs are what made UCF’s run defense look worse than it actually was. And most of these were more than explosive. However, Memphis’, on the season, had an explosive run about 21% of the time, so UCF really held them right around their average. Again, just more explosive than you would hope.

Henderson finished the season with over 1,100 yards after contact I believe I saw on the internet. So holding Memphis to 3 yards after contact per rush isn’t too bad at all.

Defensive Personnel:

UCF hasn’t been good against 2 TE looks all season and I expected Memphis to show a lot of them. Well, they didn’t and they should have.

On 19 carries out of “12” personnel and one out “22”, Memphis had a 65% success rate and averaged over 9 ypc.

Memphis wanted to roll out a lot of “21” personnel, which they have done all season because Tony Pollard is a great do it all guy. But, losing that extra blocker really hurt them as they only had a 38% success rate. The ypc is high, but that is because two of their really, really long runs came out of this personnel.

I honestly have no idea why Norvell didn’t run more two TE sets with how good they’ve been running the ball with them and how poor UCF has been against them especially because Norvell got super conservative in the 2h and wanted to run the ball.

Mike Norvell can learn a lot from this game:

The thing I went into this game wanting to look for, was how Mike Norvell blew yet another huge lead by not scoring a single TD in the 2h. That got overcome when I realized just how good Trysten Hill was.

Norvell is one of the top G5 coaches and is highly respected by everyone and can get a P5 job whenever he wants, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect.

He got ultra conservative in the 2h and it cost Memphis. 

For the purpose of this exercise, I took out the final drive when Memphis was down 15. On 1st and 2nd down, Memphis ran 51 plays, they ran the ball 35 times with a 51.43% success rate. Most of those occurred on the first couple of drives because they were only successful on 6 of 20 first down runs with Hill on the field and he didn’t play in the first three drives.

Memphis had a 50% success rate on early down passes and completed 11/14, which is pretty good. White also scrambled twice for 7.5 ypc on early down pass attempts, those are not factored into either the run or pass category, but are a designed pass play.

Let’s look at just the second half. They ran the ball on early downs 13 times and only threw it 6 despite the run game being almost completely shut down in the 2h.

2 of those 6 passes came after unsuccessful runs, setting up a second and long and 3 of them came on 1st and 10, a down and distance they ran the ball on 70% of the time in the second half despite only averaging 2.86 ypc.

I understand the run game is what got them the lead, but this just can’t happen. Norvell and Memphis were the underdog heading into this game and they played to not lose, rather than to win. Getting ultra conservative and not even running the ball out of the right personnel is just inexcusable.

It is almost identical to what happened in the first meeting, but the heavy rain gives Norvell a pass in that one.

Conclusion:

Darriel Mack’s performance was something special and one of the best I’ve ever seen, but Trysten Hill was the real MVP of this game. Randy Shannon better be buying this guy steaks every night leading up to the Fiesta Bowl.

Everyone knows LSU is going to run, run, and run some more, Hill needs to be on the field as much as he can be. I’m interested in going back and looking at the statistics for the whole season and look at Hill’s impact because it was that important in this game.

And if you think it’s just a coincidence that the numbers with Hill on the field vs. when he’s not are extremely different, you’re wrong.

If you actually watched the game, you’d have realized that the defense started playing a whole heck of a lot better before the 2h started.

With all that said, Mike Norvell’s super conservative play calling had a major impact in this one as well.

I tried to put Darriel Mack’s performance into perspective because it was even better than you think.

UCF rallied from 17 down at halftime to defeat Memphis in the AAC championship game behind the performance of Darriel Mack.

It was UCF’s 25th straight win, all in which they’ve scored 30+ points. With McKenzie Milton out, many people wondered how the offense would perform with Mack at helm. Well, Mack silenced everyone who had questioned his ability with an almost unimaginable performance.

Memphis blew yet another big halftime lead, for the second time this season. I’m only going to focus on UCF’s offense in this one, but will get to the defense sometime this week because I really want to look at Norvell’s second half play calling.

Also, Mack’s performance deserves its own spotlight.

I’m not sure how many people understand how good this performance was, but I’ll try my best to break it all down with the advanced stats and analytics you can’t get from a box score.

After the ECU game, Mack’s stat-line was pretty ugly, but I thought it was a really positive performance and got some questioning about my breakdown which was totally understandable, but after this performance, it’s hard to question Mack right now.

Accuracy:

So Mack’s box score will read 19/27, which is a little misleading. He had one completion to Gabe Davis that Snelson held on, and because it is a spot of the foul penalty, it resulted in a 1st and 9 from 1 yard ahead of the previous LOS. In the box score, it counts as a completion but not an attempt.  I didn’t chart this play at all.

The 25 attempts in Mack’s accuracy include every pass thrown to a targeted receiver. That eliminates the spike at the end of the first half and the ball he just threw to avoid a sack at the end of the first half.

He posted a 76% accuracy rate and the only area he didn’t perform well was the 16-20 depth. Something that jumps out is only 7 of his 25 attempts, went to his throwing arm side of the field.

Another thing? Mack didn’t throw a single inaccurate ball in the second half. Down 17 at halftime, Mack was just about perfect. Only 1 of his 2h throws traveled less than 7 yards in the air as well.

Throws By Route:

Mack threw to a variety of different routes throughout the game. He didn’t struggle in any area really. A lot of people (myself included) were a little worried about his “touch” that for me, was on slants and crosses at intermediate distances. He did struggle on a couple crossing routes, the first play of the game was one where he threw it behind Gabe.

He threw a lot of Curls/Comebacks, and completed all of them. I think this is a great throw for Mack, given his arm strength. Throwing most of the time to sidelines, you need some velocity on the ball.

Also,

This ball was thrown with plenty of “touch”.

Play Action/YPA/aDot:

This is where it gets good.

If you follow any sort of NFL QB advanced stats, you’ll realize how stupid these numbers are.

First of all, play action was lights out.

Let’s take a look at some plays:

Backed up at the 6, Snelson goes in motion and the right safety comes up 3 more yards. By the time the pay fake is complete, the safety has no chance to help over the top and Gabe is going to win that one-on-one 9 times out of 10. Mack delivers just about a perfect throw.

This may have been the biggest play of the game. Otis runs a mini wheel as Tre runs a slant? can’t see because of camera angle, but regardless he goes inside and Otis goes around to the outside. The safety tries to jump the route for a pick, but Mack literally dropped this in on a dime.

Another play action deep ball here. Snelson runs a post-corner-post and just puts the safety on skates.

I mean that’s just not fair.

Final one, the play that ended the game IMO:

A little sluggo (slant and go) and Mack throws another perfect deep ball. If Snelson doesn’t trip over his feet, that’s a touchdown (second week in a row he did this to Mack).

All 4 of the plays involved play action, one-on-one coverage and most importantly great protection.

Mack loves the pocket, actually the first play of the game was a designed roll out and Mack threw a poor pass. The announcers said, there was going to be a lot of this, they couldn’t have been more wrong.

If you’ve watched Mack play this season you know he’s a true pocket passer. He’s extremely calm and just trust his line because he knows his receivers can get open against any coverage.

Mack only threw one ball from outside the pocket, the first play of the game. He only scrambled twice and one was off of a broken tackle on a would be sack.

Back to these numbers.

Overall, on Mack’s 25 targeted attempts UCF had a 68% success rate. That alone is just stupid good. I’ve probably charted around 50 total offensive games in the last two seasons, and I don’t think any pass success rate comes close to that. More than half of those games are Milton and Drew Lock games too, so some pretty damn good QB’s.

Now a 72% completion percentage is great no matter what. Mack did it with a 15.32 aDot (average depth of target). This means, on average, the first touch yardline of the intended receiver was 15 yards passed the line of scrimmage.

That is unheard of. He also averaged just about 14 yards per pass attempt, also unheard of.

Early Down Success Rate:

When I broke down Mack’s first two games before the Memphis game, I mentioned how critical it was for Heupel to let Mack throw on first and second down and not be too conservative.

All Mack did on first and second down was post a 66.67% success rate with a 15.19 ypa. Is that any good?

Now, they did run the ball a crap ton more than I would’ve liked, but most of those came after successful passes, which I’ve mentioned I really like. A 54.17% success rate is good and you’ll take it any game, but when your ypa is 10 yards more than ypc and pass success rate is 13% higher, it’s pretty clear the pass was very effective.

The one thing that gets me really mad, is run-run on first and second down.

There were 13 instances where this happened so a total of 26 plays (1st and 2nd down 13 times). 5 of the 13 resulted in 3rd downs with 4 or more yards to go, not exactly the position you want to put your freshman QB in, especially when trailing. Thankfully, Mack over delivered and UCF converted 3 of the 5. But, on the 26 plays UCF went run-run, they only averaged 3.69 ypc.

Also, Mack’s second fumble came on a 3rd and 5 after a run-run on 1st and 2nd down. Not saying that’s an excuse for poor pocket presence/ball security, but it is a situation I feel could have been avoided.

Mack’s Run Game:

This is one thing that I think makes UCF’s offense maybe a little harder to stop than when Milton is playing (I’m not saying Mack is better). Milton’s run game is very good and creative, but when Mack is at QB, it’s like essentially having another running back on the field.

Mack had 17 rush attempts (not including the kneel down) and he was successful on 12 of those. His YPC wasn’t great because a lot of his rushes were in short yardage situations, as they should be.

His first fumble came on a 1st and 10 designed QB draw out of empty. The play had no chance from the start.

33 yards after contact is awesome and any 4th and 1 should be a QB sneak. I think he got 5 or 6 yards on the one they attempted. You’re just not going to stop him on a QB sneak for less than a yard.

Ball security was definitely a problem, but I don’t look at fumbles as a predictive trend and the game is now over, so I’d rather look at how he performed and trust that his ball security will be worked on.

RB Run Game:

It was nice to see AK get going a little on the ground. I would say this was by far his best rushing game of the season. He had some great cuts to the outside late in the game and really showed I think what we’ve all been hoping for all season.

Taj, I think might get the short end up the stick with Mack at QB. I don’t necessarily agree with it because I think he can be more than a power back, but with Mack at QB, you don’t really need a power back.

Otis with 5 carries was nice. Nothing crazy, but nothing terrible. After the muffed punt, he could’ve easily took himself out of the game because at the time that seemed extremely meaningful, but he came back and made back to game-changing plays to start the second half, both as a receiver and that punt return was awesome.

And then there’s Greg McCrae. We’ve all got what we hoped and that’s a consistent workload for this guy, he’s earned it. 23 carries, a below 50% success rate in a game where the offense was so successful, isn’t the best, but over 25% of his rushes went for 10+ yards (explosive runs) and that definitely triumphs a few more unsuccessful carries than normal.

