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Kansas State needs to improve in short-yardage situations

Welcome aboard to our newest contributor as he brings some Football Study Hall to BotC.

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

So, this is my first post here.  I'll give a quick intro.  I'm a Data Analyst and K-State alum (2010), born and currently living in Ohio.  I created a football matchups dashboard.  Fun Fact: As an intern, I had to drive Brian Cashman's car to New Jersey for an oil change - in rush hour traffic.   Also, if you count unsanctioned Disc Golf tournaments (I do!), I competed for KSU in a national championship (we finished 8th of 20).  This year I've been writing some posts for Bill Connelly's Football Study Hall - any posts I throw up here will be similar, but focused on KSU, with lots of (hopefully) pretty charts and (doubtfully) analyses that will result in absolute truths.  You can argue with me and call my work dumb and nerdy here or on the twitter.  Ok, now that the pleasantries are out of the way…

KSUEMAW! posted some links about the cats run game and one of them about their Bush-Push QB sneaks piqued my interest.  It led me to investigate the profile of KSU's running game.  To do this, I'll be looking at Usage, Success Rate, Yards per Carry, Power Success Rate, Stuff Rate - similar to the numbers in Bill C's statistical profile pages, but visualized for each player.

First, let’s look at how the backs are being used on running plays by down and down type (Standard or Passing).  Standard Downs are all downs on 1st down, 2nd and less than 8 to go, or 3rd or 4th down with less than 5 to go, all other downs are Passing Downs.


Jake Trochelman - Click to Embiggen

It's pretty evident that ole' Bazooka Joe gets most of the teams carries.  Also interesting is the usage of running backs on 3rd down.   Dana Dimel is really putting the 3rd down plays in Joe Hubener's hands, either passing or calling for a QB rush.  Some of these are scrambles, obviously, but still there's a surprising lack of RB carries on third downs.  There's a similar story on the teams six 4th down attempts - it's all on Joe Hubener.

Now let's take a look at Wildcat running backs Yards per Carry and Success Rates.  When looking at these charts, the yellow line is NCAA average, the width of each pie slice is the amount of opportunities for a player (i.e. Jones and Huebner account for about 2/3 of KSU rush attempts), and the length of each slice is the measured value (YPC or Success Rate, respectively).


Jake Trochelman - Click to Embiggen

K-State ranks 19th in rushing success rate - and it shows in the chart at the right.  Almost every runner is above average - whether this speaks more to KSU's O-line and schemes or rushing talent is up for debate.  Unfortunately KSU has to stay on schedule with the running game, because they're not very explosive.  The Cats are just about average in terms of Yards Per Carry and 113th in Rushing PpP (another measure of explosiveness).  Their explosiveness measures are somewhat weighed down by their penchant for QB sneaks – which rarely result in a long play.

About that O-line.  They're pretty good when looking at opportunity rate (the % of rushes that are greater or equal to 5 yards), ranking 18th in the nation.  So, KSU running backs are getting good blocking and have plenty of opportunity to get to the second-level, they're just not breaking through for those long gainers.  Also, apparently the O-line likes Justin Silmon better.  The chart on the right details the running backs Stuff Rate - how often a rushing attempt goes for 0 yards or a loss.  Again, the O-line is not giving up much penetration on running plays - almost every rusher is better than average.


Jake Trochelman - Click to Embiggen

Lastly, I wanted to look at short yardage situations.  These are called Power runs - runs on third or 4th down with two yards or less to go.  Power runs also includes goal-to-go from inside the 2 on 1st and 2nd down.  Success is measured by getting a first down or scoring a touchdown.


Jake Trochelman - Click to Embiggen

Here, we see again that in those crucial short-yardage situations the coaching staff is sticking with Hubener. KSU calls Joe's number 75% of the time in these situations and he's below average at picking up the first down. Without much explosiveness in the rush game (and with KSU ranking 120th in completion percentage), these short-yardage first downs HAVE to be picked up to be able to sustain any offense. Hopefully they'll be better or more creative in these situations this weekend in Lubbock.