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Cal Football Advanced Stats Part II: The Nitty Gritty and Armed Forces Bowl Preview

What numbers tell us about the nitty gritty? Are we what we expected ourselves to be or are we not? Also "What are the Falcons' and how do we stop them from running all over us?"

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier last week I discussed the big picture of how advanced statistics depicted Cal football. I have showed that Cal's offense was efficient, but it lacked explosiveness on the ground or in the air. Furthermore, the defense was shown to be overworked, especially the D-line once the season wore on.

In this section I will look at the detailed statistics for Cal football as well as look at our upcoming opponent: Air Force Falcons at the Air Force Bowl at Ft. Worth.

Without further ado:

Details on the Offensive Side of the Ball

As it was requested earlier, this is the primer I wrote on S&P+ stats that I will be using throughout the year.

First we will look at the rushing statistics first. Harkening back at the Tuesday post: our RBs were given help when moving down the field with 45.2% of the rushing attempts given 5+ yards of space by the O-line. However, past the line of scrimmage the RBs were unable to make the big gains.

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Rushes Yards TD YPC Hlt Yds/Opp. Opportunity Rate Fumbles (Lost)
Vic Enwere RB 6'1, 230 SO 98 486 7 5 5.2 38.80% 2 (2)
Khalfani Muhammad RB 5'9, 170 JR 78 539 1 6.9 7.3 48.70% 2 (2)
Tre Watson RB 5'10, 195 SO 75 424 3 5.7 4.4 44.00% 0 (0)
Daniel Lasco RB 6'1, 205 SR 65 331 3 5.1 4 41.50% 1 (1)
Jared Goff QB 6'4, 215 JR 29 204 0 7 3.3 69.00% 3 (1)
Jeffrey Coprich RB 5'8, 175 JR 14 49 1 3.5 2.3 21.40% 0 (0)

One of the key events for our season was Daniel Lasco's injury against SDSU. This lead the team to shift from using Lasco to a RBBC (running back by committee) system. It has to be noted that when Lasco is the backfield he is truly a 3 down back, with the ability to execute inside- and outside-zone schemes as well as be a receiving threat from the backfield/slot and in pass protection. One could argue that other RBs do some of the things better, but Lasco was able to execute well in all of these tasks.

Once Lasco was sidelined, our predictability on offense increased depending on the RB we played in the backfield. If Vic is in the backfield then we are running an inside-zone or have him in pass-protection, Tre executed well in inside- and outside-zone runs, and Khalfani was a weapon mostly on outside-zones and as receiver from the backfield.

If we look at all of the outcomes by each of the players : YPC, Highlight yards per Opportunity, and Opportunity% we can see a trend between the type of versatility each RB possesses and the outcomes. Vic's lack of active versatility (pass protection isn't an active trait) can lead to the opposing defense knowing that either Vic will be in the backfield pass protecting or taking the ball on an inside zone play.

I think Vic will be the key for the next season. The traits he is missing can be coached, while as one cannot coach size and speed blend that Vic possesses. For Tre it is much harder to run up the middle and match-up against blitzing LBs, likewise with Khalfani, the size mismatch between FBS LBs and them is something we can't coach.

Goffense In the Air

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Targets Catches Yards TD Yds/Catch Yds/Target Catch Rate Target Rate
Kenny Lawler WR 6'3, 195 78 47 583 10 12.4 7.5 60.30% 15.90%
Bryce Treggs WR 6'0, 185 67 41 794 6 19.4 11.9 61.20% 13.70%
Darius Powe WR 6'3, 220 62 43 490 6 11.4 7.9 69.40% 12.70%
Stephen Anderson TE 6'3, 230 59 40 460 2 11.5 7.8 67.80% 12.00%
Trevor Davis WR 6'2, 185 52 38 653 2 17.2 12.6 73.10% 10.60%
Maurice Harris WR 6'3, 195 50 36 510 6 14.2 10.2 72.00% 10.20%
Khalfani Muhammad RB 5'9, 170 27 17 189 2 11.1 7 63.00% 5.50%
Chad Hansen WR 6'2, 195 25 17 219 1 12.9 8.8 68.00% 5.10%
Raymond Hudson TE 6'3, 235 17 8 100 0 12.5 5.9 47.10% 3.50%
Tre Watson RB 5'10, 195 11 9 97 1 10.8 8.8 81.80% 2.20%
Kanawai Noa WR 6'0, 175 11 7 76 0 10.9 6.9 63.60% 2.20%
Vic Enwere RB 6'1, 230 10 7 31 0 4.4 3.1 70.00% 2.00%

