FanPost

Nate Longshore: Setting the Record Straight

There's been tons of talk, Nate bashing and speculation over the months.  Let's set the record straight by foregoing the speculation and looking at the facts; A hardcore analysis of Nate's performance.  Don't worry, I'll use lots of pictures.  I even have video for the analytically challenged!

Methodology:
Put simply, I re-watched every one of Nate's televised games; every snap, every possession since SacState05 to AirForce07, over the course of two weeks. I used official NCAA stats to compile how he performed during *every* offensive possession.  I especially keyed in on the following stats:

1) TDs (pass & QB rush), INTs, completions, punts by quarter
2) Total offense under Nate's management by quarter
3) Perf. in Pac10 vs Non-conf
4) Perf. vs ranked teams
5) Perf. when Home vs Away
6) Perf. healthy vs injured
7) Passing efficiency trends throughout the season

NOTE! - If the charts look blurry, then hit Ctrl and "+" or "-" until it becomes clear.

Nate's Efficiency charts: Passing efficiency is like QB rating in the NFL but calculated differently.  A number of 115 in college means you complete 50% of your passes, throw more interceptions than TDs and don't have many yards.  NCAA starting QBs average out at 130ish and Heisman QBs break 150-160. 

In 07 Nate continued his winning ways from 06 until he got injured and then he became extremely erratic. However, even when healthy the offense was not as explosive as it was under Dunbar.  Nate had many more 3 to 4 wide receiver sets and passed to the running back quite often. In my opinion, poor play calling amplified Nate's injuries in 2007.

Notice Nate's stats for the first six games vs the last six.  Also note that he played well in Washington07, but it was our run defense and penalties that did us in.

Also notice that versus certain opponents, Nate just does not perform well: Arizona, Washington St, USC and Stanford. 2693760913_a7e6d2d8d8_medium

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Nate's Completion %: Completion % is not as telling as PassEff but it does show us something interesting.  Notice in 07 Nate was pretty consistent in the first six games with Arizona as an outlier.  After he got hurt he became erratic. In 06 only the last 3 games of the regular season were truly sub-par for him.

After everything I've seen, I agree with the sentiment that Nate had no business being on the field while hurt.
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Nate's Cross Section Analysis: Here's the meat of the analysis. How does Nate play when ____???  The pattern of getting worse as the game goes on is astonishingly consistent in my study (note however that all winning teams have lower yards in the 4th quarter than the 1st). 

The key stats for me are the healthy VS injured Nate.  Take a look yourself and make your own conclusions.
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Note: LS-TD (Nate's TDs passing or sneak), ScDrvs (scoring drives), Off Yrds (Team offensive production under Nate)


NATE'S GAME FILM
ANALYSIS
Stats do not tell the whole story.  For instance Washington State 07 was Nate's absolute worst game on film, but not his worst with stats - so it's best to combine film and stats to evaluate.

My Nate highlight reels:

Part I:

Part II

Part III


Also can be seen on Youtube:

Longshore Extended Highlights Part 1 (On Youtube)

Longshore Extended Highlights Part 2 (On Youtube)

Longshore Extended Highlights Part 3 (On Youtube)


PROS (when healthy)

  • Outstanding mechanics: Before he was injured in 07, he had astonishingly good fundamentals. Watch my highlight reel, his footwork is outstanding, release is fast and high, has great pocket adjustments and looks off receivers.  I was surprised at how good he looks from an NFL perspective.
  • Threads the needle: When throwing hard, he is very accurate and threads the needle.  He also places the ball away from defenders so only the WR can catch it.  His best throw is to the corner route. He is also at his best when throwing hard, in general.
  • Touch: Shows great touch on the ball, routinely looping over LBs into the hands of the Hawk.  When he's healthy and his footwork is there, his deep ball is fantastic too. 
  • Good under pressure: After watching the film, he's pretty good under pressure (surprising huh?).  He will shift in the pocket but usually won't roll out. He throws the ball away when appropriate.  His accuracy drops somewhat, but not more than other QBs under pressure.
  • Out of the gate: Nate is amazing in home openers and always plays well in the first six games of the season.  During this time, there's no one better. 

