Muddle in the middle?

Georgia’s in pretty good company here:

When I turn to Brian Fremeau’s 2019 points per drive chart, the story’s a little different, though.

Screenshot_2019-09-24 BCF Toys - 2019 Points Per Drive

Georgia’s finished the previous two seasons fourth in Brian’s measurements.  That’s been driven by some very consistent stats across the board.  Notable here is the showing in points per drive when Georgia starts outside its own 40-yard line, a very below par 108th.  Note that most of the teams listed ahead of the Dawgs there are managing to score at a rate better than five ppd, while Georgia is at 1.80 ppd.

I can’t really chalk that up to red zone issues.  Georgia has converted 15 of 20 drives starting inside the opponent’s 20-yard line into touchdowns, which is 27th nationally, and its overall red zone percentage is 95%, good for 14th.  Those are both slightly ahead of last season’s rates.

So, overall, the team appears to be top ten in defensive efficiency and good at scoring on a deeper field, but has some issues with scoring efficiency on shorter ones.  Why that’s the case is intriguing.  I’m not sure there’s one specific reason, looking at the play-by-plays.

  • Against Notre Dame, they started one drive on the Irish 24 after the Wilson interception.  That drive stalled after a personal foul was called on Shaffer and they couldn’t cover a 2nd-and-17, settling for a field goal.
  • Arkansas State:  one drive started at the UGA 47 and stalled at the ASU 12, resulting in a field goal.
  • Vanderbilt saw Georgia start a drive inside Vanderbilt territory and turn the ball over on downs when it didn’t convert a fourth-and-one at the Vandy 17.  Another drive that started on the UGA 46 stalled when Kearis Jackson fumbled deep in Vanderbilt territory.  A third drive started on the Vanderbilt 39 and ended with a Blankenship field goal, when Georgia couldn’t convert a third-and-one.  Georgia had another drive that started inside Vandy territory ending in a field goal with a little over two minutes left in the game.

You can argue this comes from a small sample size, but here’s a strange fact, nevertheless:  against FCS competition, Georgia has yet to score a touchdown on a drive of less than 60 yards this season.  I don’t know whether that’s significant — after all, they’re undefeated and clearly there are plenty of stats that bear that out — but it is what it is.

And what it is to me is a little weird that a team would be more efficient scoring from eighty yards out than from less than sixty.  (Before you ask, it’s not big plays:  Georgia only has two plays of 50+ yards on the books through four games.)  This will probably sort itself out as the season wears on, but, still, it’s curious.

23 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

23 responses to “Muddle in the middle?

  1. It would be interesting to have this broken down further to see if there is something with play selection that is different in these circumstances.

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  2. Jared S.

    I don’t know why I’ve heard so many talking heads say “No one is talking about Georgia right now….” Kind of ironic, eh?

    The real team “not being talked about” is Oklahoma.

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  3. ASEF

    Without reviewing film, I’d say the most likely answer is that lack of explosiveness you mentions. No chunk plays means longer fields = more chances for defenses to win a set of downs.

    Which would make opponents who are good with “bend but don’t break” defenses and the field position game are going to be tougher outs.

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  4. piper

    i’d guess it has something to do with Kirby’s belief in Rodrigo. He’s more apt to just take points (and from farther out) than try to force the issue on fourth down and not score. Of his eight FG’s this year, only one is <30 yards.

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    • Uglydawg

      And this worries me. Kirby seems a little predisposed to take the small, almost sure (with Hot Rod) points instead of using that great and mighty offensive line the way it was meant to be used. I remember when CMR lost faith in his placekicker a few years back..that offense began to play great ball in the red zone. Kirby seems to be coming into focus as CMR with a more passionate sideline manner, but the same cautious disposition. I point not only to the FG stats, but also to the play calling when Georgia needed a first down late in the game…and also the two late losses to ‘Bama (one of which I honestly still place on the officiating).
      I believe CKS is still a work in progress as a game day coach and will get all of this worked out.

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      • Biggus Rickus

        Sigh. He probably is still a work in progress. It’s only his fourth year as a head coach. That said, Georgia’s got a 75% TD percentage in the red zone so far. That would better every year but 2012 (76%) in the last ten. I don’t know why you guys need to find patterns to puzzle out the psychology of the coach or whatever. I’m not sure what’s conservative about the end-around that ended any hope of doing anything on that last possession. Nor taking a shot downfield on third and long.