Before the season began I expected at least one of the WRs to earn a 1,000 yard season. I think one of the reasons this prediction was wrong was due to the injuries to Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs caused both of them to miss games, plays, and rendered them unable to capitalize on their potential. They still produced, Lawler in the red-zone and Treggs between the 20s, yet as we look at the respective catch-rates we can see players that were targeted often but were unable to execute in the when the ball is going their way. Yet, as I have mentioned before, the trust that Goff has in Treggs and Lawler can contribute to the low catch-rate. In 50-50 balls, or even less, Goff would throw to Lawler and Treggs.

Throughout the season we could see Darius Powe gaining more and more targets. I remember seeing him once during the summer before the season, he was by himself in the stadium doing footwork drills. Those drills paid off, I wasn't expecting him to perform as well as he did this season since I had Lawler, Treggs, Davis, and Anderson as the top 4 WRs. Furthermore, as the season progressed Goff spread the ball more generously with the top 6 of the receivers getting 10% or more of the targets (75% of the total targets, 32 TDs, and 3,490 yards).

This offense was not as explosive as we expected with only 3 of the top 6 players earning double digits per target. However, the efficiency was evident in the fact that the top 6 receivers gained 500+ yards. We can see how often Khalfani is used in the passing game with multiple touchdowns as well as being 7th in the # of targets despite limited snaps on offense.

Typi-Cal Situations

Offense Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk Nat'l Avg.
Standard Downs S&P+ 118.5 15 94 89 100
Standard Downs Success Rate 51.70% 20 51.60% 112 46.50%
Standard Downs IsoPPP 1.2 24 1.1 70 1.11
SD Line Yards per Carry 3.03 45 3.24 112 2.91
SD Sack Rate 4.10% 50 5.70% 40 5.00%
Passing Downs S&P+ 137.2 8 101.3 66 100
Passing Downs Success Rate 43.10% 1 30.90% 69 30.70%
Passing Downs IsoPPP 1.64 96 1.75 62 1.77
PD Line Yards per Carry 4.43 2 3.49 90 3.21
PD Sack Rate 4.60% 18 8.40% 44 7.50%

This section provides us with a view of Cal's performances situationally: how the teams does when they are faced with (blank)?

Offensive Situations

Offense is ridiculously efficient. It has to emphasized that Cal's efficiency was exemplary with its ability to deliver the necessary yards, especially on passing down situations (2nd/3rd and long). This can be pointed to Goff's ability to deliver the ball on time and target. This is despite the fact that the defense is keyed on the pass. With the O-line holding up against the pass-rush, Goff showed an amazing ability to throw and do it well. Another interesting facet is the fact that in these passing downs our O-line was able to generate run pressure on an elite rate. This further proves the fact that once Goff is a factor in the pass, we can run the ball.

On standard downs, Cal was able to execute and execute well mostly by relying on the arm of Jared Goff. I tend to credit the QB more than the receiver when it comes to efficiency since those throws are mostly short to intermediate throws where the QB needs to make the right quick read and accurate passess. However, without having air yards per reception available we cannot conclude the sum of contributions.

Defensive Situations

Our struggles on standard downs undermine the decent statistical performances on passing downs. The lack of ability to shut-down efficient play on the ground and in the air exposed Cal's defense. Not much more can be said about the defense besides the fact that we were not able to execute well enough to stop opposing teams from moving methodically down the field on either types of downs.

Post-Season Numbers for Air Force Falcons (8-5, 4-4 MWC)

S&P+ Overall S&P+ Offense S&P+ Defense
Air Force 46 30 63

The Air Force, like all other service academies, plays with a handicap where their players are subject to strict weight restrictions imposed by the schools. Thus do not use either pro-style offense a la Stanfurd, nor the spread attack the way Cal does due to the tremendous mis-match in the trenches. What the Air Force uses is the triple-option. This form of attack is exemplified by the service academies as well as Georgia Tech. As we can see in the aggregate S&P+ stats the Air Force is quite potent in executing this offense. While the defense remains mediocre in the grand scheme of things.

