Last Saturday, Washington State went out and dominated all three phases against a team they should absolutely do that to. It was the most lopsided win in Coach Leach's tenure and the first time WSU really flexed on a team since the last time Paul Petrino led Idaho into Martin Stadium.
It also didn't feel much like that was what was happening until well into the third quarter.
Wazzu started out the game with two drives that went three plays for six yards (punt) and 8 plays for 32 yards (punt). When looking at how the two team's offenses performed in terms of yards per play, Wazzu only outpaced Idaho on two of their five first-half drives: Once in a nine-play, 82-yard scoring drive that included a 50-yard scramble drill to Kyle Sweet, and once by less than one yard.
Why does Yards Per Play (YPP) matter? It's actually a very highly accurate predictor of success.
|Yards Per Play Margin||% of 2013 games||Win%||Avg. scoring margin|
|4 to 5 yards||4.20%||100.00%||41.9|
|3 to 4 yards||11.20%||98.90%||32.2|
|2 to 3 yards||14.80%||95.00%||23.9|
|1.5 to 2 yards||13.80%||89.20%||17.5|
|1 to 1.5 yards||17.10%||86.20%||13.2|
|0.5 to 1 yard||20.00%||72.00%||7.7|
|0 to 0.5 yards||14.60%||55.10%||2.2|
Other stats like Points Per Play are a little better (because they acknowledge not every yard line is created equal, in the words of Bill C.) so those are what's being used in advanced metrics.
Walking out of Martin for a single can of Topcutter, in an understaffed and rain-soaked Cougville at halftime, it wasn't difficult to overhear "sure doesn't feel like we're up 18" from fellow Cougs making the same trip. This is what that feeling looks like, visually represented:
This graph takes the difference in yards per play from the WSU and Idaho offenses on their first, second, third, etc drives throughout the game. WSU only commanded a difference of 1.3 YPP* in the first half, and that was mostly due to one drive...and one pass on that one drive. The Cougs rebounded to average 7.2 YPP in the second half for a difference of 4.2 YPP* after halftime and 2.8 YPP overall.
*Fun to see how relatable those stats are to the table above. (granting field position, turnovers and special teams all play a major, non-dismissable role)
1.3 YPP margin; projected scoring margin ~15 / actual 18
4.2 YPP margin; projected scoring margin ~35 / actual 32
Defensively, it's tough to overstate just how dominant the Cougs were in the second half. Idaho only got more than five yards on a drive twice and only went more than five plays on a drive once. They were held to less than three YPP on all but one second-half drive and were at or below one YPP on four drives, three of those in a row to end the game.
Is there room for improvement? Sure. That's about as clean a stat sheet a defense can put together for a half, though.
There are a lot of other numbers to look at now with a three game sample size
0.02: The number of sacks per opponent dropback WSU is currently averaging. Two percent. Like the milk. Last season Wazzu cranked out a blistering +8 percent passing down sack rate and were +5 percent on standard downs. Whatever mitigations have been done along the defensive line to shore up rush defense (holding Hercules Mata'afa back) or however the Rush end position responsibilities have changed with new personnel, it has come at the expense of generating any kind of pass rush.
33.85 -- The percentage of opponent plays that are either touchdowns or first downs. That's not good. For comparison's sake, the Coug offense is at 37.65 percent, which ranks 22nd nationally. Getting blitzed by Eastern leaves WSU at the bottom of most statistical passing categories; 122nd in passing yards allowed per game (324.67), 117th in completions allowed per game (24.67), 118th in yards per pass attempt allowed (8.62), and 126th in Passing Success Rate (51.4 pct). Only way is up.
11 -- The number of penalties per game, which go for an average of 96 yards. WSU is averaging a penalty on 13 percent of total snaps in a game. Whenever discipline is an issue it always manifests in yellow flags.
514.6 -- Total yards WSU puts up a game, which ranks 20th. Summary statistics are kind of a wash for any evaluative substance but it's still nice to see. They are also ranked first in attempts (55.67) and completions (41), and third in both completion percentage (74 pct) and passing yardage (393).
29th -- S&P+ offensive ranking. This is higher than at any point last season and 18 spots higher than where they finished the 2015 season.
We'll be back to our normally scheduled programming next week ahead of the game against Oregon -- who's dressing up like Puddles this Saturday at 2:30 PM (PST) on PAC-12 Networks against Colorado. I highly recommend watching this one for a look at how Brady Hoke's Ducks will defend WSU.