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Cal Football Advanced Stats: Final Review of the Offense

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Take out your study guides. We’re looking into S&P+ data on the 2016 Cal football season.

NCAA Football: Utah at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

5 wins : Hawai’i, Texas, Utah, Oregon, UCLA.

7 losses: San Diego State, Arizona State, Oregon State, USC, Washington, Washington State, and Stanfurd.

Each one of those games happened in the stadium and not on the pages of a spreadsheet. However, I can use the spreadsheet to take a deeper look into what went well and what didn’t for the California Golden Bears on the offense. From my personal eye-test I want to divide the season into two time periods : before and after Oregon State. This is due to Davis Webb’s finger injury as well as Chad Hansen’s injury. The passing offense took a step-back for a short time period and never recovered its rhythm. Furthermore, the injury to Vic Enwere in the same game caused some issues in the rushing attack albeit not as severe.

In this breakdown I will look into all offense related statistics for the offense. Beginning from the top:

Overall Cal Offense

Cal’s Offensive Overall S&P+

Category Offense Rk
Category Offense Rk
S&P+ 39 14
Points Per Game 37.1 23

Although overall we have achieved high levels of performance, looking at the per opponent performance on a percentile case tells us a story of an offense that was inconsistent and often times slightly below average.

Cal Offense Percentile Performance

Date Opponent Opp. S&P+ Rk Score W-L Off. Percentile
Date Opponent Opp. S&P+ Rk Score W-L Off. Percentile
26-Aug vs. Hawaii 99 51-31 W 79%
10-Sep at San Diego State 46 40-45 L 84%
17-Sep Texas 45 50-43 W 82%
24-Sep at Arizona State 89 41-51 L 47%
1-Oct Utah 40 28-23 W 85%
8-Oct at Oregon State 62 44-47 L 48%
21-Oct Oregon 69 52-49 W 47%
27-Oct at USC 8 24-45 L 67%
5-Nov Washington 6 27-66 L 83%
12-Nov at Washington State 33 21-56 L 57%
19-Nov Stanford 21 31-45 L 78%
26-Nov UCLA 57 36-10 W 80%

The Off. Percentile number refers to the idea “If all FBS teams played this team where on the offensive production distribution would Cal land.” Most of the time we were an above average team with moments where it approached “pretty darn good” but never in the top 10 percentile of performers.

The most surprising statistic here is the 83rd percentile against Washington despite only putting up 27 points against the Huskies. This is due to the fact that out of all of Washington’s opponents only ASU scored more points (28).

Another poignant statistic is the Cal offense’ performance against Oregon State. The 48th percentile performance against the Beaver’s defense despite dropping 44 on them indicates the fact that there was so much more damage that Cal left of the table given the conditions and the opponent.

Five Factors

Five Factor Offenses

Category Avg. Rk
Category Avg. Rk
IsoPPP 1.24 77
Success Rate 45.30% 29
Avg. FP 29.8 60
Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.6 58

Five Factors are the core statistic that aggregate the most important statistics about the offense. What this means that despite the high #13 overall ranking of the offense, when we break down the Five Factor data we can see that it wasn’t due to any particular facet of the game being spectacular this season. What we can see here is offense that does a lot of things decently across the board.

However, one thing that IsoPPP was the key statistic that has often been the best predictor of success. The injury to Webb and Hansen could be the cause of the lackluster explosive play numbers. However, not every passing play has to be a 30 yard bomb with 5 yard YAC. Often times, especially with our talented receivers it is concerning that we were not able to convert many of the short passes into YAC plays. Example of this would be the usage of screen plays to Robertson or inside-release routes to Stovall. If we can get more YAC out of our young receivers, each of whom have the “take it to the house” potential with each play, then our IsoPPP number should go up. Furthermore, it is concerning that even with a home run hitter in Khalfani Muhammad we were unable to scheme him open more often.

Tendencies and Tempo

Category Team Rk Nat'l Average
Category Team Rk Nat'l Average
Std. Downs Run Rate 44.20% 124 60.40%
Pass Downs Run Rate 24.40% 116 34.70%
Adj. Pace 12.2 5 0

That should cover the spectrum of complaints I have about the run game frequency... all combined with statistical evidence on the lack of run plays. Some may argue that passing plays may help Cal gain more yardage, but when they back-fire, we’re stuck with 3rd and long situations and those are not fun.

The tempo statistic echoes the main observation by Nam Le: when Cal’s offense is able to get its first first down of the drive are we are able to use tempo and run the offense we want to run. And the tempo statistic shows, we’re the 5th “quickest” to the snap to snap.

Passing Offense

Cal Passing Offense

Category Avg. Rk
Category Avg. Rk
Passing S&P+ 113.8 33
Passing Success Rate 44.60% 30
Passing IsoPPP 1.41 91
Adj. Sack Rate 246 3

I said it later in the season and I will say it again. Our O-Line’s pass pro was wasted this year. We have to give it to all of the guys on the o-line: Steven Moore, Chris Borrayo, Aaron Cochran, Addison Ooms, Patrick Merkari, et al.

