With half the season in the books, I used analytics to break down UCF’s offense as well as taking a look at situational play calling and personnel usage

With half of UCF’s (FBS) games in the books, I thought it’d be a good time to kind of poll all of the game by game data together and take a look at how the season has been so far in whole.

I’m only going to focus on offense and will try and get to the defense next week, but both together will just be way too long because this is going to be long enough.

I want to compare some individual stuff to last season and some of Heupel’s situational play calling to kind of how he called games at Mizzou to see if anything has drastically changed.

Overall, there will be a lot of information so I’ll try and break it down by topic as best I can.

*The data I’m using from last season doesn’t include the FIU and Austin Peay games*

Passing Game: McKenzie Milton Accuracy

*Throw Aways are not included*

Like last season, overall, Milton has been extremely accurate. He’s regarded as one of the best QB’s in the country for a reason. If there is one area you can say he is struggling, it is throwing the deep ball, something he was best in the country at last season.

Still, an about 50% accuracy rate on pass attempts traveling 21+ yards in the air is nothing to complain about.

Here is his chart from last season under Frost:

He has improved massively in intermediate range (11-15).

I threw this in here to kind of compare what distance throws he made last year vs. this year.

A lot of people had mentioned to me they felt Frost called a lot of simple quick hitters.

If you take out the throw aways from last season, Milton threw 149 passes that went behind the LOS-5 yards downfield. Divide that by the 11 games and you get 13.55 attempts per game, which would be just under half of the 31.73 attempt per game average.

This season, only 9 attempts per game come in this range out of 32.2 average attempts. This are extremely high percentage throws and easy completions. These 45 plays, have hit at a solid 51% success rate. It is a great way to kind of extend the run game and get guys in space. Average yards after catch is 8.03 which shows they can really help get ahead of the chains.

Now, what a lot of people mentioned pre-season was that Heupel’s offense is going to involve more down field passing. I had said that Frost’s offense last season and Heupel’s at Mizzou both roughly attempted 1 deep pass every 5 pass plays, so there wouldn’t be much of an increase in this area.

Through the 5 FBS games, Milton is throwing a deep ball about 1 in every 6 throws, so this area is actually trending down under Heupel compared to last season.

Milton struggled throwing to the right sideline last season and it has been his weakest direction this season as well. Tre Nixon is the guy who loses the most from this. Replacing Tre’Quan Smith in the downfield passing game was going to be almost impossible. He caught 15 of 22 downfield targets last year which is incredible.

Nixon is an unbelievable talent and it has shown. He’s been targeted 11 of the 28 downfield attempts from Milton, he’s only caught 4, but has been open 3 times where Milton has missed him. Once these two get in a little more work together, this combination has the potential to be a difference maker.

I will go into depth on receiving in a little.

Offensive Line:

A big issue the last couple of games for UCF offensively has been the battle of trenches. Milton is able to make the line look better by avoiding sacks, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a major impact on the pass game and in the run game.

UCF has faced 60 blitzes on 183 designed drop-backs this season, about 33% of the time. On those plays, they are below a 50% success rate, have allowed a sack and been forced to throw it away twice. Really not terrible numbers, as blitzes are designed to do just this. They can also be great opportunities for big plays.

However, on the 123 plays where UCF has not been faced a blitz, they have allowed a whopping 30 pressures. On these 30 plays, Milton hasn’t even been able to get a chance to try and complete a pass on 33% of them. The once he is able too, he is only completing 35% of his passes.

Now, UCF has played a relatively weak schedule and this is something to think about in a potential NY6 bowl game where your opponent is much better. I think last season, this was neutralized a little by the short passing game, which I mentioned the difference in attempts above.

The line has a major impact in the run game as well.

On 191 rush attempts, UCF has allowed a run disruption on 23 of them. Roughly 12% of rushes are disrupted due to the O-Line. These are considered plays where an O-Lineman is bull rushed, misses their assignment or just completely whiffs on the block at or behind the LOS.

With UCF’s giving the bulk of their carries to a less physical back, it is not surprising at all to see the above yards per carry numbers. Taj McGowan was the only back to convert one of these plays into a successful one.

12% is not a bad percentage at all, but you can see how much these impact UCF’s run game. If you take out plays where UCF is blitzed and combine pressures on passes with run disruptions allowed, they occur on roughly 35% of plays which seems like a decently high percentage to me and clearly negatively impacts offensive production.

So who is allowing these pressures and run disruptions:

Brown and Colubiale definitely stand out, especially because Colubiale runs a route on most pass plays, so his allowed % is probably the highest on the team by far.

Wyatt and Tyler have been the best starting O-Lineman and Bailey Granier has been solid as well. Granier and Schneider split snaps at about a 50/50 split.

Definitely something to monitor as UCF has a lot of depth as this position, but there is no doubt Miller, Hudanick, Brown, and Kelton all were great last year and have a ton of experience as well. There are numerous ways blocking numbers can be improved and the biggest one is simply just get the ball out of Milton’s hands quicker, something UCF did more of last season.

The Run Game:

My favorite thing about this season has been how well Heupel has used his surplus of talent at the running back position.

For reference, here is Mizzou’s directional running last season under Heupel’s lead.

Coming in to the season, it was obvious UCF was going to try and run the ball between the tackles and we’ve definitely seen that done plenty of times even.

Here’s what we got going on here. 2 running backs with over a 70% success rate, one over 60% and one under 45%. Try and figure out which one gets the ball the most.

McRae, Taj and Otis have a combined 74 carries. AK has 67 alone. Now, contrary to poular belief, AK is actually running the ball up the middle pretty effectively. Nowhere near the effectiveness of the other guys, but that hasn’t exactly been the problem.

If you look at AK’s numbers from last season, this year is kind of trending towards the same direction. Up the middle good, not so much elsewhere. Although last season running to the RE was extremely good.

I would love to hear Heupel’s reasoning behind using AK as the premier back as I think we all would.

The numbers and the eye test can’t be more obvious.

Greg McRae went from a walk on to an absolute stud. Taj McGowan is really good and Otis is Otis.

I’ve kind of touched on this after every game so no point of going further into it.

Otis Anderson:

Coming into the season, I thought he was UCF’s most important offensive player, and I still do, despite his limited use.

I went into deep detail on his production last season and want to kind of look at how it’s been this season.

I already touched on the rushing numbers so this is primarily wide receiver focused.

This is all from last season, how he fared as a receiver from the backfield and split out, as well as being the lone RB on the field or being in either “21” or “20” personnel.

His numbers are far and away better when playing with another RB and his receiving numbers are drastically better when split out wide.

This season, he as 18 targets, only 8 receptions and only 7 successful plays as a receiver.

He has 15 targets when lined up S/W/T and 7 receptions, so he has 1 catch on 3 targets out of the backfield.

His average depth of target is 11 yards when he’s S/W/T compared to only 7 yards last season, where he was much more effective.

He has only 3 targets in “11”personnel and only 1 reception.

It’s obvious this kid is really good with the ball and showed last season how good he is as a receiver. Heupel is using him a lot S/W/T with another RB on the field which is where he thrived last season. But, 4 yards more average DOT is a significant amount and I think Otis’ skill set might suit the short to intermediate range a lot more like we saw last season.

Receiving:

Something I haven’t looked at all season.

So mine as well now:

So, Gabe and Nixon definitely are Milton’s two main targets this season. Snelson missed a game or he’d probably be at about the 30 target range.

Heading into the season, we all expected Snelson to be the clear #1 guy.

His numbers last season were great and with the loss of Tre’Quan, he seemed like the obvious guy. I think the full time move to the slot has had a major impact on his production. Not this it’s bad, but just that I think he’s really good and should be used more.

I say the move to the slot for a couple of reasons. If you look at the chart of Milton’s passes, you’ll notice how many of them go to the sideline. Davis and Tre are pretty much lined up outside the numbers every snap so that has a major effect on why they have a significant amount more targets.

Also, Otis and Marlon have been rotating in and when they come in and Heupel stays with “11” personnel, Snelson is the one who needs to come off.

Another big thing heading into the season, was how much Heupel uses his tight end. That was the farthest thing from true and it’s shown this season. Colubiale has been really good catching the ball, but 3 targets a game isn’t some crazy tight end usage.

I had Akins at 47 targets in 11 games last season and he might’ve actually missed one. Add in Colubiale’s and Jordan Franks’ tight end looks last season, and UCF had about 5 tight end targets per game.

Marlon Williams might be my favorite guy on the offense just because he’s so good and takes advantage of every opportunity he gets.

Flash back to last season:

15 of 21 targets caught, all for successful plays. This just screams, good things happen when the ball is thrown to this guy, good things will happen.

This season, he leads the team in catch rate and yards after receptions average. He played a huge role in both of UCF’s scoring drives against Memphis that didn’t come on 70+ yard TD plays. Bottom line is, someway, somehow, he needs to be more involved in the passing game. He’s big, fast, and physical.

I’ve mentioned I’d love to see more “10” personnel with him as kind of a hybrid tight end whenever UCF wants to use a true TE and not have them S/W.

Situational Play Calling/Personnel Usage :

Something I have not looked at, at all so far this season besides after the Memphis game where I think I made a great point.

Before I get into some of the stuff, I understand Heupel is a first year HC and as I’ve said before, no coach is anywhere near perfect no matter how long they’ve been coaching. However, he has been an OC since 2010, everything I’ve looked at/look at is from an OC standpoint essentially.

Also, comparing his first year to Frost’s first year is not fair. Heupel inherited the second best QB in the country in terms of passing efficiency and a 13-0 team with a ton of returning talent (thanks to Frost). No matter how much you hate Frost, you can’t deny that. Frost’s first season, he inherited an 0-12 team, a losing culture, no QB, and for the most part, not the right guys to fit the style of offense him or Heupel run.

Back on track… I pointed out the play calling based on where in the drive UCF was at after the Memphis game, so for the people that didn’t see that, I’ll recap real quick.

A big thing Heupel has shown and said in interviews, is the need to establish the run. This is old school football and not remotely true in correlating with success in today’s football.

However, their is definitely a need to run the ball, but “establishing the run” is BS.

If you look at this chart:

You’ll see “establishing the run” early in drives has not worked, while passing has been extremely effective. We can all agree that Heupel’s offense gets into rhythm and when it does, it looks crisp and clean. That’s when the run game is effective. If you look from play 4 of drives and on, the run game is dominate. The pass game is good too, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not what the issue is.

Time for some personnel #’s:

I was scared these numbers would look worse heading into the season. I can’t really complain too much. Two RB’s have been used 34% of plays, while I would love to see that flipped to 66, I don’t think it will happen.

It’s a small sample size, but UCF has been extremely good without a TE on the field. For all 7 snaps in “10” personnel, Marlon was on the field, all 7 were successful.

The run success out of “20” personnel is just incredible although it is a small sample size.