CONS

  • Slow finisher: Nate starts extremely strong over first six game and fades over the final six games (partially due to level of competition and this trend shows up with other Pac10 QBs).  He plays poorly in the second half of games and he's at his worst in the 4th quarter.  Getting an early lead is essential for him to win.  Get rid of this one flaw and we would still think of him as "Nate the Great"... think about it.
  • When injured or hit: All of his best traits go out the window when hurt.  His touch passes are off and he throws INTs.  Almost all of his INTs were touch passes.  I also noticed he plays worse after he has been hit hard as well.
  • Not an actor: Part of the reason for his second half slides is the fact that his fakes are not executed well. It got worse in 2007.  Screens, reverses and even his play action do not fool many LBs.  Add to that ho-hum play calling and defenders are bound to figure him out later in the game.
  • Doesn't take over game when needed: In 2006, during the Wash, WashSt and Stanford games he played just good enough for us to win and in the USC game he didn't "step up" to take over the game and bring us back in it.  In general Tedford relies on the run game to "bring us back into it" rather than rely on Nate.  He doesn't seem to be the superhero we all want him to be.


CONCLUSION and RECOMMENDATIONS

Healthy vs Injured:
It's not all Nate's fault but partially Coach's for letting him play.  Take a look at his injured vs healthy stats below.  I believe Nate playing injured was the single most significant factor in his poor play and our late season slide.  He played five games healthy and scored 14 TDs with 9 INTs.  He played seven games injured and only scored 3 TDs and 4 INTs.  More importantly, his footwork was gone and his mechanics were out the door.  Nate should not be playing injured.
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Play calling at fault too: Based on my analysis of the play calling three things jumps out at me: predictable, predictable, predictable.  Even I knew what was coming sometimes.  Even though a healthy Nate only threw 7 real INTs (that were his fault) in 5 games I think part of it had to do with predictable play calling and poorly executed play action.
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My recommendations to Coach:

Nate must be healthy: If Nate is hurt in any way, he should not play. Unless it's a broken nose, his record after injury is crystal clear. 3 TDs and 4 INTs in seven games while throwing 14TDs and 9 INTs in five healthy games.  When healthy he's the second best QB in the Pac10, when injured the 5th best.

Don't be afraid to bench Nate at the half: Some of Nate's trends are crystal clear and have been proven statistically.  He's great in the first six games and during the first half of games.  He's not good at overcoming deficits.  I know our offense is about timing, but we're losing games we're supposed to be winning.  If Nate is repeating these old habits... then bench him and play Riley... he's ready and it's the logical thing to do.

Start Nate but definitely let Riley play often: Those predictable negative trends also have a flip side.  Nate plays like a superstar early in the season so start Nate vs Michigan State.  However give Riley experience during the second halves of the first four games and during 4th quarters.  Plus start Kevin in the Big Game (see below).

Surprise me!: The play calling has to take more risks and be less predictable.  The fakes on reverses, screens and even the play action needs to be overhauled... completely.

It's the little things: I was shocked at how many times we were penalized in 07 vs 06.  Shocked I tell you.  Also our special teams defense was horrible, horrible I tell you.  Less penalties and better special teams could have given us UCLA and AState.

Finally, don't repeat 2007: There were so many lessons to be had in '07, we all know them.  Please Coach... learn and apply... don't repeat.


STARTER RECOMMENDATIONS BY GAME (if 2QB system were possible)

By the way, I know this is impossible and not advisable, but I'm just trying to make a point about what Nate's history tells us.