He was also great as a receiver. Heupel called 3 swing pass screens on 3rd and short, a play I mentioned in my Mack preview, and he caught all 3. Would have had 3 successful plays if not for Snelson whiffing on a block on the outside, but effective none-the-less.

Personnel:

A steady dose of “11” personnel, but I think that was by design to get Mack more protection on pass attempts. I think the only time a tight end was targeted was on the pop pass TD to Hesock.

But, UCF was also really good with “20” and “21” personnel, successful on 10 of 12 combined plays isn’t too bad.

Conclusion:

Mack’s performance was special, and if you understand aDot and YPA, it’s that much more impressive. He did something that only Lamar Jackson has done in the last 20 years by rushing for 4 td’s and throwing for nearly 350. That’s pretty elite company.

It was an awesome game and you just have to be happy for Mack, all the pressure in the world on him and he delivered and then some and give credit to Heupel because he had a major part in this as well.

 

I broke down how Memphis’ offensive strengths attack UCF’s defensive weaknesses with analytics and gifs

The AAC championship game takes place on Saturday, in a rematch between the same two teams who played a double OT thriller last season.

It is also a rematch of UCF’s closest game this season and in their 24 game winning streak.

To be honest, UCF should have lost at Memphis earlier this season and I think Mike Norvell struggled with his play calling due to the heavy rain which evidently let UCF hang around way longer then they should’ve.

I won’t go into that, however, there is one major difference this week, a Darriel Mack will be playing QB for UCF after McKenzie Milton suffered a devastating injury last week. I’m going to break down Memphis offense vs. UCF defense here, but if you want to see my take on the UCF offense with Mack at the helm, it should be the previous blog.

So, to me, there’s 4 things that I’ve come across after charting every UCF defensive play from this season that are quote on quote weaknesses based on their performance in other areas.

Two have to deal with the run, and two with the pass. I’ve mentioned them all before, but this week, it’s different because Memphis has been pretty good at doing what UCF has been bad at stopping and without Milton playing, the offense is a major question mark this week.

Personnel:

Throughout a 10 (fbs) game season, UCF has faced just about every personnel possible, some more than others of course.

You can get a pretty good idea of how solid on a play for play basis, the defense has been based on the low success rates against “11” personnel which is what they’ve faced on almost 60% of plays this season.

The next, “12” personnel. This is my first point. Against “12” personnel they’ve faced a 73% run rate and have allowed a 54.32% success rate. Their highest allowed success rate against both the run and pass in either that they’ve faced a relatively decent sample size.

Everyone knows Memphis is a great running team. Henderson, Pollard, and Taylor is a three headed attack and Henderson has been the best running back in the country this season.

“12” personnel is their second favorite personnel to run out of and their best personnel to run out of, if you only include their personnel’s that have over 50 rush attempts.

If you remember the first match-up between these two teams, you know Memphis scored all 30 of their points in the 1h.

Interestingly enough, they ran 19 plays out of “12” personnel and in the 2h they only ran 2 despite going extremely run heavy.

Why do I think they are so good out of “12” personnel?

Well Magnifico and Dykes (Memphis TE’s) are both solid blockers, but they can only split out as they are great receivers. They can have both tight, both split, or one tight and one split. With a split TE it forces a LB out of the box and with them both tight, it just adds extra blocking.

Both tight ends are tight here, simple run to the left end (something I’ll talk about next) and it goes for 17 yards.

The longest run of the game and 2nd longest UCF has allowed all season. Dykes splits out and forces Evans to cover him in the slot, taking him out of the box. This forces Causey into the LILB position because Dykes is too big of a matchup for him, and Causey gets destroyed in the second level by a lineman.

Now, I’ll be honest, Memphis wasn’t the best out of “12” personnel in their first meeting, but it is still baffling to me that they went completely away from it in the 2h because “21” personnel wasn’t working.

Rushes to the Left End:

Both of the above rushes fit this perfectly as well. Memphis loves to run to the outside.

Both Henderson and Taylor’s favorite direction to go. On a combined 83 rushes, they’ve been successful 52 times, I’m not good at math, but that is a very high %. If you throw in Pollard, they are 61 for 96.

Tony Pollard is a running back on the roster and I chart him as one, but he also lines up in the slot a ton and is almost always in with another running back. 34 of his 47 carries have come with 2 RB’s on the field.

Norvell uses him how Heupel should use Otis Anderson, but that’s a different discussion for a different day.

If you look at where UCF has struggled against the run, look no further than to the LE. Their overall success rate against is 48.15% which is respectable, especially considering the running backs they’ve faced, but to the left end they’ve allowed a 58.46% success rate on 65 rush attempts.

Now, Memphis isn’t going to just run the ball to the left end out of “12” personnel every single play, but they should do it more frequently then they would in a normal game.

Memphis also has an explosive run (10+ yards) on 21.52% of their carries, while UCF lets one up 17.41% of the time.

The above gifs fit perfectly into everything in here, left end rushes, “12” personnel, and explosive runs.

Middle of the field Passing:

This is an area, I’ve been mentioning for a while. UCF’s corners are great. Nevelle Clarke and Brandon Moore I’ll take against any outside receivers in the AAC and Rashard Causey has been dominant against the slot of late.

Where this pass defense has struggled is when guys get passed onto LB’s or safeties and when they get stuck in man coverage.

All of this occurs on plays between the numbers.

UCF has actually gotten a little better in the last two games here, if you remember the chart before the Cincinnati game it was a little uglier.

Between the hashes, it is still very ugly. On 53 targets, they’ve allowed a 60.38% success rate and a 77.36% catch rate.

The next two highest catch rates they’ve allowed? To the right and left. Now, the success rates are a little lower, but opponents have missed a combined 14 plays due to either inaccurate passes or drops.

Now, there is a lot more wrong with this play than just the pass over the middle, Titus should’ve had an easy sack, but you’ll see Moore open up a little because Gibson has him over the middle, except Gibson tries to jump the route and completely whiffs allowing a huge gain.

Memphis’ passing success lives to the left and right directions. Now, the middle, is by far their worst area in the passing game, but on 51 targets, they’ve had 8 drops on White has missed an open receiver 4 times. That’s a significant amount and if even half of those are turned into successful plays, their success rate jumps over 50%.

A 3rd and 6 here, Clarke sees Henderson running a wheel route out of the backfield and passes off his guy to the middle, but no one picks him up. It’s been a routine thing for UCF this season.

I could show probably a good 45-50 plays just like this from this season.

It is really just a question of whether an offense is smart enough to run these concepts over and over again and no one has yet, but Memphis is probably the most fit to face this UCF defense.

Play Action:

Almost every offense is better with play action and with that said, every defense is worse against play action so this isn’t ground breaking here, but it’s worth pointing out. With Milton at QB, UCF used PA over 50%, I don’t think many teams will come close to that, but Memphis is a lot closer to 50/50 than Cincinnati was and they’re still not even close.

Brady White is a major question mark at QB, so when you see his PA numbers they kind of jump out at you. a 65.77% completion percentage with an aDot of 10.51 is pretty damn good. a 9.82 ypa and a near 60% success rate are also incredible.

When you jump to non-play action, the aDot dips significantly and his YPA drops over a yard and a half. His accuracy improves slightly, but his completion percentage drops a lot and the success rate drops almost 15%.

A great time for play action? 1st and 10. Memphis has attempted 61 passes on 1st and 10 in the 1h and 41 of them have been successful.

“12” personnel and 8 in the box here, this is what can happen when you play the run.

Memphis only ran 6 play action passes against UCF, 4 of them were successful.

UCF’s numbers aren’t drastically different, but there is an advantage here and one that Memphis should try and take advantage of.

Also, the amount of play action passes against UCF this season has been staggeringly low.

Play Calling:

As always, I tried to look at some sort of play calling trend with the opposing team.

This week, I looked at 2nd down play calling based on what happened on first down. There were 5 different options.

This plays only include 1st and 10 plays that were followed by a second down play that didn’t have a penalty before it. They are also only from the 1h as in the 2h play calling can become time and score based and if not, I would assume the same trends.

I mentioned how good Memphis was on 1st and 10 passing, but when they throw an incompletion, they are very bad on second down. A common play calling trend in the 2nd down run after a 1st and incompletion. Norvell does this about 50% of the time (decently high) despite having no success with it. Outside of two explosive runs, this has been a wasted down.

Interestingly, after an unsuccessful 1st and 10 run, so it’s 2nd down and at least 7, Memphis runs the ball 54% of the time on 2nd down and have a 65.22% success rate doing so.

They don’t like to throw the ball 2 plays in a run when it’s on first and then second down.

Overall:

UCF is still the better team in this game, but the better team doesn’t always win. Matchups matter so much in sports and I just happen to think Memphis’ offense matches up well against UCF’s defense. I’m not saying they’re going to win or that they will do any of the things above, but they’ve done them throughout the season and if Mike Norvell was smart, he’d continue to roll with the above.

It should be a very close game Saturday and I am extremely interested to see how it plays out. Before the Cincinnati game I was confident it wouldn’t be close, because Cincinnati’s offense didn’t attack UCF’s weaknesses, Memphis does, so it should be close.

I broke down Darriel Mack’s two games this season (with gifs) and explained why play calling will be a huge factor in the offensive success vs. Memphis

Darriel Mack is getting his second career start on Saturday as UCF looks to win back to back American Conference Championships.

Mack’s raw numbers and statistics won’t impress anyone, but I actually have a lot of confidence in Mack.

UCF’s offense shouldn’t and won’t look the same as it did with McKenzie Milton at quarterback because Mack is a little different of a player than Milton is.

Also, Milton is one of the best QB’s in the country.

In my opinion and I’ll explain throughout the this, Josh Heupel is the only one who can slow down this offense and Darriel Mack from succeeding.

The drives may not look the same as they did with Milton, but that doesn’t mean Mack can’t lead this offense to the same overall scoring output as Milton did.

A lot of this will have to do with play calling and tailoring the game to more of Mack’s strengths.

I think, in the 2 games Mack has played meaningful snaps in, Heupel has been very conservative with letting Mack play “loose” and really find a passing rhythm.

Heupel’s been very fortunate to have inherited two of the best QB’s in the country in Lock and Milton the last couple of years, now we’ll find out how good of a coach he actually is because this is a team with a skill level above a lot of teams in the country and they have the personnel to win with pretty much any QB.

I’m going to try and gif some of Mack’s throws in here, don’t know if it’ll work.