UCF has just been better outside of “11” personnel, but Heupel is quietly escaping his roots.

He has actually used “11” personnel about 1% less than Frost did and “21” personnel almost 10% more. Having Jordan Akins who was essentially a WR probably had a bit to do with that, but I can’t complain too much about this.

Play Calling by Down and Distance is something I’m sure everyone is interested in.

Good thing is, I made a nice and colorful chart to distract everyone from the numbers.

The only place there is really a 50/50 split between run or pass is on 1st and 10 which watching games live, most people would probably think it would be a higher run %.

Other than that, Heupel’s play calling does get a little predictable, but I also highly doubt any other team has these percentages.

The thing that stuck out to me is on plays with 11 or more yards to go. Heupel has run the ball 13 times for a solid 0% success rate. Let’s stop pretending these positive 3 or 4 yards are going to help get the drive back on track. Called pass plays have hit on 8 out of 17 attempts. Much better than 0 for 13 if you ask me.

We all know how bad UCF was on 3rd and 4th and short last season, so that is a major positive to see here.

I also took a look at 1st and 10 runs by itself because that’s probably the biggest thing people want to know just from watching games.

The run up the middle has actually been very successful. Obviously all these YPC numbers could be higher, but on 1st down, getting 4 yards a pop, you can’t complain.

This does not contradict my previous statement of using the pass to set up the run. There are more 1st and 10’s than just the first play of the drive.

This is already very long so I’m going to end on that. I have a ton more information if you’re interested in anything just ask me on here or twitter or anywhere.

If I had to give a Mid-season MVP award outside of the obvious Milton, it would probably be a split between McRae and Taj.

Best lineman I’d give to Hudanick right now. Best receiver, I’d probably go Gabe even though all 4 of them are really good, but I think Gabe is the best NFL talent on offense so I’ll stick with that.

Overall, it comes down to this offense getting in rhythm. Getting the ball in the right guys hands and being more aggressive early in drives are the two biggest things I could point out.

I watched all of Missouri’s games last season and it looks the same as this year. The good drives look really good and the bad drives are hard to watch. Need to keep the good drives really good and get the bad drives to still look average.

At 6-0 you can’t complain as a fan, but Heupel and staff always know there’s ways to get better.

I used data from Scott Frost’s play calling during UCF’s 2017 season and from the Northwestern game to explain why I think Scott Frost coached like he was 0-5 in the 4th quarter and cost Nebraska their first win of the season

The Scott Frost era has gotten off to a bit of a rough start in Lincoln, NE. A lot of that has too do with issues and problems that Frost inherited and not his ability as a coach.

I think Frost is a going to turn that program around by his third year. Adrian Martinez is a special QB. After not playing a snap in his senior year of high school, he has looked extremely comfortable and calm playing high level D1 football.

However, watching Nebraska’s game versus Northwestern live, after having watched every game he coached last season, he has no one to blame for the loss, but himself. Don’t get me wrong, there is no excuse for the defensive performance on those final two drives, but Frost called the final 3 offensive drives like he was coaching an 0-5 team.

At UCF, Frost, obviously had a team he was confident in. The passive style he coached at the end of the Northwestern game, versus the couple of close games he was in last season (Navy, Auburn, USF) in which UCF had the lead late, couldn’t be more polar opposites.

Last season, UCF ran 67 plays in the 4th quarter with an 11 point or less lead, essentially the same situation as Nebraska was in against NW.

Frost split up these calls, 28 pass and 37 run. With the lead, kind of what you can expect.

Nebraska ran 14 plays with the lead in the 4th quarter not including the TD drive that started in the 3rd quarter and leaked over.

Frost went 72% run on these plays compared to the 57% he had at UCF.

If you look at the 4 passes, Nebraska hit at a 75% success rate while out of the 10 runs, only 2 were successful.

The first play in particular I want to look at is the 4th and 1 at their own 43. With around 11 minutes to go, up by 7, Nebraska had a chance to have a drive that essentially put Northwestern out of it. It wasn’t even a yard to go, it was like 2 inches.

Frost decided to punt.

Last season, he was in almost the same exact spot.

A 4th and 1 up 7, with 8 minutes to go, at his own 35 yard line in the conference championship game. Frost went for it, and Frost got it.

Could’ve been a major turning point for Nebraska in the game and season.

However, Nebraska’s D held and they were able to get great field position that led to a FG to go up 10.

Following a long FG drive by Northwestern, they attempted an onside kick which Nebraska recovered, up 7 and left.

The drive started on Northwestern’s 46 yard line and NW had all 3 timeouts left.

Frost had 2 Drives start with 4 minutes or less, up by one score last season. Against Auburn and USF, two opponents you can argue are better than the Northwestern one he was against on Saturday.

Those two drives resulted in a missed FG and a TD so essentially two potential dagger drives. A killer mentality from Frost. Not wanting to let his defense have even a chance to let up a score to tie it.

Against Auburn, after an unsuccessful run on first down, he dialed up a 30 yard pass to put UCF in prime FG range which should have ended the game, but it was blocked. Point still remains.

Against USF, Frost ran the ball a couple of times successfully until a first down run went for no gain on his own 47. On 2 and 10 he called a pass that led to a first down. He then called two more passes that led to a TD.

So at UCF, he tried to get into scoring position no matter the clock. He conservatively ran until he was put in second and long and then he got aggressive.

Against Northwestern, he went run, run, run, punt. The first two runs went for 0 yards and the third went for 3. He was a first down away from winning the game with a QB who played great.

Instead of being aggressive, he was passive and it cost them the game. If Northwestern doesn’t touch the football again, they can’t win.

Now, you might be saying well, the run was working all game so why abandon it here. On 43 designed runs, 22 of them were successful and Nebraska averaged 5.63 ypc, so the run did work.

But, the passing attack was even better. On 34 designed dropbacks, Nebraska hit at a 56% clip and average just over 7 yards per attempts.

Breaking it down further, on first down Nebraska ran it 23 of 35 times, only 9 were successful. On the 12 pass plays, 7 of them were successful.

Nebraska faced 7 2nd and 10’s. They ran it 4 times, successful twice, while they were successful on two of three passes in the same situations.

In the end, Frost went away from what was working on the final drive in order to make Northwestern lose their timeouts.

Granted, it took an incredible 99 yard drive to tie it, but 2 minutes in college football is an absurd amount of time, timeouts left or not.

At UCF, Frost showed a killer mentality and not wanting to leave any doubt up to the defense. If he were to do the same on Saturday, Nebraska would be sitting at 1-5 and not 0-6 and a huge monkey would have been lifted off Scott Frost and this program.

To me, this is just Frost coaching like he has an 0-5 team and not the confidence he had coaching an undefeated team.

 

Don’t let two 4th down calls overlook the fact that Josh Heupel’s offense failed to have any sustained success: Why I think using the pass to set up the run can change this:

UCF survived on the road vs. Memphis last Saturday to continue their nation leading winning streak.

I don’t think UCF should have won this game. In my opinion, they got out-coached the whole game until Memphis’ final drive where Memphis managed the clock horribly, or this could have easily been a UCF’s first loss of the season.

To me, and a lot of people won’t agree, but UCF won this game because McKenzie Milton is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and because they have the luxury of someone with as much experience against top competition in Randy Shannon.

I will get into the defense later, but let’s talk about why, despite two great 4th down calls, Josh Heupel’s offense failed to have any sustained success and rhythm. This will get overlooked by the “gutsy” 4th down calls, but I think it’s an issue UCF has had all season and finally got “exposed” because they were on the road against a good team.

In both situations, going for it on 4th down, were kind of easy decisions. Yes, many coaches don’t have the guts to do it, but analytically speaking, they were easy decisions. With 2:51 left in the 3rd quarter, no momentum, and sign of offensive life and a defense that no one thought would hold Memphis scoreless the whole 2h you need to do anything possible to get some life back and when you’re coaching a team that’s won 18 straight, you can’t coach scared.

That being said, I love going for it in both situations and am not knocking that because it does take some guts, however, that can’t overlook the fact that Heupel’s offense did not look good at all, despite Milton playing tremendously.

UCF ran 66 offensive plays, only 25 were successful, that’s a 37.88% success rate. If you’ve followed anything I’ve posted about UCF’s offense to date, you’ll know how bad that is compared to every other game.

I will get into something that I believe is a possible reason, UCF is failing to establish any rhythm on some drives in a little.

McKenzie Milton:

If UCF has any other QB in the country, besides a handful, they lose this game. I think Milton was solely responsible for 10 points for keeping two drives alive, that UCF had no business scoring on.

The first one, was the drive at the end of the 1h where UCF was able to get a FG. Down by 16, with 2:04 left and Memphis getting the ball first to start the 2h, it is bizarre to me how Heupel can call this conservative. An outside run with AK for no gain and a penalty after the play set up 2 and 23. UCF ran down the clock to 1:37, and ran the ball again, for 4 yards.

On 3 and 19 from their own 16, Heupel was kind of forced to call a pass play to try and put Memphis in average starting field position. You’re not calling any play on 3rd and 19 trying to get a first down and you can’t convince me otherwise.  But Milton was able to find Otis 23 yards down field setting up UCF to have just enough time to get in FG range and even almost scoring a TD.

The second drive Milton showed his value was in the 4th quarter. Down 6, with a little over 13:00 left. Another negative run on first down (kind of a theme) and a play where Milton was forced to throw it away on second, set up a 3rd and 11.

Here’s the pass Milton made.

There are maybe 1% of college QB’s making this throw 20 yards down field, in those weather conditions. This play eventually led to Milton’s TD run, but without this pass, UCF doesn’t take the lead and I don’t think wins.

Milton’s accuracy was spot on this week.

He only missed 3 open guys, the pass to Nixon, I think just slipped out of his hand.

There were a couple of big drops. All three of them were big plays and I think Otis’ could have gone for 20+ yards. Nixon’s drop was a tough call as he kind of tripped out of his route on a third down play, but the throw was spot on and I think he’d say he needs to make that catch.

The pass game once again struggled under pressure. This is sad because UCF max protected with the RB and TE a lot more than they should and Memphis only brought 3 guys a lot of the time.

Colubiale continues to struggle blocking. He has had some huge catches over the last couple of weeks so it’s hard to knock him, but at some point, blocking needs to be an emphasis.

Using the Pass to Set up the run:

Alright, this is my main point this week. I think, by now, we’ve all realized how important the run game is to Heupel despite him actually knowing which RB’s to use.

There is nothing worse to hear out of a coaches mouth than “we need to establish the run” this isn’t 1990’s football anymore. This is also exactly what Heupel said in his halftime interview, down 13, on the road.

I think we can all agree, that an offense at this tempo, rhythm plays a big part and it’s why successful drives look so good and bad drives just look absolutely awful.

While watching the game over, I kind of noticed something and so I put some numbers together to see if my observation was right.