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Michigan State  - Start NATE (100%): He has 6 TDs and no INTs in home openers and averages 70% completion and a 179 PassEff rating!!!   He owns home openers.
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@ Washington State - Start KEVIN (100%)  - Even though the team won both times Nate was at QB, he almost gave away those games. He's never thrown a single TD vs the Cougs and has thrown 3 INTs (really).  In 2007 it was the worst game of his career (re-watch it).  The Cougs love playing vs Nate... let's give them Kevin.
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@ Maryland - Start KEVIN (60%) - Nate plays well early in the season, but has trouble with non-conf competition on the road. E.g. Tenn06 and ColSt07.  This gives Kevin a perfect opportunity to gain experience.
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Colorado State - Start NATE (100%) - Nate has a proven track record against non-conf foes at home.  He's a lock in these situations. He has 10 TDs and only 2 INTs.  Play Kevin in the 4th quarter if we're ahead.
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Arizona State - Start NATE (70%)  - In 06 Nate DESTROYED AState but in 07 he played well but not great. He has scored 5 TDs and threw only 1 real INT in this series.  Nate could start and Kevin could play in the second half... I wonder what could happen...?
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@ Arizona - Start KEVIN (100%) - Besides WashSt, Arizona is Nate's second worst nemesis.  He's thrown only 2 TDs and 4 real INTs during this series with an avg PassEff rating of 110 and a completion percentage of 50%.  You can even play Brock and get better results!
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UCLA - Start NATE (85%)  - In 07 our run game and 3 fumbles lost that game for us - it wasn't all Nate. He played well throwing 3 TDs on 2 real INTs and a PassEff rating of 134.  If our run game got working at all and if we didn't fumble the ball that game would not have been close. In 06 Nate destroyed that defense completing 83% of his passes, 3TDs no INTs with a rating of 218!  UCLA06 was Nate's best game ever.
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Oregon - Start NATE (100%)  - Nate has 5 TDs and only 1 INT and two wins, both when Oregon was ranked and were statistical favorites over us.  Nate and our defense have become curses for Oregon.  Let's use them.
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@ USC - Start NATE (75%) - Statistically these aren't good games for Nate, but on film he plays well against the Trojans (better than most Pac10 QBs).  In both cases the game was not decided until the 4th quarter and they genuinely fear us now.  Plus having Kevin start vs a ranked USC on the road is not a good idea.  Nate won't be nervous, he's been there before.
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@ Oregon State - Start NATE (100%) - Kevin played them in 07 and performed admirably but bungled the ending.  Nate played them in Corvallis in 06 and killed them throwing 4 TDs, 1 INT with a 200 PassEff rating!  The Beavs would love to play against Kevin again... let's give them Nate instead.
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Stanford - Start Kevin (110%) - I'm sorry but Nate lost both Big Games in horrible fashion. In 06 we were saved by Justin, but in both games our offense was stagnant.  Nate, as usual, played well in the first half of the 07 game, but ground to a halt in the second half and threw an INT in the 4th. Lavelle did drop two TD passes, but that game should have never been that close.  It's Kevin's turn for a Big Game.
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Washington - Start Nate (65%) - In 06 Nate threw no TDs or INTs bit completed 60% of his passes. Nate played okay in 06 but ML saved the game in OT.  Conversely in 07 Nate played very well but our run defense just threw the game away.  Rankin rushed for 224yrds and an 11yrd avg!!  In 07 he threw 3 TDs and one INT with a rating of 170, clearly one of his best games.  At home with Jahvid running and Rankin gone - Nate can tear them apart again.
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APPENDIX - feel free to use everything I've done to do your own analysis.
Longshore career stats:
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Longshore career stats (healthy):
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Game stats sorted by Nate's performance
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All stats used in this analysis (excel):
Lonshore Stats.xls

RILEY HIGHLIGHTS (click link from this page only for high rez):
Kevin Riley 2007 Highlights

Future highlight tapes: Anyone want to nominate a player for a new highlight tape? Post your ideas below.

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OTHER PAC-10 QBs:
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Rudy Carpenter -
He fades through the season but from such a high water mark;
just remember that 130ish is average.  Keep passing in the 150s and you are going to win games.
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John David Booty (healthy only) - not counting games with bad finger etc.  The most steady QB in the Pac 10.  Not great, but not bad either.  USC's defense makes up for Booty's average-ness.
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Dennis Dixon (healthy only) - He was amazing in 2007.  When he played well he always broke 190!!! When he was off, he would just be average but the option kept his rush yards high.  The triple option actually gives Dixon more opportunites to complete passes. 
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Alex Brink - Very steady, almost boring. For the bulk of the Pac10 schedule, he's Mr. Non-excitement. 
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Willie Tuitama
- Very average but has huge numbers because Arizona has no run game. Considering how many passes he throws, I would say Willie's rating numbers are understated and he's probably better than Brink.
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The opinions expressed in a FanPost are, in every way, reflective of the opinions of every California Golden Blogs Marshawnthusiast. Moreover, they are reflective of every employee of SBNation, including Tyler "Blez" Bleszinski.

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