Accuracy:

Once again, these are accurate completions and drops so good throws that are knocked away are not included and neither are throw aways.

With that being said, Mack has thrown two accurate deep balls, both to Snelson, one caught and one dropped.

Deep Passes:

Mack’s best ball in my opinion is his deep ball. He’s only missed on really one this season and all 5 of his attempts have traveled over 40 yards. Here’s the one Snelson dropped against ECU.

Absolute dime. A thing to note on this play is the protection. UCF went with a max protect here. Both McCrae and Colubiale stayed in to protect on only a 4 man rush. This gave Mack a ton of time to throw and let Snelson get open downfield.

Also, my third string quarterback in eighth grade doesn’t give me any credibility to talk about actual football things like footwork, progressions and reading coverages, but the trajectory and touch on this deep pass is beautiful.

Teams are expecting the run vs. Mack and even with 7 guys in coverage, there was no safety over the top. There are few teams in the country and none in the AAC that can cover any of UCF’s receivers one on one downfield.

This one, he overthrows an open Nixon. Once again, max protection and still no safety help. USF and ECU both put more men in the box vs. Mack than UCF normally faces when Milton is in.

Although Nixon was open, and he missed him, he put the ball in a spot where only Nixon had a chance to get it. You’re not going to throw deep balls perfectly every time.

One thing I really like about Mack, is he desire to stay in the pocket. Young QB’s who have the ability to run and break tackles like Mack can, usually love to get out of the pocket as quick as they can.

Here are two more deep balls he threw again ECU that resulted in PI’s that Mack got absolutely destroyed on.

This ball was underthrown and Davis was open if he had got rid of the ball quicker, but he gets absolutely crushed on release.

Another huge hit Mack takes, but once again staying in the pocket as long as he can, giving his receivers a chance to get open downfield.

Look how many guys are within 10 yards of the LOS, this is stealing with UCF’s receivers with the way Mack has looked on these throws.

Also, this was about as on the money of a throw as you can make. I don’t think it was PI I just think Nixon missed it.

Mack’s first pass against USF, a deep ball to Nixon:

Another great throw that the defender just made a great play on.

Later in the game, Mack had Nixon open again: 

Great protection again, just a little too strong on the throw, but once again putting it in a spot only Nixon could go get it.

The best part about this throw? The very next play:

A phenomenal throw to Snelson, it would’ve went for 6 if Snelson didn’t trip over his own feet.

One thing, Mack seems to emulate Milton in, is the effortless deep balls. Both guys simply seem to throw deep passes with 0 effort. Great trajectory and touch.

On every single one of these deep balls, Mack took his drop and remained patient when he didn’t have something right away. He seems to trust the line (they haven’t exactly given him a reason too) and is willing to take hits to stay in the pocket.

Intermediate throws:

This is the area I think Mack has struggled a bit and how the offense should get away from what they do a little bit with Milton. KZ is great at throwing slants and comebacks on the outside on intermediate attempts.

A lot of people have noted that Mack has a little bit of a lack of feel on throws and this is the area where that really matters.

I won’t go crazy with gifs like I did on the deep passes, but here are two throws against ECU at intermediate depths that he misses.

A very clean pocket and a wide open Davis, he simply just misses on this and it should have been intercepted.

This would’ve been a TD. He doesn’t miss by much and Miller just whiffed on his block forcing Mack to get rid of the ball way early.

He knew he was about to get crushed, but stayed in the pocket anyway. Not even a chance to set his feet here.

So should they only throw the ball downfield?

Mack is obviously going to have to throw some intermediate routes, but it should not be a major part of the offense in my opinion.

With the Milton injury, a lot of national people seem to have forgot that UCF has a ton of skill at skill positions.

Adrian Killins has been an extremely efficient receiver out of the backfield, Otis Anderson (if healthy) is a dynamic guy with the ball in his hands. We all know what Greg McCrae can do and Snelson in the slot can make guys miss as well.

What does this mean?

Short passes, at or behind the line of scrimmage. Mack hasn’t missed one all season. It’s an area where arm strength is important, as most are thrown a decent distance in terms of depth.

Heupel had gone extremely run heavy against USF until they pulled within 7 and Heupel realized the game wasn’t over.

What allowed the offense to go down the field in 4 plays?

2 RPO’s.

This is just a really good play from Mack. He made the right decision and it was an easy throw that UCF was able to gain about 13 yards on.

The very next play, same thing. A simple throw to Colubiale and another first down. The very next play I believe McCrae ran for a TD after the run game had done nothing since Mack entered for the most part.

As it was with Milton, so much of the offense is about Rhythm, get positive plays and move the chains. The defense gets disorganized and a little tired and that’s when UCF’s run game is at its best.

Here’s a 3rd and 7, an obvious passing down so ECU isn’t going to respect the run. Colubiale runs a nice block and release, Mack remains patient in the pocket as he’s shown, throws a nice simple pass one yard past the LOS and Colubiale picks up another 11.

Another simple throw here. A little swing pass with the WR’s blocking downfield for Otis, probably would’ve went for a good amount for if he didn’t lose his footing.

A simple play action WR screen on 1st and 10 for a nice gain. 7 guys all around the LOS, you don’t need to run every 1st down because Mack is in, these plays work just fine. This is also a really nicely thrown ball. It’s not lazored in there like some of throws are.

The last gif of the day:

The same play as Otis’ before, but with McCrae. Another 1st and 10 pass, easy throw, and a nice gain.

A lot of this is what we saw with Frost last season and I hope this is what the passing attack consists of against Memphis. Mack has great touch on these short swing passes, he’ll continue to develop it on quick slants and comebacks because he throws a really nice deep ball and short ball.

I will go into play calling in a bit in terms of run/pass and when UCF has scored with Mack on the field based on play calling to explain why UCF can’t go run heavy against Memphis.

First, one more gif because it’s my favorite Milton play:

20-20 against one of the best defense in the country, in the biggest game of his career and he pulls this off. There’s maybe one or two other QB’s in the country who could’ve made this play.

Pressure:

I showed a lot of plays of Mack getting hit and his desire to stay in the pocket, but that doesn’t exactly lead to good numbers. We saw above how solid he has looked with a clean pocket and the line is going to be huge this week. Even if UCF has to max protect, they need to keep the pocket clean.

Mack loves to stay in it and it’s when he’s at his best by far in his young career. As a great runner, we haven’t seen him scramble much and I don’t think he’s thrown a single ball on the run outside of throwing the ball away.

Play Action/YPA/aDot:

Mack’s been really good on non-play action passes. Now, his aDot and YPA aren’t the highest, but that’s alright.

Most of his deep passes above are on play action which might be the reason there wasn’t safety help, but Mack hasn’t been very good outside of those couple of throws.

Run Game:

This is really where I want to emphasize the point I’m try to make here and get into a bit of the play calling with Mack at QB.

We know Mack is a great runner. His ypc on all 3 different run styles is very good and he’s been extremely successful on QB draws in particular. His YAC is also very impressive. Now, UCF fans are going to be worried about Mack taking hits, but it’s part of his game.

Milton’s injury was a freak injury, they happen. He’s taken a million hits in his life, there’s no one to blame. As I may not have agreed with Heupel running the ball there on 3rd and 7 I believe after 2 unsuccessful runs after the previous drive going down the field and scoring because of your passing attack, the play call is not the blame.

This injuries just simply freakishly happen like Gordon Haywards ankle or Kevin Ware’s leg, and it absolutely sucks that it did because of all that Milton has done and meant to UCF,.

Bottom line is, what happened to Milton, doesn’t mean that Heupel has to be cautious about Mack taking hits, it’s a major part of his game and he’s built like a truck.

RB’s Run Game:

These are the results of the 60 rushing attempts while Mack was in at QB in the ECU and USF games where Mack wasn’t the ball carrier.

A 45% success rate is not bad, but it’s what UCF fans are used to seeing because with Milton at QB:

UCF has run the ball 247 (non Milton rushes) and has a 57% success rate on those.

With Mack at QB, teams have played 6 or 7 men in the box on 91.67% of the 60 rushing attempts.

With Milton, that number is at 67%.

It all comes full circle. Deep passing and quick passes outside the tackles are open because there are more men in the box as teams expect UCF to run, as they should.

Play Calling:

I don’t know really where to go with this, but I think it’s obvious that Heupel in both the ECU game and USF tried to go extremely run heavy and it didn’t really work out.

I wanted to look at the difference between the 8 scoring drives and the 10 drives that resulted in a punt or turnover on downs while the game was still within 2 scores.

On the first play of those 18 drives, UCF has gone run on 13 (predictable much). However, they are 3/5 in terms of success rate and scoring drive percentage when it comes to passing the ball on first down.

When they run on first down, despite being less successful, they also have only scored on 38% of those drives (disregard the % listed above that’s out of 18 not 13).

UCF has had 24 second and longs (7+) on these 18 drives. On 17!!!!!!! of them they have gone run.

To no surprise, 4 of the same pass attempts came on drives where points were scored.

There have been 12 3rd and 7+’s, Heupel has gone run 7 of these !! This is in games within 2 possessions.

Once again, 3 of the 5 pass attempts came on drives where points were scored.

I have confused myself greatly in Microsoft Excel so I give up.

The bottom line is, UCF has scored points with Mack at QB, but they have more drives that have resulted in no points than points. The biggest difference in those drives is pretty much letting Mack play vs. running the ball on 2nd and 3rd and long and just pretty much giving up on drives.

Mack hasn’t been the most accurate, so UCF needs to limit the amount of obvious passing situations he’s put in.

On scoring drives, 13 of his 21 passes have come on first down.

The percentages between run/pass aren’t extremely different, it’s all about when they are coming.

We saw McCrae run for 3 30+ yard TD’s against USF, 2 of those came on drives where Mack made plays to get the offense in Rhythm.

The run game has been a lot less successful with Mack in at QB, but it’s not easy to be successful when you’re running the ball on 24 of 36 plays when you’re behind the chains on second and third down.

 

I used analytics to break down why Cincinnati must throw the ball between the numbers and use play action passing if they want any chance at beating UCF. Also why UCF must force Desmond Ridder to throw the ball downfield

(11) UCF takes on (24) Cincinnati Saturday night in arguably the most anticipated home game in UCF history. Cincinnati comes in at 9-1, with their only loss being at Temple, in overtime, in a game in which they completely outplayed the Owls. UCF is winners of 22 straight and are looking to continue that.

This game will decide who gets one of the two spots in the AAC championship, probably for the chance to play for a NY6 bowl bid, so it’s kind of important.

I charted every single offensive play Cincinnati has run this season vs. FBS opponents where Desmond Ridder was in at QB and the few non-garbage time snaps Hayden Moore has taken this season are included as well.

