Tuesday, March 20, 2007

THIRD DOWN

A couple of months ago we took a look at Cal's play-calling in 2nd down and short situations. As expected, the data supported the notion that the Bears were pretty conservative and not very successful in these situations, leading to a fair number of 3rd and shorts over the course of the season. So, how did the Bears perform in those all-important third down situations?

As mentioned earlier, Brian from MGoBlog has a nifty chart that captures Cal's third down performance (and charts for every other D-1A program). Here's Cal's 3rd down efficiency in 2006:


The Y axis measures the completion %; the X axis measures the # of yards to go. The descending heavy black line is the average completion % for D-1A teams - if your team is above average at a given distance, you'll see green; below average and you'll appropriately see red.

As you can see, Cal was slightly below average in 3rd and less than five yards to go. Conversely, the Bears were far above average in 3rd and more than 7 yards to go (and slightly above average in 3rd and 5 and 3rd and 6 situations).

How often did Cal face such situations?


The most frequent down and distance was 3rd and ten (14% of all third downs). As the above graph indicates, Cal did pretty well in these situations, but their completion percentage was still below 40%. Also a fair number of 3rd and threes, and we know that Cal was relatively inefficient in such situations.

For those of us who watched Cal's 2006 season, these graphs are not very surprising. The Golden Bears were an efficient offense who occasionally struggled in short-yardage situations. While many fans justifiably blame Ted/Bar for unimaginative play calling on second and short, the third and short frustrations are due to inconsistent OL play. Just for fun I went back and looked at some TIVO of the '06 season, and what I saw confirmed my view. While Marshawn occasionally danced when he should have darted, the vast majority of unsuccessful third and shorts were due to our OL's inability to generate a push up front. I won't name names, but there are certain returners on the OL who simply struggled when they were forced to go mano a mano with down linemen without any help from linemates. Failing improvement in this area, the Bears may ask Nate to throw slants and tight end pops to convert on third down in 2007.

Now let's look at a graph of a team that gets it done in short yardage:


That's USC's graph for 2006, and that's a big reason they won the Pac-10 despite an offense that lacked the big-play firepower of years past. More on this later in the week.

28 Comments:

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Seth said...

Wow, that was complex...

 
At 9:44 AM, Anonymous dr. treeluv said...

lookin at da charts, when is da earthquake goin 2 strike?

 
At 11:53 AM, Blogger Pete Morris said...

Question: How often on those failed 3rd-and-short situations did the Bears not even have a fullback on the field?

Comment: Perhaps you'll get to this in your next post, but if you pull up the 2006 Cal defense chart, that unit excelled on 3rd-and-short. I expect (hope) the O-line will be better, but I also fear the D-line, minus Mr. Mebane, will struggle at times to get teams off the field.

Final comment: For all the Nate Longshore detractors out there, that's some pretty impressive third-down efficiency for a first-year starter. And credit also goes to the O-line for pass protection and the receiving corps who, despite some drops here and there, were pretty reliable when it came time to move the chains.

 
At 2:37 PM, Anonymous SoCal Oski said...

This definitely confirmed a lot of suspicions about Cal's offense. During the season they looked (without any empirical data) much more comfortable and efficient passing than running. Other than the expected two or three breakaway runs by Money and JF, the running game was somewhat anemic. OL the cause, definitely.

JT is a smart guy, and you know he has this info, and you know he is doing what he can to correct this problem. I have faith in him. I hope it is rewarded.

Go Bears!

 
At 5:19 PM, Blogger Tightwad said...

A lot goes into a team's efficiency on either side of the ball in 3rd down situations. Formation is a big element - I think the single-back problems were a bit more prevalent on 2nd and short than 3rd and short. We also need to remember that a lot of teams roll their QBs in these situations looking for a run-pass option. Cal doesn't have that option (yet).

The thing that popped into my mind when looking at Cal's offensive graph was - where is Craig Stevens in short yardage situations? I hope JT finds a way to deliver the football to our TEs more effectively in '07.

 
At 6:39 PM, Anonymous resident of berkeley since 1969 said...

yeah well jt is going to have to deliver those passes in oakland. the cal team has to move to oakland and play in the colliseum, ok? that is just the way things are. get the hell out of OUR city!

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/2007-02-21/news/give-cal-plan-the-ax/1#comments

 
At 10:48 PM, Anonymous oaktown drunk said...

oakland sounds good. da colesium has a bar. i like 2 get drunk there during raider games.

 
At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

me 2! i luv 2 gat drank! i hate bears in berkeley. i hate uc in bereley! we make the uc what it is, not the other way around. even though we were incoporated after the school by a full 20+ yrs. we are more important. i own a very nice house in panoramic hill. i am sick of being bothered six times a yr by the stupid ass cal fans. football is for idiots. when we remove memorial we will replace it with boared up store fronts like the rest of downtown berkeley! yeah man! we really rock!

 
At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you should send this to coach tedford. Just say, "Hey I'm here to help. You people can't make 3rd and short despite having highly talented offensive players. Look at SC's graph."

 
At 8:09 AM, Anonymous dorkstar said...

berkly is grate. life takes place only an hour at a time, cuzz their is only one hour parking every where. in da middle of da game u have 2 run out twice 2 put sum more coins in da machine or pay someone 2 di it 4 u. welcome hippie 2 da machine.

 
At 9:30 AM, Anonymous vulnerable to cult of tree sitters said...

no way man, i don't drive, ever. after i saw running wolfy put the driving stencil on the stop signs i knew i had to lassen to him. he know what he doin, he a smart man, very smart man. who else will follow him like the followed jim jones and david koeresh? i know i will, all the hippies will have a mass suicide. we will take acid laced coolaid the running wolfy will shoot us!

 
At 10:53 AM, Anonymous bible humper said...

dude, stop watchin da arnold schwarstsanegger movies and start watching start watching sesame street cuz u been eduacted by da right wing of da spotted owl. listen 2 da left side of ur brain. in da lst century u could get free cal footbal tickets by just buying a slice of pizza. so cross ur fingers cuz those dayz r comin back.

 
At 11:57 AM, Anonymous free the earth said...

no way, they not commin back, never! me an me hippie freins gonna make sure dat the teem gotta go oacland. they gonna hav to ploy in the colllisssium. we gonna run jef tadford out ah berkli. footbull is for stupid jocs. i hate jocs and i hate sports. most hippies won admat it, but we hate almost every1 nat lake us.

 
At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DUDE! Learn how to spell hippie! Please.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous da mad prophet said...

roses are red, violets are blue, tedford's gone and you will cry, look towrds the sun and ask why? the stadium turns to shit, and you get mad, remember the days cal was a hit and will get sad.

 
At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOU SHUT UR MOUTH HIPPIE!

 
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