Instead of establishing the run, I think UCF needs to use Milton and the passing game to set up the run. By this, I mean, UCF needs to throw the ball early in the drive more often than they are.

First off, you have one of the best QB’s in the country.

Second off, let’s look at the #’s.

So vs. Memphis, this is what we have.

The key to me, is the first two plays. Those are the least reliant on down and distance. So, on first down, an even 50/50 play split of run and pass. Only 1 run was successful (the first play of the game) and UCF averaged 0.43 ypc. 4 passes were successful, averaging 20 ypa (a little inflated from Davis’ 75 yard TD.

0.43 ypc is basically saying, we’ll just start the drive at 2 and 10.

On the second POD, another 50/50 run/pass split. Another absolute absurd difference in success rate.

UCF was awful on third down this game, in large part to being behind the chains.

Now, when the offense got a little rhythm and some positive plays, with tempo and momentum, when they ran the ball (POD’s 4-7) they hit at a 9/14 (64.29%) rate.

You could say, we’ll it was just one game and you’d be right. So, I put every FBS opponent UCF has played this season, into one chart.

Pretty damn accurate. Now, obviously the numbers are a little better, because they’ve played better in every other game, but the notion still shows true. A 48.57% and a 36.67% success rate running the ball on the 1st and 2nd plays of drives compared to a 65.38% and a 59.26% success rate when throwing the bal.

Once again, when you get to play 4 and on, the run game all of a sudden flips and the ypc almost double.

I’m not saying I’m on to something, but I think I’m on to something.

Run Game:

Not even going to get mad this week, because this just gets proven every week, but I’ll still show the numbers.

Otis didn’t have a good game, as high as I’ve been on him this season, I have to admit that. AK was successful on only 2 of his 11 carries and the outside runs didn’t help out.

Good thing, McRae and Taj’s carries add up to AK’s total carries. Combined, McRae and Taj were successful on 7 of 11 attempts. One of McRae’s carries was 2 and 23 at the end of the 1h and one of Taj’s was a 3rd and 11 on UCF’s final drives so take those two out and they’re 7/9. Pretty good.

I’m not one of those people who thinks teams need to be run 100% on analytics and that couldn’t be more wrong. There is so much that goes into coaching in terms of play calling and personnel usage.

For instance, the 4th down decisions, why analytically, it’s the right decision, you still need to have the guts and confidence to go for it in your own territory. I don’t care what the numbers say, those, while the right decision, I’ll still tip my cap to Heupel for those. But at the same time there is just no answer Heupel can give to giving AK the majority of carries that will be right.

The numbers, the data, the eye test all support otherwise and the only answer he could even say is “I feel he’s the best guy”.

Personnel:

Another L for me here, although it pretty much goes hand in hand with Otis having a bad game.

Just some really gross numbers. Maybe they should just run 14 personnel every snap.

Offensive Conclusion:

I look at success rate as the biggest indicator of how an offense/individual performs because it is the most accurate assessment you can get on a per play basis. Every play, of every game has meaning, yes the 4th down plays effected the outcome more, but if other plays were better, UCF wouldn’t have been in that situation.

There is no arguing, that UCF’s offense was bad against Memphis. IMO, Heupel needs to figure something out. There is too much talent and the QB is too good for them to post numbers like this.

I was going to kind of give some lee-way because of the weather in the 2h, but Milton attempted 14 passes that weren’t throw aways in the 2h and was accurate on 10 of them. Pretty good, and pretty clear that the passing attack was not affected.

Defense:

Kind of a difficult game to evaluate the defense. Most people were calling for Shannon after the 1h, but UCF didn’t play that bad in the 1h. The biggest problem was penalties, which I don’t chart because to me, they’re an independent variable and can’t dictate success on a per game basis. This was really the first game UCF jumped offsides often and committed dumb penalties which cost them about 10 points and maybe more.

They also faced the best RB in the country and I think UCF fans realize how good Henderson is now.

Memphis ran 80 plays and UCF held them to a 41.25% success rate which is very good.

In the 1h, they were 21/46.

On rushing attempts, Memphis was successful on 13/28 in the 1h and 20/49 overall.

The part where UCF struggled, was on successful plays, they allowed them to become explosive plays. 10 of the 20 successful runs went for 10+ yards.

Now, missed tackles. Tackling wasn’t too bad, but when it was, it contributed to these runs.

There were missed tackles on 8 of these 10 explosive runs. The 8 runs accumulated 171 yards (wow). Of those 171 yards, 113 of them came after a missed tackle. So, with sound tackling, that’s 58 yards on 8 carries for 7.25 ypc.

 A majority of missed tackles came from the secondary, which against Henderson is just a mis-match.

Plays with missed tackles, were 9 in the 1h and 7 in the 2h, so you can’t exactly look at that as the difference in each half.

I think the LB’s and D-Line got a lot bigger push in the 2h.

UCF got a run disruption on 6 plays in the 2h. All 6 of them, they were able to tackle the ball carrier for a loss. Eriq Gilyard, filling in for Pat Jasinski had 2 big ones, Titus Davis had 3 and Randy Charlton kicked in with one. The young guys and the vet really stepped up.

Norvell got very predictable and went run, run almost every 1st and 2nd of the 2h which allowed UCF to be a lot more aggressive as they knew he wasn’t going to let White throw.

Again, for some reason, UCF struggle to defend the run to the left end. On 16 attempts, Memphis was successful on 10 of them and averaged 11.63 ypc on these runs.

The only other thing I have is that teams need to stop throwing at Brandon Moore. He absolutely shut down Damonte Coxie one-on-one in the first half when they went at him about 3 or 4 times downfield.

Conclusion:

As a fan, all you can ask for is a win and that’s what UCF did. However, from an unbiased perspective, I don’t think this team is as good as a lot of fans think.

To me, the issue isn’t talent on offense or talent on defense. It’s just the offense just doesn’t look good. A lot of issues that I’ve pointed out, made a difference this week because Memphis is good and UCF was on the road. It’s easy to say they scored all these points at home against bad teams so the offense is good, but that’s not how it works.

Defensively, I think UCF is better than last season, both production wise and coaching.

Offensively, in my opinion, talent wise, there is no drop off from last season.

If I were to say, Memphis only scored 30 points, you would think UCF would have won by three possessions and you can’t blame the weather because Milton threw the ball with the same accuracy in both halves.

Using Analytics to Breakdown How Memphis’ Offense and UCF’s Defense Matchup with Each Other

UCF heads on the road to Memphis this week in without a doubt their most challenging game this season to date.

Memphis, is the team a lot of people were saying would potentially be the ones that would finally end UCF’s winning streak and shut up their fan base.

However, they have not exactly played up to their expectations this year, already losing to conference games; @ Navy and @ Tulane.

Both those losses were on the road, they get UCF @ home in the AAC championship rematch and they should have a solid crowd.

This game will feature plenty of points as both these teams are both top 10 scoring offenses, Memphis is the #3 scoring offense at home.

I broke down Memphis’ offense through their first 5 FBS games in about every way possible and tried to look at how UCF’s defense has fared against each particular thing that Memphis will throw at them.

I was going to do the same with UCF’s offense vs. Memphis defense, but kind of ran out of time and I just think UCF is going to score no matter what defense they’re playing against. If the defense can get stops they’ll win.

Rushing:

I’m sure most of you have already seen Darrell Henderson’s raw stats for this season. He has been by far the best running back in the country statistically and it really isn’t even close.

Memphis plays 3 running backs throughout the game. Henderson is obviously their main guy, but Patrick Taylor has been extremely good this season as well. Tony Pollard probably plays the most snaps out of all 3, but he primarily will line up in the slot. He plays a similar role as to how Otis Anderson has been used so far this season.

I broke down both Henderson’s and Taylor’s rushing numbers through Memphis’ first 5 FBS games.

 67 carries for Henderson through 5 games only comes out to about 13.4 again which isn’t a lot for a guy as productive as Henderson, but game flow has also played a part in mostly all their games. Expect him to get 15+ carries this week.

Memphis loves the outside run. 32 of Henderson’s 67 runs have gone to the outside, he’s been successful on 20 of them for a remarkable 62.5% success rate.

Let’s take a look at how UCF’s defense has fared against outside runs so far this season:

These are only on rushes by RB’s. Brady White, Memphis QB is not a run threat so pretty much all rushes will be coming from RB’s with maybe 1 or 2 from Pop Williams.

So, UCF has faced 56 outside rushes, with 29 (51.79%) being successful. However, there is a drastic difference in left end rushes and right rushes. This could be because the right side of the line is better, but the thing that sticks out is the tackling. On rushes to the LE, UCF has missed 12 tackles, accounting for 3.74 yards per rush. To the RE, they have only missed 5, accounting for 1.07 yards per rush.

They’ve also allowed 4.11 yards after contact on LE rushes and only 1.97 on RE rushes. Looking at this, Memphis should try to run left more than right, but their season split with Henderson and Taylor is almost exactly 50/50.

I mentioned missed tackles on the outside rushes. It’s going to be a major factor in the outcome of this game. The only way Memphis wins this game, is by dominating the ground game and I’ll get more into this later.

Henderson has forced 28 missed tackles on 67 attempts this season. About 40% of his carries. On those 28 missed tackles, he’s accrued a whopping 498 yards, that’s 7.43 ypc and 100 yards rushing alone on missed tackles. UCF just had their first 100 yard rushing game by a RB in a long time against SMU and Henderson does that routinely on forced missed tackles alone.

The good news, for UCF, is their tackling has improved tremendously as the season has progressed.

As you can see, every game, tackling has improved. The SMU game doesn’t include the final two drives with “2”s” in, but if the “2’s” are in against Memphis, that will be the game is out of reach either way.

The one game that is concerning here is FAU. Devin Singletary is about as comparable of a back to Henderson that UCF will face. Singletary forced missed tackles on 50% of rushes last season and UCF had 27 missed tackles on 62 plays in that game. However, the improved tackling the last two weeks leads you to believe Henderson will get his fair share, but not an excessive amount of yards after missed tackles forced.

Men in Box:

The easiest response to “stopping the run” is to stack the box. Which in today’s football is almost impossible to do.

The most common box today is a 6 or 7 man box just because of the way college teams spread out defenses now, it’s just impossible to put 8 consistently in the box.

I filtered out all plays inside the red zone for the purpose of this.

You’ll see that against a 3/4/5 man box, Memphis didn’t even attempt to run the ball.

Vs. a 4 man box, they faced 6 3rd and 10+’s, all unsuccessful. Their one successful play was a 1st and 10.

Vs. a 5 man box, they only ran two plays out of 17 with 5 or less yards to gain.

Getting this team in obvious passing situations, will lead to a lot of success and I’ll reiterate that going forward.

You’ll see that Memphis has no problem running the ball against a 6 or 7 man box and they averaged over 10 ypc against both.