In total, I have 613 offensive plays from Cincinnati, in which I would consider all of the meaningful plays they have run. On the flip side, I’ve charted 473 plays on the defensive side of the ball for UCF. Not included in those 473 is the Navy game (triple option) and the SC State game (FCS).

I used analytics to break down Cincinnati’s offense, how UCF’s defense matches up against some of the things they like to do, and most importantly where UCF is a little weak and how Cincinnati should try and attack the Knights defense.

In my opinion, UCF’s offense is going to score on any defense without having to worry about attacking defenses weaknesses besides maybe some of the top power 5 defenses in the country.

Cincinnati’s defense has been terrific, but so was Temple’s when UCF played them. If you look at the offenses of the opponents Cincinnati has faced, none of them compare to UCF’s offense.

That is mainly why I looked only at Cincinnati’s offense vs. UCF’s defense and also because this takes me a long enough time as it is.

Before I get into everything, watching every Cincinnati game, made me realize their offense is a lot like Temple’s, except Temple, in my opinion has the better skill players and are thus the more difficult matchup.

Personnel:

First thing I like to look at with pretty much every team is personnel usage.

Luke Fickell takes more of the Sean McVay approach when it comes to personnel usage. Whenever you’re doing something McVay does, it’s never a bad thing. Fickell uses “11” personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) on 77% of plays. McVay is in the mid to high 90’s, but 77% is very high compared to a lot of teams.

However, Fickell doesn’t exactly use the creativity or many different formations like McVay, which is a lot of why McVay is so successful. Not saying that Fickell isn’t, because his team is 9-1, but the advantage of using only “11” personnel is forcing defenses to adjust and make changes pre-snap because of the different formations.

Cinci uses multiple tight ends in short yardage and in bad field position and they go about 77% run in these situations, but have more success running out of “11” personnel.

The bad thing for Cincinnati is, UCF plays the run great against “11” personnel and plays overall great defense against this look. They have only allowed a 41.58% success rate while struggling more against the two tight end look.

I expect Cincinnati to run about 80% of plays in “11” personnel which probably favors UCF. It allows them to matchup in a 4-2-5 defense which we primarily see with 4 down lineman, Pat/Gilyard and Nate Evans at linebacker and then Moore and Clarke as outside corners with Causey as the slot corner and two of Grant/Gibson/Collier at safety.

How Cincinnati can attack UCF through the air and what UCF must force Desmond Ridder to do:

The run game is going to be important for Cincinnati obviously and that’s because Michael Warren is really good, but they are going to have to throw the ball if they want to win this game.

Desmond Ridder has been solid all season for the Bearcats and UCF’s pass D has also been pretty impressive. I’ve kind of found a couple of weakness on both sides in which can become crucial in the game.

Well start with what I think Cincinnati needs to do.

Luke Fickell needs to attack this UCF back 7 between the numbers. UCF fans saw this with Temple, they just couldn’t cover the middle of the field.

If you look at how dominate Temple was throwing the ball between the left hash and left numbers and then between the hashes, it is remarkable.

Now, looking at the season numbers:

Those are still the two areas you want to attack. Between the numbers, UCF has allowed a 68% completion percentage and a 50% success rate, both over their season averages. Now, the right sideline numbers are not very good, but I still don’t think attacking Moore or Clarke is a smart thing.

Now, Cincinnati loves to throw the ball outside the numbers. 110 of their 223 attempts have gone to either the left sideline or right sideline, but they have been extremely successful between the numbers. A 50%, 54.84%, and a 57.41% success rate when throwing to the left, middle, and right respectively.

Their numbers may tell you to keep throwing to the left sideline, but it is not where you want to challenge this UCF secondary.

Play Action:

Furthering along in how Cincinnati needs to attack UCF’s defense, but breaking it down a little so it’s easier to read (if anyone actually made it this far).

Play action is something that, in my opinion, Luke Fickell doesn’t even come close to using enough. There is almost no negatives to using play action for the most part, now I’m saying to use it every single throw, but it should be used often. Play action doesn’t even need an effective run game to be effective and Cincinnati even has good run game.

Only 22% of Ridder’s throws have been off of play action. Throw aways, spikes, sacks, and tipped passes are not included in any of this data, only passes thrown to a targeted receiver.

On the 49 play action attempts, Ridder has a 67.35% completion percentage and has thrown an accurate ball 75% of the time (includes drops). Cincinnati has a 61.22% success rate (very good) on such plays and are averaging 8.16 yards per attempt.

On the flip side, Ridder has a better completion percentage on non play action attempts, but Cincinnati has a significantly lower success rate and a lower ypa.

Luke Fickell is basically saying, we’re better out of play action, but I don’t care.

Well he should, because UCF’s pass D is worse against play action than non play action.

UCF’s defense allows about a 4.22% higher success rate and a full yard more per pass attempt on play action passes.

It’s almost like play action works.

If you’re interested, here are McKenzie Milton’s play action passing numbers.

These are unbelievable (I just had to include them for anyone who hasn’t seen).

The two ways in my opinion and backed by the numbers, to be effective against UCF’s defense through the air are to attack the middle of the field and to use play action.

Luke Fickell must do this on Saturday night if he wants to get a historic win for the Bearcats.

So who is Desmond Ridder Throwing To?

I mentioned that Cincinnati loves “11” personnel. It means you’ll see a lot of the same 5 guys on the field. Michael Warren at RB, Josiah Deguara at TE, Rashad Medaris as the slot WR, with Thomas Geddis and Kahlil Lewis as the outside receivers.

All three receivers have been pretty successful this season.

Deguara has also been very good and is extremely effective on short throws. They love to run a RPO with Ridder rolling out and Deguara sprinting into the flat and trying to make the defensive guy play one of the two.

Warren is a great runner, but he is also used a lot in the passing game. He has 26 targets, all on balls traveling 8 yards or less. However, this gets him in the open field where he can excel as he averages 8.75 yards after the catch per reception.

What UCF must force Desmond Ridder to do:

So, if you studied the receiving numbers above, you might be able to hint at what my key is here.

Taking a look at Ridder’s accuracy chart, he is pretty consistent to all directions.

You’ll also notice that 148 of his 220 attempts (67%) come on balls with aDot (average depth of target) of 10 yards or less. High percentage throws in other words and you’ll see that he has been very good on these throws.

They love to run curls, outs, flats and comebacks and get the ball out of Ridder’s hands quick, thus the high percentage of short throws.

Another reason for that, is his inability to throw the ball downfield. On passes traveling over 20 yards (deep balls) he has only thrown 14 of 40 accurately. Being around 50% on deep to intermediate throws isn’t exactly great either.

This tells me that UCF needs to force him to throw deep. Press on the outside, which Moore and Clarke actually like to do and take away the short throws.

Some more information to back this up:

Ridder has thrown 75% of his interceptable passes on throws traveling 11+ yards. If you ratio that, with the amount of attempts, it is not a very good ratio.

If you look at UCF’s defensive numbers. They are actually the worst at defending passes traveling between 1-10 yards by a large margin. They allow a 54% success rate on thse throws, while not allowing higher than a 42.22% rate anywhere else.

Once you get passed 11+ yards, their defense becomes very good. It won’t be easy and it’s why I don’t coach/get paid a lot of money, but this is something Randy Shannon needs to figure out heading into this game because it is a clear strength of Cincinnati.

Ridder under pressure:

Not very good. Also another reason why they probably like to get the ball out quick. On non blitz pressures, Ridder only has 9 completions on 45 such instances. We know UCF doesn’t like to blitz, so getting to Ridder with a 4 man rush can turn out to be very effective.

Ridder is a great runner, which I’m about to get into, but ironically has not scrambled once against a blitz.

Rushing Attack:

This is almost even battle for me, which is why I think it Cincinnati’s ability/inability to throw the ball is going to be the biggest factor in this game.

UCF might not have the prettiest raw statistics when it comes to run defense, but I’m actually higher on them then most. They’ve faced Singletary, Henderson, and Armstead so far as well as Pitt’s running backs who have gone off since, but I would put Warren behind the 3 names I mentioned before and it really isn’t that close in my opinion.

His numbers are very good, but nothing jumps out at you. With Henderson, Singletary and Armstead there was that one thing that was extremely impressive.

I would say his best thing has been his consistency to every direction. 44 missed tackles on 202 rushes is nothing crazy and a sub 5.0 ypc is good, but it’s nothing UCF hasn’t faced.

Something I noticed against USF was how much he tries to force things to the outside.

The numbers don’t exactly back it up, but it was the most recent game.

UCF struggles on runs to the left end which is primarily where Warren tries to bounce his runs. They must force him to run between the tackles, on designed between the tackles runs.

Also, Warren’s 2.59 yards after contact is not much higher than UCF’s average allowed 

I don’t think well see much of Cincinnati’s secondary backs, but here on their numbers:

Just a combined 37 rush attempts between the two. Thomas has actually been very good.

Explosive Runs:

Something that can skew raw stats a bit are outliers. By this I mean, long rushes that don’t frequently occur.

UCF is a team prone to letting them up and Warren is a guy who gets his fair share.

Ironically, I’ve charted 208 rushing attempts against UCF’s defense and 202 rushing attempts for Warren. So it is basically an identical sample when comparing the two. Warren has 28 explosive runs (10+ yards) while UCF’s defense has let up exactly 28 as well.

Warren will get 25(ish) carries if I had to guess Saturday night. 14% of 25 is 3.5 so I’ll go out there and say Warren will have 4 rushes of 10 or more yards. It’s not the end of the world if your a UCF fan, you can’t contain an explosive back on every snap.

Ridder’s Run Game:

Ridder is going to run and he’s going to run a decent amount. He has 85 designed runs on the season, about a third are straight QB draws. He has not been good on these and they normally come in situations with a decent amount of yards left to gain.

However, he has been very good on read options and scrambles. Russo, Temple’s QB killed UCF on scrambles, but it was something he ordinarily didn’t do, so I don’t think UCF game-planned for his feet.

This week, Ridder is a known runner, and a good one, so UCF should be prepared which I think actually makes him less of a threat than Russo was on the ground.

Play Calling:

This is always something I’m interested in diving into very far and just never have the time to. I think every coach falls into play calling tendencies and it would be fun to look for. With Temple I noticed something just from watching the games and it was very accurate with what happened in that situation in the game.

With Cincinnati, nothing jumped out at me and I wanted to get this done so I didn’t dive into it.

For fun, I look at how Fickell called plays in the first half compared to the second half while in one possession games.

Considering it is expected to be a one possession game, I figured it was relevant.