Air Force Offense

Despite the type of academy we are facing the Falcons' offense remains grounded with 86.9% of the plays on standard downs and 66.7% of plays on passing downs being rushing plays.

AF Rushing Offense Cal Rushing Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Rushing S&P+ 114.8 20 98.8 73
Rushing Success Rate 47.10% 23 46.70% 107
Rushing IsoPPP 1.1 50 1.03 50
Adj. Line Yards 114.4 14 95.5 82
Opportunity Rate 41.90% 29 42.60% 111
Power Success Rate 74.70% 20 73.10% 103
Stuff Rate 14.40% 5 16.10% 105

This is not a favorable match-up for Cal's defense that struggles to stop the run on standard downs. I can imagine us employing a 4-3-4 base defense with either Damariay Drew or Stefan McClure dropping into the box as QB spies on option plays. Taking into consideration the low stuff rate of both Falcons' offense and Cal's defense we should focus on being able to remain disciplined about where the ball is going when the RB/FB dive-QB keeper-RB pitch are being executed. This highly effective rushing attack sets up the one element of a passing offense that is unparalleled by other more balances offenses:

AF Passing Offense Cal Passing Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Passing S&P+ 132.7 5 90.4 98
Passing Success Rate 40.90% 58 44.80% 106
Passing IsoPPP 2.52 1 1.46 66
Adj. Sack Rate 425.8 2 101 64

The reason Falcons' passing offense is so ridiculously good is the fact that the triple-option rushing game allows them to force the opposing defense to drop 10 in the box sometimes to account for all the rushers and blockers. This forces a man to man without FS help coverage. This is exploited immediately for huge plays as we can see when we look at Air Forces' #1 ranking in explosive passing plays. The excellent adjusted sack rate has to do with defensive edge rushers having to account for Karson Roberts' rushing ability.

Additionally, when covering the Air Forces' WRs Cal needs to focus on 2 targets : Jalen Robinette and Garret Brown who both take up 62.8% of the passing targets. The former ought to be shut down due to his abysmal 42% catch rate and the latter contained by good tackling.

Air Force Offense

On the flip-side:

Cal Rushing Offense AF Rushing Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Rushing S&P+ 112.6 25 106.4 44
Rushing Success Rate 48.10% 17 30.90% 3
Rushing IsoPPP 1 94 1.62 128
Adj. Line Yards 111 22 114.6 21
Opportunity Rate 45.20% 8 28.00% 2
Power Success Rate 55.30% 117 64.90% 59
Stuff Rate 18.70% 54 23.00% 31

We can see that this is a clash of strength against strength. The Air Force is capable of stopping rushers from penetrating the line of scrimmage, however, once past that line they become quite hapless in stopping rushers. This can be attributed to the discipline of the D-line in aggressively plugging all possible rushing holes but once past that hole the defense's secondary isn't athletic enough to stop rushing the ball. I think that it will be imperative to get both Tre and Khalfani involved early forcing the opposing defence to run with our boys all day long. But the key match-up is where the domain of the Air Force ought to be : the air.

Cal Passing Offense AF Passing Defense
Avg. Rk Avg. Rk
Passing S&P+ 127.3 9 103.5 54
Passing Success Rate 50.10% 5 35.40% 24
Passing IsoPPP 1.5 61 1.68 118
Adj. Sack Rate 153.4 26 143.2 13

Here we see the most beneficial match-up for Cal all day long. As long as we can keep our Goffensive leader upright and trust him with the ball we ought to be able to score points. The absolute mismatch between the Cal passing offense and Falcons' passing defense favors us in all sections even in adj. sack rates. I think that 3 weeks of rest and practice should allow us to unveil the best version of the Goffense to close out this season.


Contrary to the idea of the Air Force Academy, the key for Cal will be to stop the Falcons' rushing attack thus forcing them to use the pass when they are not comfortable with it. Karson Roberts sports a 9/10 TD to INT ratio with a 52.2% completion rate and only 134 attempts all year long. As long as we can play disciplined football near the line of scrimmage the defense shall feast.

On offense it will all be on Jared Goff's arm. We can sprinkle some runs here and there, but in order to leverage our strengths (Jared Goff) we need to pass the ball well and that according to the trends we have seen all season long, we will be better at running the ball.