They did struggle a bit against an 8 man box in terms of running, but had great success throwing in a smaller sample size, but that’s why it’s so hard to stack the box.

If you look at how UCF has played on defense in retrospect with how many players they had in the box, you’ll see they as well primarily will play 6 or 7. They stacked the box 17 times, and it was by far the worst defense they’ve played. Smaller sample size of course, but I don’t think that’s the answer.

They played incredible vs. the run with a 7 man box and very good with a 6 man box, there’s no need to over adjust this week.

Also, just looking at these numbers, gives you a great picture of how good this defense has been under Randy Shannon.

Personnel:

Ahhh, my favorite topic. Except this time I won’t rant about UCF’s personnel usage except for the fact I wish it looked a lot more like Memphis’.

Memphis loves using two running backs. It’s in large part because they want Tony Pollard on the field as much as possible, much like UCF with Otis.

Pollard has lined up as a receiver on 137 of 269 plays (51%). He only has 10 carries on the season, 4 coming from the slot, 6 coming from the backfield. He’s hit on 7 out of 10 of those rushes, so you need to account for him.

He has 20 targets, 2 have been out of the backfield, 18 coming out wide. So he’s used more as a WR, but he’s listed as an RB and you need to account for him lining up or motioning into the backfield.

They also like having two tight ends on the field, something UCF struggled to defend the run against while playing Pitt. Joey Magnifico and Sean Dykes are both great tight ends, so you can’t really argue with getting them on the field together.

Magnifico and Dykes have combined for 15 targets, good for 10 catches, 0 drops and a 66.67% success rate.

They will both split out at times, but only 5 of their targets have come split out. You would also think the tight end would play a big part in their play action passing attack, but only 3 of their targets have come on play action.

Memphis loves to throw out different personnel groupings and with a majority of their talent being at the tight end and running back positions, you can’t blame them. It’s a matchup nightmare for defenses to deal with.

If you look at how UCF’s defense has played in retrospect to the personnel they were matched up against, you’ll see that the one area you can say they struggled is against two tight end looks. They’ve allowed a 56.67% rush success rate which is by far their highest with a decent sample size.

Memphis does not run a lot of “11” personnel, a matchup UCF has been very good again. All 14 of Memphis’ plays in 22 personnel came last week against UConn, I 100% expect them to roll out Magnifico and Dykes together with Henderson/Taylor and Pollard together a lot against UCF.

UCF has faced only one pass against 2 RB looks so far so it is a land of unknown for the defense. Combine that with their somewhat struggle to defend the run against two tight end looks, it makes the most sense. Also what makes the most sense, hardly ever occurs.

Passing Game:

This isn’t Memphis’ strength because of how good their running game is, but the effectiveness of the rushing attack can lead to passing success.

Let’s remember as well that Riley Ferguson and Anthony Miller aren’t walking out of the tunnel for Memphis this week, so no matter what, that’s a win for UCF.

White’s been pretty accurate this season so he’s not a major downgrade from Ferguson, but I have found where they really struggle to pass the ball and I’ll key on that later.

A majority of his passes are thrown at or behind the LOS, easy throws to make normally screens and when you have Henderson and Taylor in the backfield, that’s smart.

However, when he has open receivers downfield, he’s delivering the ball accurately at about a 58% clip. Milton was around 60% last on 21+ passes and was the best deep ball passer in the entire NCAA, so White, while the sample size is significantly smaller, has been effective in this area.

I charted 49 play action passes out of 128 attempts which is about 38% of passes. This is a pretty high number and would probably rank as the highest in the NFL. They’ve been successful on 30 (61%) of these. Everyone knows about Memphis two-back attack in the run game and it helps out their passing game a ton. They average 10.89 yards per attempt on play action passes, a significant gain.

Another way to get your QB easy completions and take advantage of a defense gearing up for the run, screen passes. Memphis has thrown 34 of them, successful on an incredible 21 (61.76%) of them, averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. These 34 passes have traveled a combine -68 yards behind the LOS.

I’ve charted 136 pass attempts (not including sacks) against UCF this season. They’ve faced a play action fake on 48 of them and have only allowed 20 to result in successful plays which definitely indicates on their ability to not bite on the run and stay disciplined.

They’ve only faced 7 screens in 4 games so a very small sample size with only 3 being successful. I can promise you the screen game will be a part of Memphis’ gameplan this week.

I mentioned before the involvement of Dykes and Magnifico in the passing game. Against UConn, UCF allowed 6 successful plays on 9 tight end targets.  Since, they’ve only allowed 4 on 16 targets. Definitely an area that has been dominant after that UConn game.

Memphis really only has one true starting WR. Damonte Coxie plays significantly more WR snaps than the other handful of guys who will rotate. Coxie is a really good receiver. He has 40 targets, by far the most on Memphis.

His average depth of target is 10.75 yards. He has 26 catches (65% catch rate), but only 18 successful plays. They definitely try to get him the ball downfield, but he will be targeted all over the place, and frequently.

Get Memphis in Obvious Passing Situations:

Alright, this is my final point, and the by far the biggest key to the game in my opinion.

Now, it sounds obvious, but if you look at the data I’m about to show you, you might actually think I’m on to something for once.

Early down success (1st and 2nd down) is something I’m high on. It’s key to being a good football team. That is exponentially true with Memphis.

As you can see, they are very good in this category. High success rates, high YPC and YPA. I don’t include sacks in passes, that is why the numbers won’t add up.

Now, when you look at Memphis on third down:

It’s a whole different story.

They only convert at a 44% clip on third down, nowhere near UCF’s 59%.

It’s in large part to getting behind the chains. They’ve only ran the ball on 3rd down 7 times and running is their strong suit. On those 7 rushes, their average yards to gain is 4, which includes one 12 ytg situation, so it is actually lower.

Now, on the 35 passes, their average YTG is 9.91 (obvious passing situation). They’ve only been successful on 16 of those (45%). They’ve also been sacked or had an unsuccessful scramble 5 times. So on 40 third down dropbacks, they are only hitting at a 40% success rate.

So how does UCF’s defense do in these situations?

On 1st and 2nd down, their numbers are incredible. As good as Memphis was, UCFs defense is even better. I would also argue the offenses that UCF has played are significantly better than the defenses Memphis has faced.

If UCF can hold even moderately true to these numbers on Saturday, Memphis will have no chance.

UCF’s defense on third down? Great. On 42 dropbacks, they’ve forced 7 scrambles and have one sack. On 34 passes, they’ve only allowed 12 successful plays (35%), amazing. UCF can feast defensively on third downs here, but the key will be forcing Memphis into these situations which UCF has been able to do their opponents early on.

The final thing I looked at in this category was how Memphis played when they were down by two scores or less in the second half. I consider these still situations where you the game is in reach, and you don’t have to abandon the run and your strengths.

On 37 plays in this type of situation, they’ve thrown a pass 62% of the time, clearly out of their comfort zone and it shows with their 30% success rate.

If UCF gets up early it’s going to be hard for Memphis to play catchup without Ferguson and Miller like they were able to in the AAC championship.

Offensive Line:

I forgot to talk about this, but it will be quick. Memphis’ O’Line is not very good, despite their crazy ability to run the football. It shows how good Henderson truly is.

They’ve allowed a run disruption/hurry/knockdown/sack on 40 of 250 plays which is probably a little lenient. On those 40 plays, only 4 have been successful. Without a mobile QB, it makes it hard when you allow so many pressures and a run disruption always will make it difficult no matter who is running the ball.

UCF has a run disruption/hurry/knockdown/sack on 89 of 280 defensive plays against FBS teams. Advantage UCF again.

Summary:

Going on the road in college football is always difficult no matter who the opponent is. Memphis is in a big revenge spot here and after the way their season started, this is pretty much their super bowl so expect all the tricks and an all out effort from Memphis.

UCF is going to put up points. They’ve scored 30+ in 18 straight and there is just no reason to think Memphis who allowed 40 to Tulane and 35 to South Alabama will be the team to stop that streak.

So for Memphis, they need to be able to score with UCF.

In order to do that, I think they need to run Henderson and Taylor to the outside and often. Make UCF match up against two tight end sets as much as possible and force them to tackle in space. It is the one weakness this team has shown throughout the season.

Memphis just can’t afford to be put in obvious passing situations. UCF’s secondary is by far the best Memphis will have faced, and they struggled mightily in these situations in their other games, so there is no reason to expect that to change here.

Brady White has shown he is a very accurate QB and thrives in the PA and Screen game, but that is all taken away when the defense is expecting pass.

 

Breaking Down UCF’s Offense Vs. SMU Using Analytics: Will they ever Play to their Strengths?

UCF won their 18th straight over the weekend as they beat SMU 48-20.

While 48 points really jumps out at you, I don’t think the offense played particularly well and it’s been the same reasons for the past couple of weeks, for the most part.

However, this team has still been putting up crazy numbers, so when (if) they ever kind of play to their strengths more often than they don’t it will be interesting to see how many points they can put up.

They also have not really faced a respectable defense yet and honestly may not play one until the bowl game.

I’m not going to go too in depth as I’ll have more season total data when I preview the Memphis game in a couple of days. I’m also not going to talk about the defense against SMU, they were really, really good so we’ll leave it at that.

McKenzie Milton:

Now the third straight (fourth if you include SC St.) where Milton’s accuracy numbers just are not very good again. I keep saying I think he’ll get back into the rhythm he was in last season, but every week it doesn’t happen, I start to think it is more a product of Heupel’s offense than Milton’s issue.

I have some theories and after the Memphis game, with 4 FBS games of data, I want to compare it to last season to see where the major differences are.

However, this week he was a lot better throwing the ball downfield which is definitely a positive.

Milton’s legs had been a major plus on designed runs so far, but he didn’t have a single designed run this week for some reason. I know after he got hurt it would’ve been playing with fire, but that was still essentially 1 half of football without one.

Milton missed 4 open receivers this week (for me to consider this you have to be very open) which is a couple lower than last week, but these are throws he needs to make. Most of them would go for big gains.

Now, that being said, it is extremely difficult to be consistently accurate when you’re under pressure every single time you drop back.

SMU blitzed on 22 of 39 dropbacks, an extremely high rate and UCF’s line just couldn’t handle it.

Milton was also pressure on 7 of the plays where SMU didn’t blitz. So on 29 of his 39 drop backs, he was under some sort of pressure. This is against a not so great defense too.

A lot of people may look at the number of sacks allowed and be like “well the O-Line has been great in Pass Pro”, but Milton makes up for so much of the poor O-Line play because of his mobility and creativity.

It has been a lot of the same culprits all season and with so much depth at the line IMO, I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of the “2’s” get a shot. It’s just simply not easy to have a successful downfield passing game with constant pressure.

Personnel:

This was upsetting to me. Snelson came back and looked great, but it also led to a crazy amount “11” personnel usage. Even in the prior games with Snelson playing, Heupel mixed it up a lot, however against SMU, he went back to his old Missouri tricks.