First half, the numbers are pretty normal, definitely a run first team, but nothing crazy.

In the second half, with a small lead, Fickell gets ultra conservative and his offense gets very stagnant.

An 83.33% run rate on first down and 70% on second down despite having just a 3 ypc average on first down a 31.25% rushing success rate on second.

It then forces him into obvious passing situation on third down and low percentage ones at that.

When tied, or losing, he sticks to pretty much the same approach as he has in the first half.

Just looking at everything that I’ve included with ypa, they are all extremely low, it is vital to stop the short passing game for UCF.

Conclusion:

I’ve now watched every single Cincinnati offensive snap this snap this season and I’ve probably watched every single UCF snap, both offense and defense, at least twice. I don’t think Cincinnati really has much of a shot in this game.

Their offensive style isn’t suited to for a shootout and in my opinion that is the only way UCF will lose a game which is why I’m scared of Houston.

Temple, I felt the same way and Anthony Russo played a way above his expected performance and they still lost by 12. I don’t exactly know who has the better defense between the two, but it doesn’t matter because they are both regarded as very good, but the talent UCF has on offense, particularly at QB is tremendous.

It should be an awesome game and I hope it lives up to the hype.

I have much more information so if you’re interested in anything or won’t to tell me how much this sucked tell me on twitter @Squints_15 or on here.

McKenzie Milton posts a 90% accuracy rate against Navy. The combination of Milton and play-action is lethal and why Dredrick Snelson and Otis Anderson are my X-factors for the remainder of the season. I broke it all down with analytics.

UCF defeated Navy on Saturday to continue their undefeated season and nation’s longest winning streak of 22.

After the best showing of the season on the offensive side of the ball a week ago, UCF followed it up with another extremely good performance on that side of the ball.

As they head into their biggest home game in potentially school history, it’s great to see McKenzie Milton being smart, extremely accurate, and efficient. The offense has looked like the one who can score on any defense in the country on any drive, something, in my opinion, it didn’t look like in the first half of the season.

I didn’t even look at the defensive side of the ball in this one as anything versus the triple option is irrelevant until they play Navy again next season.

UCF may have only scored 35 points (low for them), but they were extremely successful and could have scored a lot more, but I think Heupel was a little more concerned about staying healthy heading into the last 3 games of the seasons rather than keeping the foot on the gas. Against the triple option, a 3 possession game in the second half, is a game that is pretty much over.

There really wasn’t much to look at in this game as it was rather boring, but I still broke down the offense analytically and talked a little bit about why I think Otis and Snelson are going to be X factors heading into the final stretch based on their usage against Navy and why McKenzie Milton and play action is a pretty unstoppable combination.

McKenzie Milton:

Milton had a really good game, both through the air and on the ground against Navy. I read some comments that Navy threw out a different coverage scheme than UCF expected, but UCF’s passing success wouldn’t suggest that it worked.

I would like to say this was Milton’s most accurate game of his college career, but I can’t say that 100% factually so I’m not going too. Milton was accurate on 18 of his 20 pass attempts to a targeted receiver (non throw-aways).

This even includes a completion that was inaccurate (two minute drill pass over the middle to Snelson when he made the diving catch) so he had a chance to be even better which is basically impossible.

The other inaccurate pass was on the first drive to Otis when he just wasn’t really open on the screen.

A major reason for this, other than Milton just being really good, is he had all day to throw the ball. Navy only blitzed twice and they were both 5 man blitzes with the fifth guy coming from well off the LOS.

The line was also very good as they only allowed one pressure which turned into a 20+ yard scramble.

Milton also had a lot of success on his limited designed rush attempts. A 4th down conversion and a goal line TD are two plays included in that. His scrambling was also very effective, although he was only successful on 1 of the 4, 2 of the other 3 went for 8 and 9 yards respectively.

Play Action:

This is something that stood out to me while re-watching the game. I felt like UCF was using a lot more play action than in previous which wasn’t exactly right.

Milton was extremely effective in the play action passing game against Navy which led me to look at the season numbers.

Play action is something that is pretty much going to make any QB better. You don’t even need a good run game (although UCF has one) for it to be effective, it’s statistically proven.

Here are his PA numbers from the Navy game. One of his attempts was a throw away so adjusted completion % is really 12/13, I’m not good enough at math to do that off the top of my head, but it’s above 90%.

UCF had a 78.57% success rate on play-action passes and averaged 10.43 yards per attempt. These numbers are pretty damn good.

Now, Milton was also really good on non play action as well.

The same exact accuracy, but a lot lower success rate and YPA. Also a significantly lower ADOT of almost 5 yards. This would signal that they were very easy throws.

So 66.67% of UCF”s pass attempts came off play-action.

For the season (Navy game included), Milton’s been very good on play action. A 10.24 YPA is extremely high and to have a 62% completion % and a 65.52% accuracy rate with an ADOT of 13.43 is mind boggling.

I’m going to show you some NFL numbers with Patrick Mahomes in a second to show how good that really is.

Non play action numbers for the season are about the same as play action. YPA is a little higher and ADOT is still a good 4 yards lower, but in terms of accuracy, success rate, and completion % he has just been good no matter what.

So just how good are Milton’s PA numbers? I got all of the information from an article by Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman on Twitter) and here’s the link if anyone is interested in Patrick Mahome’s MVP season https://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2018/11/11/dwain-mcfarlands-rsp-film-and-data-mvp-favorite-patrick-mahomes-and-the-numbers-behind-the-box-scores/.

So since 2007, the highest completion percentage in the NFL for QB’s with ADOT (average depth of target) of 9.5 or higher is 69.9% by Tony Romo in 2014. His ADOT was 9.50 on the dot, Milton’s play action ADOT is almost a full 4 yards higher than that and his completion percentage is only .7% lower.

The highest ADOT on the list was 10.3 with a 65.3% completion percentage. Milton’s ADOT is significantly higher than all of these and his completion percentage is not much lower.

So, Mahomes ADOT is 9.6 this season, that would rank third in the NFL. His completion percentage is 66.2% (all before yesterday’s game). Waldman did a little research and weighted out 53,281 passing attempts and found that the expected completion percentage for Mahomes should be 61.8%.

Milton’s play-action ADOT is 13.43 and his completion % is still above that 61.8% threshold.

Yes, it’s definitely a little easier to throw the ball in college vs. the NFL, but that doesn’t diminish how impressive Milton’s numbers are in this case.

I’d love to see more of that 70/30 play action/non-play action split than we saw in the Navy game going forward.

Run Game:

UCF went run heavy against Navy, which kind of made sense based on Navy’s oddly strange defensive gameplan.

Everyone was average/good, no one really stood out or did anything crazy. Taj had a big fumble, but that means nothing going forward.

McCrae once again was the best back to touch the ball and is finally starting to get the work he deserves.

His ability to make guys miss and run after contact has just been better than the other backs. He seems to be extremely patient, which is always a good thing.

Personnel:

UCF had a really successful offensive game. Out of 20 personnel they did struggle and I know off the top of my head, they were in “20” personnel on the first 3 and out. But, UCF was really good with the tight end on the field, which I don’t think Colubiale even played (I could be wrong on this).

They were successful on 26 of 42 runs with a tight end on the field and it’s in large part due to Navy’s defense.

Navy had 5 or 6 guys in the box on 87.32% of plays. Just by straight numbers, the O-Line is 5 people + tight end = 6 which is greater than 5 and equal to 6. UCF just had the numbers advantage all game which contributed to a lot of run plays and a lot of successful ones at that.

Dredrick Snelson and Otis Anderson:

This isn’t exactly a Navy game reaction, but I think these two guys are UCF’s X factors going into a difficult remaining 3/4 games.

Everyone saw how good these guys were last season and how much they meant to UCF’s success and we kind of expected them both to be focal points of the offense this season.

To me, the offense has seemed to be a Gabe Davis, Tre Nixon, Adrian Killins, and Greg McCrae headed attack and Snelson and Anderson have kind of been lost in the mix.

Against Navy, Snelson was on the field almost every play and got the highest target share on the team (25%), which I think is a first for the season.

He caught all 5 of them, 4 were successful plays, 2 went for touchdowns.

Of the 3 main receivers (Snelson, Davis, and Nixon), Snelson has 36 of the 129 targets to the trio. That’s just 28%. However, of the 75 successful receptions the trio has, Snelson has exactly a third of them. So with just a 28% target share, Snelson has a 33.3% of the success rate share between the 3 guys.

I just feel he has gotten lost a little in the offense playing in the slot and he is too good of a receiver to not be involved more going forward. The Navy game was a prime example.

Otis had a 12.68% usage rate on Saturday (targets + rush attempts) which is one of his season highs and it’s starting to look like he’s getting a little more involved.

In the last two games, he has 3 explosive plays on just 14 combined targets and rushes. He’s forced 5 missed tackles and gained an extra 61 yards because of it.

On his 3 receptions, he has 60 yards after the catch.

He has been targeted on two screens when lined up as a receiver, both were incomplete passes. Otis’ ability to get open as a true WR allows him to be effective in that area without needing easy throws to get him the ball which hasn’t been working anyway.

There is just no reason AK should be out-touching Anderson. He’s the better runner and WR and the indecisiveness of how to use his has kind of allowed him to get lost in the offense this season.

As shown with, Snelson’s target share, the offense isn’t exactly designed for slot receivers to get a lot of volume and both Snelson and Otis are arguably the two best offensive players on the team.

 

Despite the difference in points allowed, UCF’s defense has actually been better in the first half than the second: I used analytics to explain

UCF has had two close calls this season and in both, they were trailing at halftime after allowing 30 and 34 points in the first half. In the second half however, they allowed 0 and 6 points in those two games.

There has been a lot of talk about how Randy Shannon’s second half adjustments have been unbelievable and what not.

However, after charting the Temple game, I kind of realized that maybe that’s not the case. In my opinion, which I’ll back up with factual data, the defense has actually played significantly better in the first half than the second half.

There probably won’t be anyone who agrees with me and everyone will say go look at the PPG allowed difference and you’re right about that. I think UCF gives up like 2.3 ppg in the 3Q which is insane.

But, raw data and in particular points per game, don’t tell the whole story. There are so many more things that factor into scoring and allowing points.

Field position, turnovers, number of possessions are the primary ones that stick out to me and that I took a look at.

*I did not include the UConn and SMU game because they were both 3 possession games at HT*

Overall Success Rate:

I think success rate is the best way at looking at performance as a whole. With every play factored in, it gives a true picture of overall success in a large sample.

