Targets and Catches: Breaking down WSU's WR performance against Auburn

Michael Chang

The Cougar receivers had their moments against the Tigers, but overall they got off to a shaky start to the season.

The Cougars threw for 344 yards against Auburn, so that must mean the WSU receivers had a great game, right? Well, not exactly. Sure, the Cougars threw for a bunch of yards, but a closer look at the performance shows they were not very efficient. If fact, they were extremely inefficient.

As I've done in seasons before, I charted the wide receivers following the game and well, it wasn't pretty. Before we get into the chart, let's quickly go over what we're looking at here. A target is anytime a pass is thrown to a player. I first pull this from the play-by-play then go back through and verify the data off video. You'll notice that the pass attempts below don't add up to the 65 passes Connor Halliday attempted on Saturday. That is because running backs aren't included in the numbers below and I also removed any balls thrown away.

When it comes to the numbers. the catch rate is simply the percentage of time a player turns a target into a reception. Based on years of data, we know 60 percent is close to the average for wide receivers and anything above 65 percent is good. The yards per target (YPT) is the yards gained divided by the number of targets with 8.0 being close to the average for wide receivers. Anything 10.0 or higher is elite range with anything lower than 7.0 being not so good. Below 5.0 and there's an issue.

The drops you'll see are counted by me. Play-by-play is extremely unreliable when it comes to drops. The way I count drops is simple. Did two hands hit the ball? Were both feet on the ground? Was the player interfered with/was the ball deflected? If the first two are yes and the third is no, it's a drop. I added passer rating as a category this season. That number represents the quarterback's passer rating when throwing to that player. Anything above 140 is good, below 120 is mediocre and below 100 is bad.

Finally, this is obviously not a complete measure of wide receiver performance. It doesn't take blocking, route running, etc into account. It is merely a look at how the players performed as receivers.

Now with that said, let's get to the Week 1 chart.

Player

YDS

TGT

Comp

Drop

1st

INT

TD

Target%

Catch %

Drop %

1st %

YPT

Rating

Bartolone

6

5

1

0

0

1

0

8.06%

20.00%

0.00%

0.00%

1.20

-9.92

Cracraft

14

7

3

1

0

1

0

11.29%

42.86%

14.29%

0.00%

2.00

31.09

D Williams

43

5

3

0

3

0

0

8.06%

60.00%

0.00%

60.00%

8.60

132.24

Galvin

43

8

5

0

4

1

0

12.90%

62.50%

0.00%

50.00%

5.38

82.65

K Williams

42

9

4

3

3

0

0

14.52%

44.44%

33.33%

33.33%

4.67

83.64

Marks

81

12

9

1

5

0

0

19.35%

75.00%

8.33%

41.67%

6.75

131.70

Mayle

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

1.61%

0.00%

100.00%

0.00%

0.00

0.00

Myers

15

6

2

0

1

0

0

9.68%

33.33%

0.00%

16.67%

2.50

54.33

Ratliff

66

4

3

0

1

0

1

6.45%

75.00%

0.00%

25.00%

16.50

296.10

Total

310

57

30

6

17

3

1

91.94%

52.63%

10.53%

29.82%

5.44

93.58

Let's talk about the good first, namely my guy Bobby Ratliff. As the president of the Bobby Ratliff Fan Club I enjoy every part of that 16.5 YPT. That is a glorious, glorious sight. Now, it's almost entirely the result of his 53-yard reception, but whatever, just let me enjoy the effects of small sample size for a week.

Dominique Williams also had a solid game, catching three of his five targets for 43 yards. His numbers were similar to the numbers he put up near the end of last season, so good to see that carry over. I expect will see his usage increase as the season goes along.

Halliday likes throwing to Gabe Marks ... a lot. Marks was targeted on just less than 20 percent of all passes going to wide receivers. Not really a surprise, but the high number of targets and the lack of a big play led to the lackluster 6.75 YPT. I don't know if Marks will get 12 targets a game for the season but I would expect at least eight in most weeks.

Vince Mayle played three plays that I saw. He was targeted once and dropped a would-be first down. The good news is it can only go up from here.

Rickey Galvin's number came out worse than I expected them to be when watching the game live. He was, however, a first down machine converting half his targets for a new set of downs.

When Kristoff Williams caught the ball, he generally did good things with it. The problem was he dropped three of nine targets. The Cougars combined to drop six passes, way too many.

Now for the ugly part, the really ugly part. Brett Bartolone and River Cracraft combined for 12 targets, yet mustered only 20 yards on those targets. That just made me throw up in my mouth a little. To make matters worse, two of Halliday's three interceptions were on passes to Bartolone and Cracraft. Roughly 20 percent of Halliday's attempts to wide receivers went to two players who combined to average 1.67 YPT. I don't care how well they block, that is never going to get it done.

Playing on the outside Isiah Myers was jut slightly better, mustering 2.5 YPT on his six targets. Myers ran an unsustainable catch rate early last season before tailing off. Still, he's going to catch more than 33 percent of his targets this season.

The good news is the bad could easily change. Maybe it was just a bad game. Maybe Auburn's speed in the secondary limited some of the possession type receivers a bit. Still, it is something to keep an eye on moving forward and something I will certainly highlight in the coming weeks.

As a team WSU averaged 5.44 YPT and had a catch rate of 52.63 percent. Neither number is anywhere close to the acceptable range if this offense is going to be any good this season. The yards per target will go up substantially if that catch rate gets closer to 60 percent. Cutting down on the drops will help.

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