Even if we factor in the fact that Webb might’ve been quick to release the ball we know that we would not be the only offense that employs quick passing schemes. To compare, Jared Goff’s o-line in his 2015 campaign had the 16th best sack rate. However, the difference is much greater than that.

Webb threw the ball 620 times with only 16 sacks, while as Goff threw the ball 529 times and was subject to 26 sacks.

The IsoPPP number further reinforces the fact the passing offense was not delivering the big plays it needed all season long. Could be an injury problem, or it could be systematic issue with how Cal’s Bear Raid in schemed. Ideally one would design patterns where we could maximize YAC yardage for the WR depending on their skills and the types of coverage Cal would face on a week to week basis.

Cal WR/TE Passing Rates

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Targets Catches Yards TD Yds/Catch Yds/Target Catch Rate Success Rate Target Rate
Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Targets Catches Yards TD Yds/Catch Yds/Target Catch Rate Success Rate Target Rate
Chad Hansen WR 6'2, 205 JR 147 92 1249 11 13.6 8.5 62.60% 49.70% 24.40%
Demetris Robertson WR 6'0, 175 FR 90 50 767 7 15.3 8.5 55.60% 42.20% 14.90%
Melquise Stovall WR 5'9, 190 FR 68 42 415 3 9.9 6.1 61.80% 44.10% 11.30%
Bug Rivera WR 5'8, 175 SR 60 41 377 3 9.2 6.3 68.30% 58.30% 10.00%
Jordan Veasy WR 6'3, 225 JR 44 25 306 3 12.2 7 56.80% 45.50% 7.30%
Vic Wharton III WR 6'0, 200 SO 44 28 302 1 10.8 6.9 63.60% 45.50% 7.30%
Raymond Hudson WR 6'3, 230 JR 30 16 165 3 10.3 5.5 53.30% 53.30% 5.00%
Brandon Singleton WR 6'0, 175 FR 27 15 110 1 7.3 4.1 55.60% 33.30% 4.50%
Tre Watson RB 5'10, 195 JR 24 21 241 4 11.5 10 87.50% 62.50% 4.00%
Khalfani Muhammad RB 5'9, 175 SR 21 17 132 0 7.8 6.3 81.00% 28.60% 3.50%
Patrick Worstell WR 6'2, 195 SR 12 9 82 0 9.1 6.8 75.00% 50.00% 2.00%
Jordan Duncan WR 6'2, 210 FR 8 7 31 1 4.4 3.9 87.50% 50.00% 1.30%
Vic Enwere RB 6'1, 240 JR 7 4 10 0 2.5 1.4 57.10% 14.30% 1.20%
Jack Austin WR 6'3, 215 JR 6 5 47 0 9.4 7.8 83.30% 50.00% 1.00%
Kanawai Noa WR 6'0, 185 SO 5 3 34 0 11.3 6.8 60.00% 60.00% 0.80%
Malik McMorris TE 5'11, 310 SO 3 2 26 0 13 8.7 66.70% 66.70% 0.50%

‘Mmmbop et al. that is the name of the Cal passing offense receivers.

Despite missing a couple of games mid-way through the season as well as being hampered by the same injury throughout the season, Chad Hansen continued to be the dynamo of the offense. Below you will see that as a whole Chad was roughly 25% - 30% of the offense in all of the statistics:

Chad Hansen’s Production

Category Targets Catches Yards TD
Category Targets Catches Yards TD
Chad Hansen's Percentage 24.66% 24.40% 29.09% 29.73%

What we can see here a clear game-plan for opposing DCs: you shut down Chad, you Shutdown the offense for Cal. And we saw that later in the season, when Chad was able to beat his man the offense clicked. One saving grace for Cal in this type of approach is the fact that the Catch Rate per Target with and without Chad didn’t change (63.42% w/o Chad, and 63.26% w/ Chad). This means we were still catching as many balls without him. What is more interesting are the following numbers:

Hanseonomics

Category Target Catch Yards TDs Yards Per Target Yards Per Catch TDs Per Target TDs Per Catch
Category Target Catch Yards TDs Yards Per Target Yards Per Catch TDs Per Target TDs Per Catch
W/O Chad 449 285 3045 26 6.78 10.68 5.79% 9.12%
W/ Chad 596 377 4294 37 7.20 11.39 6.21% 9.81%

The two most concerning numbers are the yards per catch and target. Considering Webb’s avg. number of passes in the 2016 Season: 51.67. This means that the difference between Chad and non-Chads on a per game basis in terms of yards is 21.85 to 36.46 yards depending which measure we are using for the analysis.

Betwixt these “missing” yards lie a couple key 1st down conversions, probably a key 4th down in one game, and more.

These numbers could suggest Cal leaning more on Chad, however, my personal conclusion is this: We need to find ways to utilize our other WRs in the future to narrow the yardage gap. If we look closely, the fact that Robertson’s and Stovall’s Catch Rates are a little low, especially Robertson’s, should indicate a place for us to improve the non-Chad offense.

Run, Bears, Run.