 70 out of 81 plays in “11” personnel. Once again it produced under a 50% success rate, while 2 running backs on the field was once again easily over 50%. A lot smaller sample size this week though.

The good news here is, Otis Anderson got more running back snaps, the bad news is, Otis Anderson got a heck of a lot fewer total snaps.

Runnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Game:

New game, same old question from me.

For some strange reason, Heupel feels the need to force AK more carries than necessary. He had some huge runs in this one and we saw what makes him so important to this team, and that’s why he needs his touches. He is still an amazing football player with world speed, but that doesn’t mean he’s an every down between the tackles guy.

He hasn’t been bad between the tackles, it’s more of it’s too much. Quality over Quantity.

Now, if UCF didn’t have the talent behind him, I would be fine with his production.

Against SMU, he had 20 carries, 8 of them were successful, not great. 14 of his carries went for 5 yards or less and he averaged under 1 ypc after contact.

Otis, Taj, and McRae had 15 combined carries and produced at an 80% success rate. It’s just hard to argue against the numbers.

Taj had 2.2 yards after contact per rush.

McRae had 3.25 and forced 3 missed tackles on 4 carries.

Otis, was well, perfect. 6 for 6, 9 yards per carry before contact and 3.5 after contact. He forced 3 missed tackles on 6 carries.

If I have to go out on the field and hand Otis the ball myself for him to get more carries, I might have to do it. I still have about 3 years of eligibility left.

Quarter Breakdown:

So scrolled across this tweet during the game and wanted to investigate a little. I didn’t go crazy, but just did some basic research.

Now, against SMU the offense did look a lot worse in the 2q than 1st, but I think a lot of that gets judged off of just points.

I filtered out every play, by quarter, for the first 3 quarters for the FAU, Pitt, and SMU games and combined them together.

I left out the 4th quarter because every game has been over by then, thus gameplans and what not kind of get aborted.

First think that jumps out at me, is the consistency. Almost the same run/pass ratio per quarter and almost identical plays ran each quarter.

The second quarter statistically speaking, has been the worst. With a larger sample size the numbers could separate themselves a little more.

If you look at the second quarter, UCF actually has the high yard per carry, but the lowest rushing success rate. They also have by far the lowest yards per pass attempt.

With a high YPC and a low success rate, it leads me to believe they are getting put in longer down and distances in which they are running the ball in.

They also only have 63 yards after the catch on their competitions in the second quarter. This shows that defenses kind of have great coverage and may be able to anticipate UCF’s pass play designs a little bit more after seeing them for a quarter.

Definitely will be something I can look more into with more data throughout the season, but it is something interesting to look at.

The yards per attempt difference in the second quarter is the main thing that jumps out as the difference between the other two quarters, but that’s about it.

 

After Beating Pitt, I used Analytics to show why UCF’s offense can be so much better and how the Defense Dominated

UCF posted their 17th straight win on Saturday when they defeated Pitt to improve to 4-0 on the season.

The teams performance almost flip flopped this week, as the defense tackled great and played lights out, while the offense struggled a bit. Yes, they put up 45 points, but they played a Pitt defense who let up 38 to a abysmal North Carolina team. If you break the offense down a per play basis (which I did) you’ll see that compared to the UConn and FAU performances, they did not perform well.

It’s not a bad thing to put up 45 points and have your QB be the national player of the week, when you don’t play anywhere close to your capability, but to beat the better AAC opponents and potentially a NY6 opponent, you need to be better overall because those teams aren’t committing dumb penalties and blowing as many assignments.

McKenzie Milton:

Milton was the Walter Camp offensive player of the week this week which is crazy considering he played his worst game of the season against an FBS opponent.

Don’t get me wrong, Milton still played great, but he could have put up video game numbers with the amount of open receivers he missed.

Milton struggled throwing deep against SC St and was 0-2 against FAU on such passes. Against Pitt, he struggled again. It is a little uncharacteristic as he was 39/60 last season on 21+ yard attempts. He also struggled with his short passing and intermediate against Pitt. The only area you can look at and say he was pretty good was the deep intermediate range.

Milton also didn’t throw an interceptable pass (penalties aren’t counted) which is a positive. He completed 18/34 passes and that’s exactly what his accuracy was so no drops by receivers.

However, Milton missed 6 open receivers and I only mark a receiver as open if there is room for error on the pass and it can still be completed, so 6 is a good amount.

4 of them came on deep passes, all which would have gone for touchdowns. Exactly why I said he could’ve put up video game numbers. With the accuracy numbers he had last season, there’s no reason to panic as 5 of the 6 missed open receivers were to Tre Nixon and Otis Anderson, guys who he wasn’t throwing to last season so hopefully chemistry will come as the season advances. I know Otis did catch passes last season, but he is not someone who Milton was continuously throwing too.

Milton also struggled against the blitz, an area he had been making the opponent this season.

The O-Line has not been great and it wasn’t against Pitt.

UCF allowed 9 pressures on pass plays.

Jake Brown allowed 4 of them, he has been a constant victim this season. After Jordan Johnson had a poor game last week, he allowed another 2 hurries against Pitt. Colubiale has picked it up on the receiving end, but his blocking continues to be suspect as he allowed another 2 hurries.

Brown also let up 2 run disruptions and Schneider for the first time this season allowed a couple as well.

It seems to be the same culprits on the O-Line and with UCF’s depth there, it would great to see even more rotation then they already have.

Milton’s ability to run the ball has been a major factor this season. Pitt defended the read option and Speed option pretty well, but Milton was extremely effective on QB draws and scrambles. Forcing 4 missed tackles on 9 rushes isn’t too bad for a QB, either. The unpredictability of QB draws, makes it a dangerous play for this offense.

Milton didn’t have his best game and if he can get back to his old self on deep passes, it will really set this offense up for major success. This receiver core continues to get open down field and I don’t expect that change.

Personnel:

I finally got my wish. UCF ran more plays out of “21” personnel than “11”. It didn’t result in what I expected, but it was still more effective than “11”.

Snelson being out, really affects the personnel grouping Heupel can put on the field, but he’s expected back this week so that will change.

It’s important to note that Otis didn’t line up as a RB a single snap, which to me is just dumb and kind of diminishes the “21” personnel grouping.

A quick reminder that he was the best rusher on the team last season and was also very good up the middle, an area Heupel loves to run.

Run Game:

Adrian Killins once again received the most carries and was once again the worst rusher. Look, I really like Killins, but he’s just not being used right and I’ve been saying it for a while now.

However, before I post rushing stats, maybe Heupel learned that getting the ball to AK in space can work. AK was targeted twice out of the backfield, he had 135 yards on those plays with 113 of them coming after the catch. When you throw the ball to a RB, out of the backfield, they are normally covered by a LB, advantage Killins.

Against UConn, AK was targeted twice out of the backfield. He had 44 yards on those two receptions. He’s 5 for 5 in terms of success rate on his targets (not including SC St). That is good in my opinion. 179 yards on 4 receptions out of the backfield, actually good.

Ok, back to the run game.

Killins numbers just are pretty ugly. 0 missed tackles forced on 12 carries, a 41.67% success rate, and only .92 yards after contact. Pitt was probably the most physical team UCF has played and it shows here.

Taj, I’ve been extremely high on. He was only successful on 2 of his 5 attempts, but absolutely bullied Pitt with 4.4 yards after contact.

McRae got double digit carries and in terms of success rate outperformed AK and Taj. He forced the most missed tackles out of all RB’s and did well, both before and after contact.

Bentavious (hope I spelled that right) got all 7 carries with the reserves, but he still looked great and it would be interesting to see what he can do with the 1’s.

My point on the run game continues to stay the same, but Otis needs some carries and hopefully that him getting none was just a result of Snelson being out.

With Milton at QB, UCF ran 71 plays. They were successful on 34 of them. That’s a 47.79% rate which is not very good. Against FAU and UConn they were in the mid 60’s.

The bright side here is they still scored 45 points so when the players and coaches say the offense can get better, it’s extremely true.

Defense:

It’s obvious the defense played excellent as the starters shut out the Pitt offense. Pitt ran 54 plays against UCF’s starters. UCF held them to a 40.74% success rate. Just absolutely incredible.

Where UCF struggled against FAU was on outside rush attempts. Pitt ran the ball 16 times to the left end or right end and were only successful on 7 of them. However, they were over 50% successful when the ball carrier was a running back, so there is still room for improvement in this area.

One thing Pitt did, was throw a bunch of different personnel groupings on the field. This is good because Memphis likes to do the same.

One negative thing that jumps out here is UCF’s ability to defend the run against multiple tight ends. In “12” and “13” personnel, Pitt was successful on 9 of 12 rushes.

Everywhere else, UCF was really, really good.

Tackling:

I think this is what everyone knows UCF has been awful at this season. 27 missed tackles against both FAU and UConn, wasn’t going to cut it.

The starters only missed 6 tackles on 54 plays for an extra 33 yards. A major improvement from the first couple of weeks. No player missed more than one tackle either.

Pressure:

UCF got pressure or a run disruption on 19 of Pitt’s 58 plays. On those 19 plays, Pitt only had one successful play. Also, on those 19 plays, UCF didn’t blitz once. Getting pressure without blitzing is a major recipe for success.

An abundance of players contributed in this area.

Coverage:

17 of Pitt’s pass attempts were thrown at a defensive target, only 7 were completed and only 3 were successful. Absolute dominance.

Brandon Moore was only thrown at once and once again he was in better position to make the catch than the receiver. He has dropped about 3 interceptions the last two games on like 4 defensive targets. It sucks that he’s dropping them, but that is insanely good. He basically is taking his receiver out of every play.

Everyone was just really good that there’s no point of going through all the numbers. The linebackers, safeties, slot corners, no one was bad in coverage.

I feel like it is only a matter of time before Milton starts to click on some of these deep balls and once he does, watch out. There are a couple of changes I’ve continuously pointed out on offense that I think would benefit UCF, but apparently Heupel and I don’t see eye to eye.

The coverage has been excellent defensively all season. Against Pitt, UCF got a ton of pressure without blitzing, something I think a lot of people were concerned about under Randy Shannon.

Defending the run against multiple tight ends will be something to look at going forward, but then again, most teams don’t use two tight ends in college anymore.

Setting the edge on outside runs needs to improve especially before the Memphis game because Darrell Henderson is very, very good.

 

Using Analytics to Look at How UCF’s Offense Dominated FAU and Despite Poor Tackling, the Defense Showed a lot of Promise

UCF extended their winning streak to 16 games while improving to 3-0 in 2018 with a convincing win over Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic. There were a lot of positives in this game and not many negatives, but we’ll take a look at everything using analytics and advanced stats from the game.

