Friday, October 02, 2009

Statistically Speaking: Purdue | by Pat

Apologies for the lack of posting lately. We've all been very busy so far this fall with non-ND stuff. Hopefully we can catch up to speed a bit during the bye week. Thanks to all the readers for the excellent discussions in the comment sections in the meantime.

And with that, on to the stats...

It Came From the Game Notes

• Sophomore LB Darius Fleming leads the Irish with seven tackles for loss and ranks 17th nationally in the category. By comparison, Harrison Smith paced Notre Dame with 8.5 tackles for loss last year. Fleming also ranks second and fourth, respectively, among sophomores and linebackers in the category

• The Irish defense has allowed a total of five rushes of at least 10 yards over the last two games after allowing 16 such gains in the first two outings.

• Notre Dame’s offense has already registered 11 touchdown drives of at least 70 yards this season after recording 18 such drives in all of 2008.

Battle for First Down

Updated table here.

After one of the worst 1st down run win rates last week against MSU, ND rebounded and posted one of the best run win rates against the Boilermakers. The win rate was a rather astounding 67%, even more impressive considering Purdue's Ralph Bolden came into the game as the nation's #2 leading rusher and the Boilermakers ran a variant of the spread offense that gave ND so much trouble against Michigan. There is also a draw (3 yard run) in the mix, meaning out of the 12 times Purdue ran the ball on 1st down, they gained more than 3 yards only 3 times.

The passing game was a different story as Purdue had far more success on 1st down passing the ball. The ND win rate was only 36%, not a terrible number, but far from the recent overall win rate of close to 50%. ND started off strong, winning 2 of the first 3, and ended strong, winning 4 of the last 5 (including two sacks on the final two 1st down plays), but gave up a string of 5 straight 1st down completions in the middle, including 4 straight that went for 10 yards or more.

Overall, the strong run defense boosted the overall win rate to 50%, the highest of the season so far.


Updated table here.

Despite the loss of Floyd and Allen, a hobbled Jimmy, and a Crist-led power running, wildcat-ish offense in the middle quarters of the game, ND still managed to pick up 51.9% of all possible yards. It's not a great number -- it's nearly the same as the Michigan game -- but considering the changes to the offense it was a still a fairly strong showing.

The better news was over on defense, where despite a terrible first series, the ND defense held the Boilermakers to 37.9% of their possible total yards. That percentage is even lower than what Nevada put up against ND and is on par with what BC and Hawaii did against ND on offense last year.

A quarter way through the season, ND has bumped up the average drive percentage from 47.8% last season to 58.3% so far this year. I don't really have the context to place a 10% spike in only one season, but I have to think it's a very good jump in production and offensive efficiency. As you might expect though, the defense numbers have slid, going from 40.1% to 47.2%. The good news I suppose is that the offense has improved more than the defense has regressed, but it's still a sizable drop. Granted, there are still only four games as data points so the ND numbers could jump around the next few weeks, especially with the Trojans coming to town soon.

Gimme M.O.E.

Updated table here.

Penalties, dropped passes, and now sacks kept the ND offense over the 12% MOE mark for the 3rd straight game with a 14% total. You could look at the sunny side that ND is 2-1 over those games despite the mistakes on offense and well-documented troubles on defense. However, the inability to have a more mistake free game on offense is a bit disconcerting considering the experience levels of the ND offensive players. It might be easy to make small excuses for the offense based on the number of backup players put into more starring roles, but a number of the penalties (and both drops) were on veteran players. Hopefully they can straighten things out against the Huskies.

Defensively, Purdue was the most mistake-prone team ND has played so far, posting a high MOE score of 18%. How much of that was forced by ND versus just sloppy play by the Boilermakers? Penalties and drops were the main factors in their high MOE score, which points more to mental mistakes by Purdue.

Season Long Running Stats

Updated table here.

The run game got a bump up after keeping the nation's #2 rusher to only 67 yards on the ground. However, an ND punt was finally returned, and it was a doozy, dropping ND to near the bottom of the NCAA statistical heap in punt return coverage. Expect the number to jump around as there are still only two returns through the first four games.

Overall, the offense is still a big step up from last year while the defense is still below last year's numbers. The net punting average finally fell below last year's mark after a terrible mark against Purdue. Keep an eye on how the Irish do against Washington with new punter, freshman Ben Turk, getting his shot to start over Maust.