If you take a look at the first half numbers, you’ll see that they’re actually pretty good. The only bad one that jumps out is the 5.32 ypc. A 36.45% success rate against on pass attempts is really good and a 6.37 ypa is very low.

A 44.66% success rate on runs is pretty good as well. Without the Memphis game it is right around 40%. The 5.32 ypc with a low success rate, makes me think a lot of successful runs are turning into explosive plays (10+) yards which can be a major reason for the 1h points allowed to be higher than the overall defensive performance. This is something I’ll get into in a little.

Now, take a look at the 2h numbers:

Everything is worse, except for YPC, which would have been worse without the Memphis game. So, obviously in the Memphis game, the 2h defense was much, much better than the 1h defense, but that is the only game this is true for. This leads me to believe that the heavy rain played a major factor in slowing down Memphis rather than UCF’s defense.

Overall success rate is almost 10% higher, that’s a pretty significant amount with a large sample of plays.

I have come up with a couple of ideas as to why the points per half difference is so drastic despite the overall defensive performance being better in the second half.

Field Position/Turnovers:

Starting field position has a lot to do with scoring. The better the field position, the less amount of successful plays you’re going to need to score for the most part.

On 35 first half possessions, the average starting field position for UCF’s opponents is their own 26.66 yard line.

On 30 second half possessions, their average starting field position is their own 24.93 yard line.

I know what you’re thinking, “1.5 yards is nothing”. It may seem like nothing, but for an average with 30+ numbers, it is actually pretty significant. On top of that, the one drive that has started in UCF’s territory all season, came in the second half, and the starting field position is still worse.

For comparison’s sake, 24.93 would be the worst in the NFL by .2 yards and the difference between best and worst in the NFL is 6 yards according to football outsiders.

Turnovers also play a huge factor here. A lot of the turnovers off the top of my head, UCF has forced, have come in the second half. To me, almost all turnovers are because of offensive mistakes rather than defensive schemes. There are some turnovers that are caused by defensive schemes and coverage designs, but I don’t think you can argue that maybe more than one of UCF’s has been because of this.

Let’s take a look at all 35 of UCF’s first half defensive drive results:

Only 6 of 35 possessions have ended due to an offensive miscue (missed FG + turnovers). That’s roughly 17% of possessions.

UCF has forced 13 punts on the remaining 29 possessions which is bout 45% of possessions and have only allowed 9 first half touch downs which is only 25% of total drives. The obvious game that sticks out as bad is the Memphis game and technically, if UCF didn’t commit a million penalties, this wouldn’t be the case.

Now for the second half:

First off, only 30 possessions. By my math, which isn’t the best, is 5 less than 35 and 5 x 7 = 35 which is the amount of possible points more opponents could have scored in the 1h rather than 2h just solely based on number of possessions.

Last time I checked, points allowed averages doesn’t give a crap about possessions which is just another reason raw stats are misleading.

Of those 30 possessions, 14 of them have ended in either a turnover, missed FG or a turnover on downs. That’s almost 50% of possessions ending because of offensive miscues. Every turnover on downs has come on pretty good offensive drives, but time and score had an effect on kicking a FG or going for it.

This leaves 16 possessions where opponents didn’t hurt themselves, that is significantly less than the 29 in the first half.

Yes, turnovers are a part of football, I’m not saying anything in a bad way, all this is, is pointing out why the 2h points allowed is much lower than the first half.

Defensive adjustments have nothing to do with opponent starting field position and for the most part, turnovers. It just so happens that a large majority of turnovers have come in the 2h.

Explosive Plays/Missed Tackles:

A good way to score points of offense, without having a lot of overall success, is to have explosive plays.

Of the 46 successful runs against in the first half that UCF has allowed, 19 of them have gone for more than 10 yards (41%). On those 19 runs, UCF has allowed 338 yards of rushing offense. They have also missed 12 tackles which accounted for an extra 171 yards of offense on those 19 runs.

Tackling has played a huge role in the offensive success against in the first half so far. I don’t think the players are learning how to tackle at halftime.

Of the 45 successful runs in the second half, 14 of them have gone for 10+ yards (31%) and UCF has missed 7 tackles for 92 yards on these.

Of the 39 successful first half pass attempts, 28 (72%) of them have gone for 10+ yards.

OF 51 successful second half passes, 33 (65%) of them have gone for 10+ yards. Not a huge difference here, but it is still a difference.

Summary:

Obviously everyone is going to point out that I’m wrong because the points allowed per half difference is so drastic so how in the world could the defense actually be playing better in the first half.

If I were to show you the data that I just did, without telling you which half they were from, you would say everything is flipped. Every second half stat should be for the first half and vice versa if you solely look at points allowed.

Overall, my point is that raw stats can be kind of misleading on overall performance. The numbers would be even more in favor of the 1h without a heavy rain in the 2h of the Memphis game.

The bottom line is, I expect UCF’s defense to be better (points allowed wise) in the first half going forward and worse in the second half.

They are about to head into their toughest 3 game stretch after the Navy game and teams like Cinci, USF (well maybe USF), and Houston are not going to have the offensive miscues that ECU with a true frosh QB or some of the other UCF opponents have had when the game gets tight.

 

UCF’s offense looked like one that can compete with any defense in the country, but the defense had a major weakness exposed. Was UCF’s defense actually better in the 2h? I broke it all down with analytics and advanced stats

UCF was able to hold off Temple Thursday night to extend their winning streak to 8 on the season and 21 total.

It wasn’t exactly pretty if you’re a fan of defense, but it was an exciting game if you don’t root for boring football.

I broke it all down with analytics and advanced stats. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Offense:

It took 7 games, but the way UCF’s offense looked against Temple, reminded me of last season where I felt they could compete against any defense in the country. It was the first time all season, outside of the UConn game, you were surprised when they didn’t score on a drive.

To me, the biggest difference was Heupel finally used his personnel correctly.

Personnel:

I’ll start with personnel. Now, Gabe Davis got hurt early and Otis Anderson got hurt late so that caused Heupel to use Otis in the slot a lot more and then using a tight end primarily when Otis went down.

We finally got an abundance of 20 personnel. Unsurprisingly, UCF performed really well with 2 RB’s and 3 WR’s on the field. 11 of 15 successful rushing attempts is pretty good, I’d say.

“11” personnel was really good against Temple as well. Overall, UCF was just really good on offense, it’s almost impossible to come up with anything bad to say about this performance. I could dig really deep and probably find something, but it’s the first time all season I don’t have something obvious and we’re gonna keep it that way.

When I say “Heupel finally used his personnel right”, I don’t exactly mean personnel groupings.

Adrian Killins finally didn’t get force fed up the middle and treated like a work horse back that he isn’t. Killins got 3 targets in the passing game on balls thrown behind the LOS, 2 being screens, with a ton of space. All 3 of them turned into successful plays and he had 69 yards after reception on those 3 plays.

He also had a deep ball underthrown lined up in the slot when he was matched up against a LB. It didn’t work out, but you’ll take that matchup 100 times out of 100 if you’re Heupel.

Running Game:

The major question of personnel usage came with the running backs. Heupel is a run first coach, despite liking to air it out. However the running back usage had been a mess.

AK, as mentioned above, was finally used the right way. That allowed for a couple of things. 1. Greg McCrae and Taj McGowan get more carries and 2. AK being more effective with less carries. Quality over Quantity.

AK with a good success rate for the first time in a few games is nice to see. Taj, once again dominated in his few carries, but there was a slight increase in his touches.

Otis had a couple of carries early, but was forced into the slot which really limited the chances he’d normally get to run the ball, but we all saw how important he is on that 57 yard catch and run. It sucks not being able to get more carries and Otis is probably a little upset, but being able to step in and be a full time WR when someone goes down is extremely valuable to have.

Although, Marlon Williams is a pretty damn good receiver who can’t quite seem to impress Heupel for some reason. He made an incredible catch to start the last TD drive in the 4th Q and has done that his whole career at UCF.

Rant over, back to the run game and Greg McCrae because he was awesome:

16 Carries, 13 successful. Those are video game numbers. There was a reason I said he was UCF’s MVP halfway through the season. Heupel finally opened his eyes in the 2h. I believe he only had like 4 carries in the 1h. 5 yards after contact per rush, and 7 missed tackles forced are very impressive as well.

I think McCrae’s time has finally come.

Play of Drive:

While were on the topic of the run game, I’ll mention this. After, the Memphis game, I had discussed how UCF needs to start throwing the ball on the first 2 plays of drives more often. It had shown throughout the season, when I combined every game. However, against Temple, Heupel went 11 of 14 runs, 8 being successful plays on the first play of the drive. My assessment kind of back fired, but McCrae getting more touches definitely can change that.

Also playing a top 10 pass defense and a bottom 30 run defense did show, but nonetheless, I was wrong, at least for this game.

Offensive Line:

The offensive line had been kind of struggling, but against Temple, they were unbelievable. It showed with the rushing success.

I think one of these might have come on a running play. Colubiale’s was on an Otis screen pass so he was a much improved blocked this week for sure which is great to see because he’s had a positive impact everywhere else.

Temple didn’t really blitz either which helps out the line a bit.

McKenzie Milton:

Milton returned after something like 18 days off. He was definitely a little rusty, but he still played really good. By rusty, I mean, he missed a couple of throws he normally makes and might not have been 100% back up to game speed with reads and timing.

The throw he made to Colubiale for the TD, shows exactly why Milton is a special QB.

I actually really like this from Heupel. Deep shots and short passes. Gabe Davis and Tre Nixon are impossible to cover one on one on the outside as we saw against one of the best pass defenses. Milton has just slightly missed Nixon for long TD’s about a dozen times this year and you have to think they’re going to find the rhythm any moment now and watch out when they do.

Snelson is a do everything guy. He can win deep, and he can make plays after the catch. With the speed UCF has their is no reason to be throwing 11-20 yard throws, unless they’re wide open like Snelson was on Milton’s INT.

It was nice to have Milton back and looking extremely healthy.

His feet didn’t do much, but that’s all good when the RB’s are producing like they did.

Defense:

It wasn’t pretty. You can look at the box score if you want the numbers, but I’ll try and look deeper into it than that.

Tackling, wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad so I won’t do missed tackles. I was at work for the 1h and had to follow on gamecast/twitter and twitter made it seem like the tackling was really bad when it really wasn’t.

Pass D:

So this is really all I’m going to talk about because it is what needs to be discussed.

I mentioned after the UCF game, that I felt I had found a weak spot in UCF’s pass D.

On 11 attempts, on balls thrown inside the numbers, and not thrown at Moore or Clarke, but thrown to a receiver, ECU completed 7 passes. 8 of the times, the receiver was open and they averaged 12.55 yards per attempt on these throws. Now, 7/11 isn’t terrific, but when you look at how good UCF’s Pass defense has been, it stands out and 12.55 YPA is concerning.

