Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
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a few leftovers from yesterday's discussion of the run/pass balance in the Bronco Mendenhall era...
In Bronco's 18 wins, BYU has passed the ball 48% of the time, and run the ball 52% of the time. In his 9 losses, BYU has passed the ball 65% of the time, and run the ball 35% of the time. These numbers count sacks as rushing attempts, when they are essentially passing attempts gone awry--so if we were to add the sacks to the passing category, while subtracting sacks from the rushing category, the numbers would appear as follows:
In 18 wins: Run 49.9%, Pass 50.1%
In 9 losses: Run 31.4%, Pass 68.6%
Before I get to a few more observations, a couple of caveats:
1) every game has its own personality, and numbers don't account for tactical considerations that would influence a game plan and the run/pass balance.
2) in BYU's wins, the Cougars were often winning big and doing so early, so running the football more would be expected.
However, to conclude that BYU's run/pass ratio was unbalanced in losses simply because the Cougars were playing "catch-up" would ignore the fact that in only 2 of the 9 losses was BYU trailing by more than two touchdowns heading into halftime, so even in the losses, running the football would have to have remained a viable option.
So, considering the importance Bronco puts on running the football, and running for 100 yards in particular, why was running the ball not more of an option in the losses?
A few observations emerge.
1) 6 of the 9 losses were to teams from BCS conferences. Generally speaking, players from BCS leagues are of the "bigger, faster, stronger" variety, to the extent that an offensive coordinator might attempt a few runs early and conclude, "we can neutralize their advantage better through the air than we can going too-to-toe on the ground." It's a reasonable conclusion, while perhaps not entirely sound, tactically. After all, BYU is 10-0 v. Pac-10 teams when running for 100 yards or more, but only 4-25 when failing to do so (numbers since 1972).
However, fans are asked to trust that the offensive coaches are indeed making decisions based on what they observe the reality of the game to be. If they see their linemen and backs consistently pushed back and stopped up, they have to do what they think will give their team the best chance to win the game.
2) 6 of the 9 losses have occurred in the month of September, meaning a coaching staff is still getting a feel for its personnel and the most effective game plans for the particular collection of players.
* bears noting that in September of 2005, BYU was still wed to the true "Texas Tech Offense," so the run/pass numbers in the BC, TCU, and SDSU games in particular were skewed in favor of the pass. Starting the following week at New Mexico, more emphasis on the run game begam to emerge.
Expect the rushing attack to be more prosperous against Tulsa than it was against UCLA, for reasons both apparent (TU personnel v. UCLA personnel) and subtle (Bronco will likely be watching the "balance" equation closely, and may want his offense to be a little more "persistent" rushing the football).
Tomorrow: a look-ahead to Tulsa, along with some more facts and figures...