Josh Heupel now has 3 games under his belt and there are certainly some things that I wish he’d use more of on the offensive end, but he has impressed me thus far in terms of using his personnel wisely after what I saw him do at Missouri which had me nervous heading into the season.

It’s also nice having one of the best quarterbacks in the country in McKenzie Milton and we’ll jump into his numbers right away.

Now, it’s very clear Heupel limited Milton against SC State and really didn’t want him doing much, which makes me just question why not play Darriel Mack and get him some reps with the 1’s.

Milton performed nicely against FAU. It wasn’t his best game throwing the football, but it certainly wasn’t a bad one.

Milton threw 30 balls, not including passes thrown away. 23 of them were accurate passes. He only took 2 deep shots this week, which is a little less than normal, for both this season as well as his downfield passes from last season. One pass was completed and the other he missed an open receiver, but I’ll take 1 out of 2 deep ball completions any day of the week.

Where Milton really excelled was on intermediate passes. Balls thrown 11-20 yards down field, he was 9/12 in terms of accuracy. Just an overall solid game for McKenzie.

I mentioned in my preview, that UCF needed take advantage of FAU’s defense when they blitz. Well, UCF did just that.

Milton faced 7 blitz’ and completed 5 passes, all for successful plays.

However, Milton struggled when he faced pressure that came from 3 or 4 man rushes. FAU kind of ran a QB contain with the front 3/4 and played zone with the remaining 7/8 guys. Milton struggled here when he had to hold onto the ball longer than he wanted to.

He only completed one pass in the above situation on 7 pass attempts. He did have a successful scramble on top of that one completion, but this is definitely something to look at going forward.

Milton faced a decent amount of pressure and there were a few run disruptions allowed.

There were 11 plays the above occurred. Jordan Johnson uncharacteristically allowed 6 of them. He’s been amazing for this O-Line so I’m going to chalk this up as a down game for the Center. With his attitude and confidence I don’t think it is a concern.

Adrian Killins also allowed 2 pressures while pass blocking. Tyler Hudanick had 2 allowed as well and Wyatt Miller and Jake Brown each had 1.

The thing Heupel didn’t allow Milton to do against SC St was use his legs. I think Milton’s running ability is the single most dangerous weapon for the offense and we saw this against Auburn, the best team UCF has played during their 16 game win streak.

I broke down Milton’s rushes by QB draws, Read Options, and scrambles.

He had 10 designed runs. 8 of them were successful plays and he gained over 7 YPC. He also is extremely good at making people miss. He forced 5 missed tackles on those 10 attempts and that’s including rushes where he gives himself up early to avoid a hit.

It was nice to see Milton allowed to be Milton again and the offensive production certainly showed it.

Personnel Usage:

This is something I’ll be anxious to see every single game. If you have read anything I’ve wrote about UCF heading into this season, personnel grouping was my biggest concern. Heupel is almost there, but he just needs to flip his numbers a little more.

“11” personnel is still his most used, but he is starting to get out of his comfort zone and I’m loving it.

Otis Anderson was on the field for every snap run in either “20” or “21” personnel. UCF had a 71.88% success rate on those plays. That is… well, pretty damn good. Otis might not be getting the touches that he wants, or that I think he should get, but his impact on the game is much larger than only when he has the ball in his hands.

UCF ran “10” personnel 5 times. These 5 plays, Marlon Williams was on the field in my ideal Marlon Williams should be UCF’s tight end situation. All 5 of these plays were successful and Marlon himself continued his outstanding production for UCF turning both his targets into successful plays and forcing a missed tackle to get in the endzone.

At times, it’s almost like some of the stuff that I say, makes sense. Crazy world.

Run Game:

A lot of people are unhappy with the run game and they’re just wrong to put it nicely.

Runs up the middle were successful 12 out of 18 times, good for a 66.67% success rate. AK, although I don’t agree with him being a bell cow, had a 54% success rate up the middle.

McGowan and McRae need to get more carries it’s that simple. They both have been beasts all season. Against FAU, TAJ was 7 for 7 on his rushes while gaining 3 ypc after contact.

McRae was 5 for 7 in terms of successful runs on his attempts.

The discrepancy in carries does not equate to the production in the backfield and I hope that is something changed moving forward.

Early Down Success:

This goes along with my point that people who are saying the runs up the middle aren’t working. As shown above, almost all of UCF’s rushes are up the middle.

UCF ran 67 plays on 1st or 2nd down. They ran the ball on 39 of those plays. 29 of them were successful and they averaged 7 yards per carry. That is good, not bad. Now, they were 18/28 on pass attempts on early downs as well and actually gained more yards per attempts through the air than on the ground.

UCF is rushing at such a high success rate and averaging an exceptional amount of yards per carry, people diminishing this are crazy.

The better part about averaging 7 ypc here, is that UCF didn’t even have any crazy long rushes to skew the average, it is a true average.

It was nice to see Michael Colubiale replicate what he did last season in his limited action. He did have a drop, but it wouldn’t have resulted in a successful play either way.

He had 6 successful plays on his 8 targets. His 2 that were unsuccessful were when he was lined up as a true tight end. His 6 successful targets were when he was split out wide. I think this is something important to note and focus on as we see how his role grows through the season.

Overall, the offense was very good and Heupel’s clock management in the 4th quarter was outstanding.

The few things I’d like to see different are more Marlon Williams in “10” or “20” personnel, more plays run out of “20” and “21” personnel than “11” and “12”, and getting Taj and McRae more involved in the run game.

Defense:

Besides the missed tackles, I actually think the defense played really good. FAU was only successful on 34 of their 75 plays (45.33%). Now look at the success rates I just posted for UCF’s offense and tell me that isn’t good.

Tackling:

Tackling was bad against UConn, tackling was really bad against FAU. I actually charted the same exact amount of missed tackles in both games, but FAU had 11 less plays of a sample size. FAU also turned their forced missed tackles into 80 yards more than UConn.

207 extra yards on 27 missed tackles just can’t happen. Those 34 successful plays FAU had could’ve easily been cut down to 25. I get it, Devin Singletary is really good, I’ve done plenty of charting on him and know more than anyone what he can do. He wasn’t the only one making guys miss though so that is not an excuse.

Run Defense:

FAU dominated UCF when they ran to the outside. 20 for 34 successful plays on outside rushes. Compared to all of FAU’s other plays, that is crazy high.UCF did well against the run with 7 in the box and didn’t do horrible with 6. Against better passing teams, 6 in the box is going to have to get the job done.

Pass Defense:

UCF was incredible in coverage. Brandon Moore is turning himself into the next Mike Hughes, minus the hands. Moore dropped two interceptions against FAU, but that’s alright.

Moore was targeted 3 times. He allowed 1 catch. It went for -1 yard. That should be a -.33 yards per target not a positive. His other two targets, he dropped an interception. This is a guy who is on the field for every pass.

Along with Moore, Clarke is on the field ever pass as well. He did pretty good too. 2 catches on 4 targets that went for a total of 20 yards, but he didn’t allow any yards after the catch.

Safety play in coverage has been great all season and it was again despite a couple of deep balls on Richie Grant, but that will happen against speedsters like Durante and Willie Wright.

Now, the linebackers in coverage were sensational. They were targeted 6 times, didn’t allow a single catch and recorded 3 interceptions. You can’t get better than that.

The limited yards after catch allowed is something that stands out to me and that is a major positive.

Defensive Pressure

In my preview I said UCF had to get pressure without blitzing. They did so 9 times. Those 9 passes, 3 interceptions, 5 incompletions, and 1 completion. UCF only blitzed 3 times and based on those numbers, you can see why. When you have coverage as good as UCF has, you don’t need to blitz.

This was a great performance by UCF. I don’t think the 36 points allowed really shows how good the defense played. They need to continue to improve their tackling and work on forcing outside rushes inside, and this defense will be in some serious business.

I’m looking forward to UCF putting up back to back positive showings on both sides of the ball in this Pitt game. Many people are looking forward to it and I think UCF should dominate both sides of the ball in this one.

The FAU performance showed a lot of promise and people who don’t think so, need to look at some of the real numbers. Box scores never tell the true story.

Previewing the UCF vs. FAU Showdown Using Analytics and Advanced Stats

Friday night, FAU heads to Orlando to face UCF in a matchup between two of the most exciting offenses in the country. Lane Kiffin is one of the best offensive minds in college football and he’s proved that with the turn around he’s produced at FAU. On the other hand, UCF hasn’t lost in 15 straight games and in those 15 games, they’ve scored over 30 points.

Two of the best players in the country will be future by each team as well. Devin Singletary led the NCAA in rushing TD’s last season and McKenzie Milton finished 8th in the Heisman race so if you like offense, this will be a great game to watch.

I broke down each teams offense and what each team needs to do to win using analytics and advanced stats from both this season and last season.

For FAU, I charted 8 offensive games from last season and all 3 from this season (only the first 3 quarters in Oklahoma and Bethune Cookman games the scoring differential in both). I charted their defense against Kyler Murray’s offensive plays and the first half of the Bethune Cookman game (I wanted to do the third quarter, but JetBlue’s wifi let me down. I didn’t chart the defense vs. Air Force because they run the triple option.

For UCF, I charted 10 games from last season, Mizzouri’s 10 games from last season, and the offense in the first two games this season. I only charted the defense for the UConn game because SC State is one of the worst FCS offenses so those stats would skew data.

FAU Offense Vs. UCF Defense:

FAU lost Jason Driskel after last season. This season Kiffin went with Chris Robison an Oklahoma transfer to lead the offense. In my FAU season preview, I mentioned that I thought Robison would be an upgrade over Driskel. My thought process behind this was, Driskel couldn’t throw the ball downfield. Look at his charting from 2017.

He was just 17/48 in throwing catchable passes on balls traveling 11 or more yards in the air. FAU’s offense was still able to be succeed because of Kiffin’s creativity in the short passing game which has continued over to this season.

In just 3 games, not even 12 quarters, Robison has attempted 37 passes traveling over 11+ yards. He’s thrown an accurate ball 18 times on those 37 attempts. Not amazing, but not terrible, definitely an improvement over Driskel. If you take out the Oklahoma game, Robison’s first ever college start against his old school and arguably the best team in the country, he’s 14/25, good for a 56% accuracy rate. He is only getting better every game and is a QB you have to worry about.

UCF’s defense faced 10 passes on balls that traveled over 10 yards. 40% of them resulted in successful plays for UConn’s offense, but the receiver was open on 60% of them. Against these 10 plays, UCF also had an INT. Nevelle Clarke faced 3 of these targets, 2 of them were successful. Look for Robison to try and take advantage of who Clarke is matched up on. Brandon Moore was lock down in the season opener and shut down his two deep ball targets. I expect Robison to try and avoid Moore as much as possible.

FAU also really likes to use the Tight end in the pass game and they have a really good one in Harrison Bryant.

Last season he caught 18 of 23 charted targets and produced a 73% success rate.