        There was nothing conservative about play-calling down the stretch against Bama last year, and it was understandable in the title game in 2017. After Fromm’s interception under duress gave Alabama a field goal, they probably decided to not take any chances and let their defense (who had been mostly dominant to that point even after Tua came in the game) win it.

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  5. Macallanlover

    We have played two Power 5 teams, and kicked 6 FGs in those two games, neither of which was a defensive juggernaut. You can say lack of creative play calling and not get an argument from me, so far Kirby’s pre-season comments about needing to play more wide-open and produce more points in today’s CFB game does not show itself on the field so far. Jake Fromm, with these receivers plus Swift and Company, seem to be minimized. We have defensive depth but afraid to play uptempo, which we are very good at.

    Or you can say we have have all drank too much of the OL Kool Aide. Yes , they are impressive and athletic, and were highly rated in HS, but the truth is they seem far from “the best OL” in the country to me. Giving full credit to ND’s intensity on Saturday night, we got stuffed several times in key situations when we needed key yardage. And it wasn’t just that one game, our OL has famously had failed several times in short yardage situations over the past two years. Additionally, the LSU and Texas games last season (along with the 2nd half of the SECCG) showed defensive coordinators could either bring different looks and blitzes to confuse our guys, or just want it more.

    Kirby didn’t go for it on 4th and 1 on Saturday because he didn’t trust the OL, plain and simple. He looked at it not being a foot, but a full yard, and decided it was too risky. Too risky, against ND, with 2-3 solid choices of strong runners….with the best OL in the country? Damn. I am not saying that kicking the FG wasn’t a viable option, you can make that case, although it seems the lesser result anyone you measure it. I know Kindley was out, but that first down was game over, the FG meant you had left the door open; and they almost walked right through it. A confident coach would have slammed it close. Challenge those guys to step it up, or add a stud FB fullback.

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    • ASEF

      Can Kirby emotionally flip to seeing his offense as his best unit on the field and adjust accordingly?

      That’s my main question at this point.

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    • Russ

      If we hadn’t have been stuffed on both 1st and 2nd down, he would have gone for it. It was only close because of a scramble by Fromm. It was hardly a given, though it should have been.

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  6. Biggus Rickus

    Fluky small sample size. I love stats and everything, but football gives you all sorts of fluke stats that don’t mean anything.

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  7. Corey

    We are terrible in short yardage situations only because we go about it so stupidly. We line up in formations that clearly don’t mask our intentions, and rarely convey the potential to throw the ball or run it outside. I was always impressed by Spurrier’s approach on 3rd (or 4th) and short. He would call trips or 4 wide and then run it down our throats giving them better numbers in the box. Seems like an easy fix if we quit “imposing our will” and play smarter.

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  8. Uglydawg

    Field Goals are for the following…
    1. Fourth and long
    2. Teams that can’t convert a fourth and short.
    3. Last second wins.
    So which one fit UGA’s situation against ND? I think Kirby would have to say he believed number two was the fit. Or maybe he (likely) believed they could make it but didn’t need to risk it. At this point, you know he really, really, really trusts Rodrigo. More than he does his O line. It wasn’t a chip shot.

    A coach should hate to kick a FG the way Greg Maddox used to hate to throw a ball over the plate…it’s playing into the opponent’s wants.
    (See 1999 Liberty Bowl. UGA vs UCF. UGA’s first drive)

    I wish there were a study. If the typical football team decided to never to kick a FG on less than fourth and one, how would they do? They would have to fail to get the first down at a rate of three out of three (If just one out of three drives stays alive to get 7, you beat the 6 gained on the other two drives that ended in a FG). to justify the point’s gained differential. (My math is shaky..I wasn’t required to take calculus but you get the point I hope) Of course, if two out of three first down attempts is good, that’s a 14 to 3 differential. And it’s not that hard to imagine a team like Georgia converting two out of three fourth and shorts.
    Take into account that a good many FG’s are missed or blocked and the difference is even stronger. FG’s aren’t anymore of a sure thing than are fourth and short attempts.

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  9. FlyingPeakDawg

    Well, the solution is easy. Next time we get the ball inside the 50, Jake should drop back 20 yards and take a knee. A touchdown is sure to ensue according to the stats.

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