To further this, on balls thrown to RB’s or TE’s, again guys Moore or Clarke are not covering, ECU was successful on 10 out 18 pass plays. These plays averaged 8.33 yards per attempt. It’s a bit nit-picky, but a 17/29 success rate definitely raises some eyes when UCF held ECU to a 41% success rate for the game.”

This is what I wrote.

Now, Brandon Moore played awful, there is no denying that I actually think he got benched if he wasn’t hurt, but the he was certainly not the only problem.

Any coach who doesn’t come in with a game plan to throw between the numbers against UCF’s defense needs to be fired until something changes on defense.

Yeah, UCF held Temple to 6 points in the 2h, but it wasn’t because of this.

I took out tipped passes and throw away so it’s not = to Russo’s 52 attempts.

Temple threw 31 passes between the numbers. The receivers was open on 25(!) of those. The only reason the numbers aren’t worse, is because they can’t be and because Rashard Causey actually played really well defending passed to the right. But to the middle and left, 16 out of 22 successful pass attempts. Major, major weakness for UCF’s defense.

Individual Coverage: 

I’m going to start with Pat. Pat’s an unreal football player and a major part of this defense and is getting put into bad position by Randy Shannon. I had Pat as the primary target on 8 pass plays. 6 of them were successful (75%), 7 were completed, and 7.33 yards were averaged after the catch. But look who he is being asked to cover:

He only got matched up with a TE once, a play he got hurt on or he would’ve made the tackled for just a 5 yard gain.

3 targets on balls 15+ yards downfield against Temple’s skilled wide outs, that’s just not fair. You can’t blame Pat for this, something needs to be figured out.

Nevelle Clarke who’s been really good, was really good again. He made an incredible interception on pure football anticipation.

He was involved in 9 targets. 4 completions, and only 7 total yards allowed after the catch.

Brandon Moore: Clarke’s partner in crime and a guy I’ve been really high on all season because he deserved it, allowed 4 catches on his 4 targets, all for big gains. The TD he bit on the out route and got burnt.

The one cross across the middle kind of seemed like a zone miscommunication between him and Grant. This was his last target faced so not sure if this led to him getting benched (if he didn’t get hurt)

The two other catches allowed, he actually had good coverage the throws were just better, but he didn’t allow any yards after reception.

Rashard Causey: Causey had himself a game. He didn’t have any interceptions, but he was the reason for the two interceptions that happened.

I had Causey as a target on 8 throws, only 2 receptions against, both were successful plays, but he came up big. You can’t get complain about a 25% catch rate against and having such good coverage on 25% of your targets, you create an interception.

Aaron Robinson seemed to be the guy to fill in for Moore. He allowed 2 catches on his 4 targets.

Keenan Johnson: Johnson allowed 4 catches on his 4 targets, but minimized the big play.

There were too many pass attempts to go through everyone, but I think I touched on the main guys in pass defense.

Run Defense:

Armstead’s success rate on the season was around 57% and he pretty much maintained that against UCF. However, UCF’s run defense kind of flip flopped in terms of where they allowed successful rushes based on direction.

I think what everyone noticed was the QB run game from Russo. Something he didn’t do all season, but when you’re going to leave 10-15 yards on pass plays for the QB to run, any QB is in college is athletic enough to take advantage of that.

Russo scrambled 5 times, all 5 were successful and he averaged 11.2 ypc. That’s just not going to cut it vs. D’eriq King and Barnett.

Overall

Temple ran 97 plays they were successful on 53 of them (54.64%) which isn’t actually as bad as it looked.

On designed passes they were 33/60 and rush attempts they were 20/37. Armstead was 16/27, it just shows how important he is to this offense.

In the first half Temple was 27/51 and in the second half they were 26/46. Although Temple only scored 6 points in the 2h, their offense was actually better on a per play basis. I contribute this to starting field position, two turnovers, a missed fg and a turnover on downs.

The 2h points against makes you think that adjustments were made, but were they really? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

I Used Analytics and Advanced Stats to breakdown Temple’s offense and identified some Temple play calling trends

UCF and Temple face off Thursday night in a match up between two teams undefeated in AAC play.

Both teams are coming off a bye week and both have their most important offensive player questionable for this one.

McKenzie Milton said out UCF’s last game @ ECU and Temple’s running back, Ryquell Armstead has missed Temple’s last two games. If I had to guess, I’d say both will be playing in this primetime AAC battle.

I went through and charted every offensive play from Temple’s season in which Anthony Russo was their starting QB. Russo won over the job after Temple started 0-2 with losses to Buffalo and Villanova in which Frank Nutile ran the offense and an injury forced him out of week 3 action.

With Russo at the helm, Temple is 5-1, including a 21 point win at Maryland, and a home win over then #20 Cincinnati. Their only loss came at Boston College, in a very close game, back and forth game.

Many UCF fans believe this might be the hardest remaining game on the schedule, but I would disagree.

I broke down Temple’s offense using analytics and advanced stats to explain why I don’t believe Temple’s offense is a major threat.

I looked at just about everything outside of raw numbers you can think and identified some predictable play calling from Temple.

Personnel:

Personnel has slowly turned into my favorite thing to look at when I look at offenses. It’s not interesting at all, but for some reason I love to see how coaches like to use their personnel differently and where they are most effective.

 Temple, interestingly enough, does not use any personnel more than 41% of plays. Like most teams, “11” personnel is most commonly used. For Temple, “12” personnel is by far their most successful package of the 3 mainly used.

As more of a run first team who when they throw, gets the ball out quick, the more blockers, leads to better production.

If you look at how UCF’s defense has fared against the personnel’s Temple uses, you’ll see they are weakest against “12” personnel. If Temple were smart, they’d run a lot of “12” personnel Thursday night.

One thing I noticed about Temple’s personnel usage, is they kind of tip their play call with their personnel.

Out of “20” personnel (2 running backs, 3 WR’s 0 TE’s), almost 80% of the time it’s a pass play. Out of “12” personnel (1 RB, 2 WR’s, 2 TE’s) they run the ball 70% of the time despite having an outstanding 63% success rate throwing the ball.

Play Calling:

While I’m on the topic of play calling, I’ll jump into this now. I identified a situation where Temple goes run 80% of the time despite it being 2nd and long.

Taking out the 2h of games due to score and the clock having an influence in play calling, Temple threw an incomplete pass on first down 18 times, normally setting up 2nd and 10, but I believe their was about one 5 and one 15 thrown in there. On those 18 second downs, they ran the ball 80% of the time (14).

Defensively, it’s a nice situation to be in. If UCF can sit run here, it has the ability to set up a lot of 3rd and longs.

From a Temple perspective, this isn’t good to see. They have a 50% success rate and average 13 yards per attempt on their 4 pass attempts.

On their rushes, they have a 43% success rate and average 9.36 ypc, but 91 of those yards came on two rushes. If you take those out, they average 3.33 ypc.

The logical reason coaches fall into this play calling trend is because they don’t want to go pass, pass, pass, punt because it looks “stupid”.

I also charted Temple’s down and distance play calling:

Once again, the run/pass %’s aren’t as close to 50/50 as you’d like and if I had the time to break this down a lot further based off previous plays and personnel usage, Temple’s play calling is probably extremely trendy.

Interestingly, I mentioned before about 2nd down runs after an incomplete pass, but if you look at 2nd and 8-10 to go, it’s 61% pass. This tells me that after an unsuccessful run or unsuccessful completed pass, Temple is going to pass again.

Passing Attack:

I’m not exactly sure QB play is the reason Temple is now 5-3 after changing quarterbacks after their 0-2 start, but it kind of just worked out that the team won with Russo, so Geoff Collins stuck with him.

Here’s Russo’s accuracy chart:

He is actually a good amount more accurate than his 56% completion percentage.

Temple loves to throw the ball quick. They will run a ton of quick outs, curls, hitches, and mix in a lot of one on one vertical passes where the ball comes out quick. The line has barely let up any hurries/knockdowns because of this, so don’t expect UCF to get pressure, it’s not a cause for concern, it’s more of the offensive design.

Russo throws the deep ball extremely well and Temple’s receivers tend to drop a lot of them. He also throws the ball to his throwing arm side, about 20% more accurate than to the left.

Isaiah Wright and Ventell Bryant are still Temple’s primary receivers as it seems this is their 10th year playing college football.

Temple will play more than a handful of receivers, so I took a look at the 4 with over 20 targets.

Bryant is the main deep threat, as his highest % depth of target is the deep ball, but all 4 of these guys are deep threats.

Mack is the only sure handed guy as Bryant, Jones and Wright have a combined 10 drops which is not good.

Another thing to look at, is yards after reception/reception. It is eye glaringly low and speaks to the types of throws Temple makes. Outs to the sideline and curls/comebacks where the receiver doesn’t exactly have time to turn and run.

A semi-weakness of UCF’s pass defense this season has been when Brandon Moore and Nevelle Clarke aren’t being thrown at. It speaks volume to how good both those guys are.

Almost every snap they are covering the guy lined up as the left wide receiver and the right wide receiver.

So most of these plays are coming from slot receivers, tight ends, and half backs.

I broke down Temple’s target share and production by pre-snap position.

Just under 50% of their targets go to LWR and RWR which is a good thing for UCF’s defense.

32% of targets go to slot receivers and the remaining percentage of targets goes to inside slot receivers, tight ends and backs.

An interesting thing here… I mentioned before about Russo’s accuracy to his throwing arm side (right) of the field, if you look at the targets to left wide receivers, left slot receivers and left tight ends, you’ll see that the production is significantly lower than when targeting guys lined up on the right side of the field.

UCF’s pass defense has been very good. The issues with the non Moore and Clarke targets are more in depth than this graphic, but it still shows just how good Moore and Clarke are.

Everyone wondered how UCF could replace Mike Hughes, I think Brandon Moore’s coverage might be more impressive, just look at those numbers.

Run Game:

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Armstead’s status for this game is more important than Milton’s. I’ve said I think both will play, but Armstead may be limited.

He is so important to this run game and as a team that lives by the motto “Temple Tuff”, the run game is important to their offense.

This team is just nowhere close to the same running the ball when Ritrovato and Gardner are in the backfield. They are both in the mid to low 30’s in success rate, struggle to make guys miss and struggle to gain yards after contact.

The area you want to attack UCF’s run defense is to the left end. Armstead is the only back Temple has that has shown he can do this. Running up the middle is no good for opposing offenses against this defense and that is Ritrovato’s main game (which he doesn’t do well by the way)

Almost half of Gardner’s attempts have gone to the left end, but he’s not bee very good.