So far in 2018, Bryant has caught 9 of 12 targets and has been successful on 8 of those plays. He’s gained 96 yards after receptions with 38 of them coming after contact.

Against UConn’s tight ends UCF’s defense allowed 7 completions on 9 targets with 6 of the 9 resulting in successful plays.

Look for Harrison Bryant to have himself a game against the Knights defense as Kiffin loves to get him involved and it looks like a favorable matchup.

Kiffin’s offense has been so successful in the short passing game. He loves the jet sweep pass which I’ll get into in a sec, but he also loves to run a play action fake with a slot receiver or tight end coming across the LOS to run a flat route right at or behind the LOS. I mention this because both UConn and SC St ran this play numerous time against UCF and off the top of my head I don’t believe they stopped it once.

Onto the jet sweep pass, or a pop pass, whatever you want to call it. It’s really just a glorified run play.

FAU has run 99 designed pass plays this season that I’ve charted, 13 of them have been a jet sweep pass. That’s a pretty significant amount in my opinion. However only 6 of them have been successful.

All 13 have been thrown to their 2 play making receivers, Willie Wright and Jovon Durante. Willie Wright is one of my favorite players in college football and you can read about why in my FAU preview. Durante is new to Kiffin’s offense this season, but he has quickly become the focal point.

He has a cool 28 targets in 3 games. Converting 17 of his 21 catches into successful plays. He has also been open 4 times on incompletions where Robison was inaccurate.

Durante has 142 YAC and has forced 7 missed tackles resulting in an extra 47 yards of offense. Tackling is something I’ll get into in a little.

He is also an outstanding deep threat. He has been targeted on balls 21+ yards down field 6 times and he beat his defender on all 6. Robison only connected with him 3 times, but you better keep a safety over the top, which is something Richie Grant and Kyle Gibson did a great job of against SC State.

Devin Singletary is one of the best RB’s in the country and UCF is going to need to contain him. Last season, Singletary forced a missed tackle every other rush. On his 54 carries this season that I’ve charted, he has forced 30!! That’s good for an extra 131 yards rushing. He is also averaging right around 2.0 yards after contact.

As you can see, FAU’s offense is very diverse. The easy thing to do as a defense is simply say let’s focus on stopping the run. It sounds easy, but it’s not because Singletary can beat you 1 on 3 and last season he actually got better when there were more people in the box.

Trying to stop the run, sets up a defense to be vulnerable against play action. FAU uses play action on half of their passing plays. On the 43 passes that involved a PA fake, FAU threw 23 successful passes. Well over 50%.

Against UConn, UCF faced a play action pass 15 times, allowing 9 completions for 110 yards. Good for 7.33 yards per attempt which is a pretty good amount.

For UCF’s defense, they have to be able to get pressure without blitzing. It’s happened only 7 times to FAU this season and only 1 of them have resulted in a successful play. The 8 times they faced pressure on a blitz, they’ve turned 6 of them into successful plays. UCF didn’t blitz much vs. UConn and Shannon is known not to Blitz much. This is a good start, but they need to create pressure.

An area UCF can look to attack to generate pressure is the left side of the line. On 24 plays where FAU allowed a run disruption or QB hurry, 17 of them have been allowed by the C, LG, and LT.

Red Zone scoring is going to be huge in this one. Field goals are not going to cut it and should be looked at as turnovers with a participation trophy. Just off watching the games, FAU struggled to score TD’s in the red zone. Now I’m going to look at the data and see if it’s true.

They’ve run 30 plays in the red zone. 14 have been successful, not great considering how good their offense is outside of the red zone. They are 9 of 19 in terms of success rate on rushes and 5 of 11 on passes. They just need to be better on Friday.

UCF only faced 10 red zone plays vs. UConn and allowed a 50% success rate (3 rushes, 2 passes). There is no glaring advantage to either side here as the data is limited with only a few games played by each team, but it is definitely going to be a major factor in the result of this game.

The biggest thing I’m looking at is tackling. Against UConn, UCF allowed 127 yards on 28 missed tackles. I’ve mentioned Durante’s and Singletary’s ability to force missed tackles, Willie Wright is also in a category with them. If UCF struggles to tackle, it could be a long Knight (pun intended) for UCF.

Summary FAU O vs. UCF D:

-Attack Nevelle Clarke downfield, stay away from Brandon Moore.

-If I was UCF, I’d shadow Durante with Moore or always leave a safety over the top.

-Get Harrison Bryant involved as much as possible. Bryant is really good and UCF struggled against Tight Ends vs. UConn.

-Don’t allow short passes to turn into big plays. FAU loves jet sweep passes, don’t allow these to turn into big plays when they are an opportunity to put the offense behind the chains.

-Don’t bite on play action.

-Get pressure without blitzing.

-Tackle (obvious, but true.)

-Win the battle of the red zone.

UCF Offense vs. FAU defense:

I don’t really know much about UCF’s offense yet. I really would’ve liked to see the how they did against UNC, but well we didn’t. SC St is a horrible FCS school and UConn has allowed over 9.5 yards per PLAY this season so it’s really hard to get a grasp on it. Milton looked unreal week 1 and seemed to overlook SC St week 2.

If there is one thing for sure with the offense, the rushing attack is legit. I’m going to go off this more of FAU’s defense than UCF’s offense because I’m a little more confident in that.

FAU’s defense is an interesting one. They are really good, but Oklahoma lit them up. Now, Kyler Murray is the best QB in the country and is better than Baker Mayfield and if you want to argue that, you’re wrong. CeeDee Lamb and Marquies Brown are two of the best receivers in the country and Rodney Anderson was one of the best RB’s in the country before he got hurt. It’ s impossible to judge FAU’s defense off that one game and it just wouldn’t be fair.

Early down rushing is something I think UCF needs to do more of.

Against SC State, UCF was 14 for 25 on rushing attempts on first and second down. They produced 6.76 YPC on these attempts. Against UConn, they had 29 such attempts, 20!!!! Of them were successful and produced 8.76 YPC. Just insane numbers. Look, Milton is one of the best QB’s in the country, but that doesn’t mean throwing the ball every play is the right move. Running early, allows for short yard 3rd downs and a more tired defense. When you run as successful as UCF has been, it sets you up for play action passing. Milton completed 12 of his 18 PA passes for 13.58 yards per attempt vs UConn and 18 of 34 for 12.33 yards per attempt against SC State. UCF needs to use the run game more than they have been.

FAU has faced 11 play action passes that I’ve charted, 7 resulted in successful plays.

Another thing UCF needs to get back to this week is allowing Milton to use his feet. FAU has faced 5 QB rushes/scrambles allowing an 80% success rate and 9.8 YPC.

Last season, Milton led the nation in deep passing, this season, he was incredible against UConn and awful against SC State in this category. Well, he has a chance to get back on track as FAU has allowed a 75% success rate on deep passes. Kyler Murray and his receivers are a slightly above core than what UCF has, but I’d take Milton to Nixon/Snelson/Davis over a lot of groups in the country.

Let’s now look at FAU’s D-backs and kind of see who UCF should throw at. I feel bad and this is poor on my part for not using names, but I charted just using numbers and I’m on the plane without WiFi so I can’t look them up.

#3 has been thrown at 8 times, only 3 have been completed. He’s allowed 2,15,0 yards before contact, and 0,0,3 yards after contact on those receptions. 6 of these targets came 10 or more yards down field.

#9 has been targeted 3 times and all 3 have been successful.

#23 has been targeted twice on passes over 20 yards, both were completed. Definitely a guy to look at attacking down the field for Milton.

FAU has blitzed 16 of the 61 plays I charted, they have allowed 10 successful plays on those.

UCF has faced 9 blitzes on pass plays, turning 5 of those into successful plays. 4 completed passes on 8 attempts averaging about 10 yards per attempt. Milton has also scrambled once for 7 yards against the blitz.

FAU seems to be an aggressive defense blitzing over 25% of plays and it’s something UCF should be able to take advantage of with a strong offensive line and a mobile quarterback who is extremely good at throwing on the run and improvising.

I mentioned UCF had a problem with missing tackles and FAU is no different. On 61 plays, FAU missed 27 tackles accounting for 218 yards of offense. Oklahoma has elite skill players, but UCF’s skill players aren’t too far behind in terms of talent.

Tackling for both teams is going to be a major thing to watch in this one.

It’s so hard to really break down UCF’s offense under Heupel and I wish this game was later in the season so I had some more data because I’m really looking forward to this game. I also think UCF could have benefited from getting more game reps and comfortability in with the new offense.

It should be an extremely entertaining game Friday night. Both offenses have ways to attack these defenses, we’ll see which Coach did their homework this week.

My Offensive Takeaways from the SC State Game and Why Marlon Williams needs to be UCF’s Tight End

UCF’s offense did not look very good on Saturday against FCS opponent, South Carolina State. The starters still put up 38 points, but it wasn’t very pretty. After a nearly flawless performance in Josh Heupel’s debut, Saturday’s performance raised some question marks.

A lot of this blame has been put on McKenzie Milton. It was probably the hardest game to watch him play since his freshman season and the numbers showed that. However, I don’t think there’s reason to panic with Milton, more so the offense and the way it’s run.

Milton has earned the right to be the player that the blame will be placed on the offense in poor showings by turning himself into one of the best quarterbacks in the country. This is a testament to how good he is. To me, he simply, just wasn’t on his game.

Looking at his accuracy numbers, it’s not pretty at all. If you look at the UConn numbers posted in UConn recap article and look at the 2017 numbers, this is far from close to any of his past performances.

If you look at his raw stats, you’ll see he had more competitions than accurate passes which is never a good thing.

Milton was also the best deep ball passers in college last season. Saturday, he didn’t throw an accurate deep ball and 3 of the 6(!!) interceptable passes he threw were on balls traveling over 21 yards in the air.

Based on what we’ve seen from Milton the last 14 games, you can’t look two much into this performance especially in a tough game to get up for mentally.

However, there is one thing in the passing game I was interested in. Quick bubble screens to WR’s and short passes outside to WR’s are a staple of this offense, but SC State might have put on tape just how to stop this.

I looked at passes Milton threw from the right hash to the left numbers and vice versa that traveled 5 or less yards in the air. These are 5 yard throws, so naturally you think they should be easy competitions, but in college, the hashes are wider than the NFL and these passes are really traveling about 30 yards in the air.

South Carolina State’s D-backs were playing physical and not giving much space to UCF’s wide outs so the time it takes for a ball to travel that far, allows the DB’s to make a play.

The numbers here aren’t pretty. It’s an adjustment I think Heupel has to make based on gameflow on and how the defensive backs are playing. It’s a big part of his offense, but SC St just showed every opponent how you can defend this if you want.

The Run Game:

I think it’s pretty obvious that the rushing attack has been very successful so far this season. No matter who is running the ball, it’s working and like I mentioned preseason, running the ball up the middle is Heupel’s staple.

