While we have quite the reputation at odd corners of the Internet for being obsessed with numbers, we'll be the first to tell you statistics aren't everything. However, we'll also be the first to say that they can be quite useful in informing analysis when used properly.
I spent a few minutes Sunday poring over the game book from WSU's 35-27 victory over UNLV, and there were a handful of numbers that stuck out to me. Here's the recap.
1: The number of total yards by which WSU outgained UNLV. Yes, I realize "1" and "yards" doesn't jive, but YOU try to figure out a way to make that sound any less weird. It would have been a lot easier if I could have used a number like 452 -- the number of yards by which WSU outgained UNLV a year ago. I'm not panicked about this -- UNLV is allowed to improve, too, you know, and I really liked what Nick Sherry did -- but it's definitely a concern that this is the first time WSU has out-gained an opponent, and only by the slimmest of margins.
I do think the Cougs went into a bit of prevent mode up two scores in the final minutes in the last two games, which allowed for some of that. And I also know that this is the second consecutive game where the Cougs' yards per play was higher than the opponent. But still: Outside of the scores, this helps confirm that the team probably hasn't improved as much as we hoped. (Yet, anyway.)
3.4: The number of yards allowed per rush on UNLV's 29 designed rushing plays. As Craig noted, UNLV's best player is Tim Cornett, and besides a single 32-yard run, he was completely bottled up. For all the faults of the defense, they're actually quite good up the middle -- Ioane Gauta and Toni Pole have been incredibly stout at the point of attack, and middle linebacker Darryl Monroe has been a missile. But I think some credit here needs to be given to the other guys in the front seven -- they were gashed on runs to the edge against BYU, and there was practically none of that against UNLV.
Of course, once the Rebels figured out that they didn't have to run to move the ball ... (Related: How is it that it takes teams until later in the game to figure this out?)
42.8: Net yards on WSU's four punts. Underrated performance of the game goes to Mike Bowlin and the punt coverage team. All four punts over 50 yards? An average of more than 40 yards of field position change on punts? Yeah, that'll do. Very nice work, guys. (You could also throw in four touchbacks as well, if you want.)
35.7: Percentage of third down conversions by WSU (5 of 14). It weird to think it was that low -- sure didn't seem like it during the game. But when you factor in the big plays that came on earlier downs while also considering going 2 of 3 on fourth down (which makes it feel more like 50 percent, since those drives ended up continuing), it makes a little more sense as to why it didn't seem that bad. But still ... this is right in line with the season mark of 36.4 percent. Which is bad. And needs to get a lot better.
100: Percentage of touchdowns on three red zone trips. MIKE LEACH IS A RED ZONE GENIUS. SOMEONE FIND TODD STURDY SO WE CAN FIRE HIM AGAIN.
That's what I noticed. What did you see?