A lot of UCF’s run struggles quote on quote, have come against Devin Singletary and Darrell Henderson, easily two of the best running backs in the country, so their run defense is probably better than numbers actually show.

Armstead is really good, but he doesn’t match up with Henderson and Singletary. So in my opinion, for Temple to have any success on the ground, they need Armstead to be close to 100% because the drop off in success behind him is evident.

Luck/Starting Field Position:

This is the last thing I’ll take about. Watching the games and charting every play makes you play really close attention, so you kind of see things that don’t necessarily stand out while watching games live.

I also don’t really think this is “luck”, but I’m not sure what else to consider it.

Temple will run a lot of fake punts, and they’ve scored I believe two TD’s in the last 6 games because of this. They also have a punt return, and I believe 3 total defensive TD’s in the last 6 games. That’s 42 points, not from the offense.

Obviously all this stuff is part of football and is a product of coaching and execution, but I believe turnovers are an independent variable from game to game and if UCF isn’t prepared for fake punts, then they don’t deserve to win.

I looked at Temple’s starting field position on their 20 TD offensive TD drives.

Av average starting line of scrimmage of their own 37 is very, very good. To put this in perspective, UCF’s average starting field position is the 26. Temple’s average starting field position is their own 31 on all drives, including TD drives. It goes to show how much starting field position means to this offense.

UCF’s offense and special teams normally doesn’t allow for good starting field position for opponents though:

On 57 opponent drives, the averages starting LOS is their own 27.

A little more than 25% of Temple’s TD’s in their last 6 games have come from reasons other than the offense.

Things I feel are due for regression, water always levels out.

In the Cincinnati game, Temple was gifted 10 points on careless Cincinnati fumbles in the 1q. Cincinnati missed 3 field goals and then went for it on a 4th down because they didn’t trust their kicker. Temple won in OT.

Bottom line is, I don’t feel Temple is anywhere near as good as their 5-1 record with Russo at QB.

We’ll see what happens Thursday night, but I don’t expect UCF to commit the turnovers or have the coaching and special teams lapses that have benefited Temple so far this season.

The stats might not jump out at you, but I explained why I think Darriel Mack showed a ton of potential and UCF’s defense once again performed

Darriel Mack got his first collegiate start against ECU on Saturday and picked up his first collegiate win as UCF won their 20th straight game.

UCF’s defense was able to force turnovers all game long and played pretty good to keep some of the pressure off of Mack.

However, keeping the pressure off Mack was probably a bad thing as the offense got very stagnant in the second half and it almost cost UCF.

The numbers, passing in particular, from Mack weren’t great and a lot of casual fans will look at the box score and not be necessarily happy.

On the other hand,I actually think Mack played really good and showed a lot of promise for UCF’s QB situation after Milton.

The second quarter, the one quarter I feel like Heupel let Mack play, might have been UCF’s best offensive quarter of the season.

I took a look at some of the advanced stats from Mack’s performance as well as the defensive effort UCF put out.

Accuracy:

70% of Mack’s passes were accurate, which is a very solid number. You’ll notice how more than half of his passes traveled 10 or less yards in the air, but he was extremely accurate on these. Heupel went with more of short passing game and getting his play makers in space, something I wish he’d do more of with Milton too.

The 0/3 in the intermediate depth range is obviously not good. Two of those came on slants to the left to Gabe Davis, where he was open and both would’ve went for big plays. With more reps and experience, Mack makes these throws and I don’t see it as a concern.

Mack was extremely accurate throwing the ball to his throwing arm side (right). 10 of 12 passes to the right or right sideline were accurate balls.

He also was great throwing deep. Both of his deep balls traveled 45 yards in the air and he had no problem getting the ball there. He missed Nixon in the end zone on his first one, but put the ball in a spot where it couldn’t be intercepted. Snelson dropped the second one in the end zone on a ball you probably couldn’t have placed better and Snelson probably catched 8/10 times.

Mack also threw a ball in the 3rd quarter I believe down the right sideline to Tre Nixon about 46 yards in the air, once again, placed perfectly, but Nixon was interfered with.

Every single attempt Mack had, he threw from the pocket. He took some big hits, but stood in there which was impressive. As a guy who is a good as a runner as he showed, it was great to see him trusting his reads and not thinking run first.

Mack did miss 4 open receivers and he had one incompletion due to a miscommunication. If you look at his raw numbers in the box score, they won’t jump out at you, but a few drops and 1 or 2 more accurate passes and he has a huge game.

Let’s look at his numbers based on receiver routes:

Definitely a wide variety, but he showed he can make all the throws. The touch might not have been there on a couple passes, the slants to davis, and the Hesock drop stand out, but let’s not forget it was his first college start.

He showed great arm strength, deep ball accuracy, and poise in the pocket outside of the first quarter which I contribute to some definite nerves. There’s not much more you can ask from Mack in my opinion.

UCF’s line did a solid job blocking for him, but getting the ball out of his hands quickly also helped limit the pressures faced.

He faced 6 pressures, 3 resulted in sacks, 2 were on blitzes. Two were on the first drive, one he probably held onto the ball a little too long, but I’d rather see him take a sack then force something.

One of the slants he missed to Davis, he was under pressure and the other two, he scrambled for a combined 20 yards, not bad.

I mentioned above, that the second quarter might’ve been UCF’s best quarter of the season. It started with the final drive of the 1q that leaked into the second.

A 16 play drive, followed by a 6 play drive, followed by a 2 play TD drive, followed by a 10 play TD drive.

All 4 resulted in points, if the first two were punched into the end zone, instead of settling for FG’s, this game is over by halftime. But, the sustained success is what makes those 4 drives so great. Being able to produce 4 drives straight, I’m not sure UCF has done maybe outside of the UConn game.

12 (60%) of Mack’s passing attempts came on these 4 drives. He had 8 of his 12 completions (66.67%) on these. 75% of them resulting in successful plays. It’s baffling to me, why Heupel was gun shy in the 2h. Mack proved he can take care of the ball and efficiently move the ball when he has his arm as a threat.

Mack’s Run Game

I think the best part about Mack playing, was one of the best runners on the team actually had the most carries.

Mobile QB’s are so scary and hard to defend in college and Mack proved that.

We all know how much Milton’s legs matter to the offense and it’s probably even more evident how much Mack’s meant.

*Doesn’t include sacks and kneel downs like box scores*

On designed QB runs, Mack was a beast. 6 out of 8 were successful, he had more yards after contact then before and averaged nearly 8 ypc. The read option game wasn’t necessarily great, but the threat was still there. He had a 77 yard (I think) TD called back late in the game that only resulted in a 17 yard gain. He’s physical, fast, and elusive which is nice to have from the QB spot.

Speaking of physical, Mack was contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage 5 times, he averaged 3 ypc after contact on these, that number blows almost every running back in the country away.

Overall, I was really impressed with Mack, the 25 or so plays, the offense was open, he showed out. He was, for the most part, accurate, poised, and effective. He’s only a freshman and this was his first ever meaningful reps that wasn’t a handoff due to Milton leaving for a play.

Let’s remember Milton’s first couple of games as a college QB, you’re not going to light it up right away, but Mack showed he has potential to follow in Milton’s footsteps.

Defense:

Another great performance and they really kind of saved the game after UCF got very conservative in the 2h. I charted 95 plays for ECU (a lot and very time consuming), ECU was only successful on 38 of them (40%). Anything below 45% for the defense, is really good.

In the first half, ECU was 14/43 (32.56%). UCF’s D stepped up until the offense got in rhythm. The amount of plays and score definitely had an impact in the 2h defense as ECU was 24/55 which isn’t great, but better than the 1h. However, UCF was able to come up with some massive turnovers, something you can’t rely on game to game, but you’ll take ’em when they come.

I think we all wanted to see how the defense would defend the rushing ability of a mobile QB, something that has been a bit of a concern. Well, ECU’s QB ran the ball 23 times total, only 8 were successful attempts. He averaged 3.87 ypc, 2.52 of that coming before contact.

UCF only allowed him to scramble twice, which went for 12 total yards.

Brandon Moore continued his dominance in the secondary, even though he allowed a completion in garbage time.

He was targeted 4 times. All 4 of them coming on passes over 10 yards down field, only that 1 catch was surrendered.

ECU probably did what most teams should and avoid Moore as much as possible. They picked on Nevelle Clarke a little, well at least tried to. Clarke was thrown at 9 times and allowed a 44.44% completion percentage. Pretty good. He also had a pick.

There is an area I think UCF showed they can be exploited on defense. It’s their ability to defend slot receivers.

Moore and Clarke are lockdown for the most part and it really takes out most of a passing attack.

On 11 attempts, on balls thrown inside the numbers, and not thrown at Moore or Clarke, but thrown to a receiver, ECU completed 7 passes. 8 of the times, the receiver was open and they averaged 12.55 yards per attempt on these throws. Now, 7/11 isn’t terrific, but when you look at how good UCF’s Pass defense has been, it stands out and 12.55 ypa is concerning.

To further this, on balls thrown to RB’s or TE’s, again guys Moore or Clarke are not covering, ECU was successful on 10 out 18 pass plays. These plays averaged 8.33 yards per attempt. It’s a bit nit-picky, but a 17/29 success rate definitely raises some eyes when UCF helf ECU to a 41% success rate for the game.

The D-Line and LB’s were great in getting pressure on both passes and runs. UCF had a run disruption/stop/hurry/knockdown on a third of ECU’s plays. Not one of the 32 resulted in a successful play. That’s incredible and shows how important this is.

It is a long list and a lot of people contributed to here’s a picture of the 32 plays and the players that contributed.

Titus Davis has been a beast all season.

Eriq Gilyard once again came up huge. Not only did he contribute in this category multiple times, but he had the biggest play of the game. On the ECU jump pass that resulted in a Gibson sack and Evans 95 yard fumble recovery, it was all because of Gilyard.

He struggled a bit in coverage throughout the game, but came up huge when it mattered. Almost every time, a team runs that jump pass play, the TE is always open. Gilyard didn’t bite on the run, the true freshman stayed disciplined when he could’ve sold out to stop the QB draw. Ahlers went to throw the ball, saw Gilyard just blanketed on the TE, and double clutched, allowing Gibson to make the hit.

It is something that might go unnoticed, but in the film room, Gilyard is getting all the credit, rightfully so.

Now, UCF gets a nice 10 day break before they take on Temple in a huge game. It’s a game, I think the defense has a chance to dominate again. They been performing at a high level all season.