16 out of 30 rushing attempts up the middle and 62.50% of them were successful.

My question is, why isn’t the ball be running run more, especially on early downs. Milton dropped back to pass 42 times in 3 quarters against an FCS team in a game that was never even remotely close.

Milton had 7 less attempts against UConn in a conference game.

If you take a look at early down (1st and 2nd) success rate and play calling, you’ll agree with me.

UCF ran 61 plays on 1st and 2nd down, 32 of them successful. 25 of those plays were runs, with 14 of them successful, good for a 56% success rate which is excellent. Now 50% is still really good, but it’s not even close to 56%. Throw success rate out the door, well not really. If you look at the total YPC on rushes, UCF gained 6.76 yards per carry on plays run not on 3rd down.

Throwing the ball, they produced 6.59 yard per pass attempt. Still a good number, but when you are running the ball at a higher success rate and gaining more yards, why aren’t you doing it more?

Also, if you read my preseason comparison with Heupel’s offense last season, he ran the ball almost exactly 50% of the of the time. This is with a team that was trailing a decent amount of the time and had a QB who might be the first to go in the upcoming draft.

Now, there are NFL studies that show that running the ball doesn’t improve play action passing and I actually agree with that in the NFL, but I feel in college it does. With spread offenses and linebackers and safeties who aren’t as disciplined as NFL guys, I feel it has an effect.

Running the ball successfully forces defenses to bring more guys into the box, which opens up room for receivers downfield.

I left out stacked boxes because they were all goal-line plays. Against a 6 man box, UCF was really good at both running and throwing. When SC St tried to stop the run, they were able to, but UCF was able to still throw the ball decently.

If you break down those 14 passes, 8 of them went 10 yards or more in the air. 6 of them, the receiver was open. Milton only threw 4 of those 6 accurately, but the point is made that forcing teams to stop the run against an offense with this wide of splits, is going to allow for open receivers down field.

Now, back to play action. Of the 42 dropbacks, 34 involved some sort of play action. I’m not very good at math, but that equates to about 81% of pass attempts. If you’re not running the ball at all, play action is just wasting a little extra time for the QB to go through his reads and deliver the ball instead of creating passing lanes by moving the LB’s.

Marlon Williams:

The smartest thing Heupel could as a head coach is move Marlon Williams to tight end. Not necessarily a complete position change, but use him like a Jordan Akins. In fact, Williams is probably a better blocker than Akins was so it makes even more sense.

Look, every media member who wrote about Heupel’s offense at UCF said the tight end would be more involved. They couldn’t have been more wrong and I couldn’t have been more right. The few people that actually saw my article detailing how UCF’s offense will look can back me up on that and if not, it’s like the second article on this site.

Colubiale was great last season as a role playing tight end and 8 of his 11 targets were successful. Him coming back was big for the program, but he’s caught one pass in two games. He’s also allowed 2 pressures and 1 run disruption in terms of blocking. He just doesn’t fit into Heupel’s system as he did Frost’s.

Williams is a guy that I think is extremely underrated and is a very good player. Heupel’s idea of this was to use him in the run game. This has been very unproductive as Williams has gone nowhere on the few rushes he has.

Look at his receiving numbers last season. He had a 71% success rate and averaged the most yards after contact out of all UCF’s receivers/tight ends. Physicality and tight ends kind of go together the last time I checked.

With the addition of Tre Nixon, it kind of hurt Williams in terms of getting snaps this season. He’s caught 3 passes (not including the 4th quarter against SC St), 2 of them were successful. The unsuccessful one, he still forced 2 missed tackles and created 3 yards after contact. His catch against SC St went for 21 yards where he dragged the defender for 10 yards after contact.

This almost makes too much sense that it seems to easy of an idea.

Williams isn’t going to be a down grade when the tight end is not split out and he’s an upgrade as a receiver when the tight end is split out wide.

Would you rather have a safety on Williams or Colubiale if your Heuepel?

The defense played great, but that’s expected against an opponent that just can’t come close in matching physicality with you. I didn’t chart the defense because it will skew numbers and we’ll see if they improved for real against FAU.

Breaking Down UCF’s win over UConn Using Advanced Stats and Analytics

UCF kicked off their season last Thursday on the road with a 56-17 win versus UConn.  It was an extremely impressive debut for Josh Heupel. I broke down the game from an advance stats/analytics perspective.

It was nice to finally get to see Heupel’s offense in action and see what he was going to with the personnel overload he inherited at UCF. I had charted every Missouri play from 2017, in which Heupel used “11” personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WR) about 94% of the time. This was a major concern for me as UCF had a lot of success with multiple personnel’s in 2017, particularly with two running backs on the field.

Otis Anderson was the main reason for this. Success wise, and overall, he was UCF’s best RB in 2017 and he was also extremely successful as a pass catcher. I was worried he was strictly going to be playing in the slot this season and it was one of the main things I was looking at in the UConn game. Based on his touches/where he lined up, I charted Anderson as a running back.

The offense was extremely impressive and I’ll break down a couple things I liked. The defense on the other hand was not very good, despite letting up only 17 points.

Personnel:  

UCF just dominated UConn’s defense, so they were successful in any category you want to filter their plays into, but with 2 running backs on the field (Otis was in on all 14), they were successful on 12 of the 14. The 2 they weren’t, an inaccurate pass by Milton to open Snelson and a drop by Nixon. They easily could’ve been a perfect 14 for 14 with two RB’s  on the field.

This will be something I will definitely be keeping an eye on throughout the season and would love to see UCF play without a Tight End, but I highly doubt that happens because it makes too much sense.

The tight end is almost non-existent in Heupel’s offense, real journalists don’t know that because they just look at raw stats and see that Missouri’s tight end tied for the most touchdowns by a FBS tight end last season.

Colubiale/Hescock/Roberson were in on 77% of the snaps and saw one target.

McKenzie Milton is Still Very Good:

I was really excited to watch Milton get back on the field. He was tremendous last season and got the recognition he deserved in the offseason, but he also put in a ton of work this offseason and it showed.

Milton was accurate of 28 out of 32 throws, that includes his one throw away. Off the top of my head, one of the throws was a pass behind Snelson and a deep ball to Nixon that he just missed a TD on.

Milton’s decision making has been tremendous and I think that shows when looking at his accuracy numbers. When you include his ability to run the ball, it makes him almost impossible to stop.

Dredrick Snelson/Tre Nixon/Gabe Davis

A lot of people were concerned with Tre’Quan Smith going to the NFL, rightfully so because he is a tremendous talent, but I wasn’t really concerned as UCF’s other receivers were actually more successful than him last season. Gabe Davis, Tre Nixon, and Dredrick Snelson are all going to be NFL receivers in my opinion.

I completely forgot to make a chart for Davis, but he had 9 targets, 6 catches, 3 drops, and 5 successful catches. All 3 receivers had problems with drops, but I’ll attribute that to it being the first game of the season. It’s not a concern for me. These 3 guys had 25 of Milton’s 31 pass attempts and if it weren’t for drops, they were un-coverable.

OLine:

The line was extremely good, the only concern was Jake Brown. He was the only lineman to allow a QB hurry or a run disruption. He allowed 2 QB hurries and 1 run disruption. Colubiale also allowed a run disruption on a play were he just whiffed on his block. AK and Taj allowed the two other QB hurries.

Rushing:

As with everything else on the offensive end, the run game was very successful. AK, Taj, Otis, McRae, and Bentavious Thompson, were the 5 running backs who got carries. No one had a breakout game, but they were all extremely efficient.

There is a bunch of other stuff in terms of tendencies and play designs I charted, but with only one game of data, I don’t really feel like it is sufficient enough to look at right now, but will be as the season moves along.

All in all, there was no sign to be concerned, if anything I was more impressed with the way the offense was run/designed more than last season.

One main thing that I don’t have data for, but just off watching the game, was the wide receiver splits. The Wide outs are split out so close to the sidelines that it opens up the whole field and forced UConn to go with a lot of 5 or 6 man boxes which is great for the run game.

Tackling:

With the change to a 4-3 defense, I didn’t really know what to expect heading into the season and I still don’t really know what to expect.

The main thing that everyone saw in this game was missed tackles. UCF had a lot of missed tackles at times last season as well and their tackling against UConn was piss poor.

UConn had 73 plays that were either a completion or a run. On those 73 plays, UCF had 28 missed tackles that resulted in a total of 127 extra yards gained.

You can say tackling isn’t a concern, they’ll just work on it in practice, but this was an issue last season so I don’t have confidence in saying that it is something that will be an easy fix. 127 yards of extra offense is way too much to be giving quality opponents. Pindell is an elusive QB who is going to make guys miss in the open field, but those misses need to be limited.

Secondary:

Pindell is not a very good quarterback when it comes to throwing the ball. He was still able to complete 27 out of 41 attempts, including 3 throw aways’. On 2 more incompletions, receivers were open and he made inaccurate throws. So on 29 of 38 passes thrown, he was throwing to open receiver. The coverage can get a little bit better outside of Brandon Moore who had an excellent game. Losing Aaron Robinson on the first kickoff was absolutely awful and hopefully he has a quick recovery because I think he’d be a huge help.

Defensive Line:

With the losses of Jamiyus Pittman and Tony Guerad on the defensive line, many people were concerned with the depth of this group. The two people who stood out to me, were Joey Connors and Trysten Hill.

UConn had 37 rush attempts not including scrambles. UCF had 15 run disruptions on these plays. A run disruption I consider as someone who disrupts the runners initial run direction in any form at or behind the line of scrimmage. 15 is a pretty high amount. Of the 15, Trysten Hill had 5 of them, absolute dominance. Mason Cholewa and Joey Connors both had 2 as well.

On Pindell’s 50 dropbacks, UCF blitzed only 9 times and recorded 15 hurries or knockdowns, all by different players.

Overall, I think UCF’s D Line was very good and could be a major factor in the success of this team.

Overall Defense:

UCF played really good against the run. Only 15 of UConn’s 37 run plays were successful. I think the front 7 in the new 4—3 was a big question mark for a lot of people with the players lost, but this is a great sign.

Of their 41 passes, 20 were successful. Not bad to be under 50%, but also against one of the inferiors passing QB’s they will face all season.

Pindell scrambled on 9 of his drop backs, 8 of them resulted in successful plays. This is a major concern when UCF has to face a dual-threat QB.

It was just UConn, but overall I think Heupel has the offense headed in the right direction. He did a great job mixing his scheme with the personnel he inherited. If he can continue to understand what combinations help make UCF the biggest threat to score, the offense will be tough to stop.

I think the defensive concerns are a big more serious. Tackling is a major issue. Also, 17 points looks good on the scoreboard, but 3 big turnovers helped this. A bad decision by Pindell and a fumble by a freshman on his first drive are not things you can rely on every game against the better teams.