Cal Rushing S&P+

Category Avg. Rk
Category Avg. Rk
Rushing S&P+ 107 47
Rushing Success Rate 46.40% 39
Rushing IsoPPP 0.99 102
Adj. Line Yards 112.1 24
Opportunity Rate 42.50% 33
Power Success Rate 68.00% 67
Stuff Rate 16.30% 24

The topline analysis of this data showcases a set of rushers helped by the strength of the o-line. Especially the divide between the Rushing explosiveness number, and the adj. line yards and opportunity rate indicates a run game more dependent on the offensive line than on the talents of the RBs.

Individual Rushers

Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Rushes Yards TD Yards/Carry Hlt Yds/Opp. Opp. Rate Fumbles ( Lost)
Player Pos. Ht, Wt Year Rushes Yards TD Yards/Carry Hlt Yds/Opp. Opp. Rate Fumbles ( Lost)
Khalfani Muhammad RB 5'9, 175 SR 152 827 2 5.4 4.8 42.10% 2 (0)
Tre Watson RB 5'10, 195 JR 143 709 4 5 3.1 43.40% 1 (0)
Vic Enwere RB 6'1, 240 JR 61 336 2 5.5 4.9 44.30% 1 (0)
Davis Webb QB 6'5, 230 SR 17 14 6 0.8 2.8 17.60% 5 (1)
Patrick Laird RB 6'0, 205 SO 8 59 1 7.4 3.1 75.00% 0 (0)
Billy McCrary III RB 5'10, 190 SO 6 39 0 6.5 2 83.30% 0 (0)
Melquise Stovall WR 5'9, 190 FR 3 10 0 3.3 1 33.30% 1 (1)
Malik McMorris TE 5'11, 310 SO 2 4 1 2 0 0.00% 0 (0)
Bug Rivera WR 5'8, 175 SR 2 -4 0 -2 0 0.00% 0 (0)

The main number I am most concerned with: Davis Webb was our leading TD rusher. None of our RBs with significant carries cracked 5.5 YPC, nor were they able to get more then 5 highlight yards per opportunity (yards not attributed to the o-line). This further emphasizes the need to find a way to make our RBs more productive. I know they have the talent on the field, but there is something missing in the way we set-up blocks in the second and third levels that prevents the RBs from getting more yards.

Situational Statistics

Situational

Category Avg. Rk
Category Avg. Rk
Standard Downs S&P+ 110 38
Standard Downs Success Rate 50.20% 35
Standard Downs IsoPPP 1.08 86
SD Line Yards per Carry 3.19 35
SD Sack Rate 2.30% 9
Passing Downs S&P+ 117.9 26
Passing Downs Success Rate 33.60% 38
Passing Downs IsoPPP 1.83 44
PD Line Yards per Carry 3.46 44
PD Sack Rate 3.00% 4

We are remarkably consistent offense regardless of the distance to 1st down. We get the yards, but only when the back are against the wall does the explosiveness rating shoot-up higher. I think it has to do with the fact that Cal is forced to take deeper shows down the field rather than electing to give Webb screens and 3 step routes.

Quarters and Downs

Category Avg. Rk
Category Avg. Rk
Q1 S&P+ 107.1 51
Q2 S&P+ 123 12
Q3 S&P+ 99.3 73
Q4 S&P+ 123.8 6
1st Down S&P+ 118.6 15
2nd Down S&P+ 101.7 67
3rd Down S&P+ 108.1 55

One thing that bothered me throughout the season was the fact that Cal would undoubtedly fail to begin the 3rd Q well makes it infuriating from an half-time adjustment perspective. Furthermore, it means that either our 1st-half game plans are too easy to counter by opposing DCs or there is something with our own self-scouting of in-game patterns and tendencies that has to change.

We can also see a drop-off between 1st downs and other downs. Not sure what is the nature of these struggles... Gotta think about it a little more.

Overall Thoughts

Later in the off-season I will delve into the long term trends of the Sonny Dykes era on offense and on defense. However, looking at this season in a vacuum I feel like there are certain concerns that Cal has to address during this offseason to merit the high #13 ranking. My main concerns are two-fold:

  1. Lack of consistent explosiveness in both types of offenses, but especially in the run game.
  2. Poor performance in the 3rd.

The first is a combination of trying to find ways to scheme our players to get more YAC yards instead of relying on deep passes to Hansen/Robertson. There is a lot we can gain from getting passes with YAC potential a try: crossers, slants, etc.

The latter is a coaching issue. There are three facets here that need to be considered in this spectrum:

  1. Our game plan coming into the game,
  2. our half-time adjustments, and
  3. in-game adjustments.

All of these are important when coming into the 3rd quarter. Our game-plan coming into a game, if designed properly, ought to limit the type of plays run the 1st half to prevent the whole game-plan from being solved within the half, always keep somethings in the back pocket. Our half-time adjustments need to be smarter about the types of counters the opposing DC might use on us and how we can counter those. Finally in game adjustments: are the CBs pressing more? Are they funneling the WRs by playing on the outside shoulder of the WR? Those things need to be done quickly before the 3rd quarter ends.

Despite the gaudy passing numbers and points put-up by Cal... I think we left a lot of it on the field, there is a lot of explosiveness that has been lacking in the Cal offense despite the