Attention to Detail: How Florida State kept Maryland off balance

Each week Truecubbie and Myself delve into a discussion of leveragesuccess rates, points per play, S&P, and a variety of other advanced football metrics.  Anyone can read a box score.  Hopefully this gives you a better idea of what Florida State did well, what the Noles did poorly, and why.  

Mickey's PC Podcast-- courtesy of

Jimbo Podcast-- courtest of

Christian Ponder Porcast-- courtest of

Chantrant rocks an amazing video of the Choke at Doak.


Leverage is all about passing downs.  Offenses strive to stay out of passing downs.  Defenses attempt to force the offense into passing downs.  So, what is a non- passing down?  1-10, 2-7 or less, and 3rd/4th and 4 or less.  The most elite of offenses face passing downs about 20% of the time.  Bad offenses face passing downs roughly 45% of the time.

  • If you felt like FSU stayed in control through the night on offense, you were right.  Florida State faced only 17 passing downs (out of the 67 total offensive plays), for an excellent 75% offensive Leverage score!  
  • Maryland, on the other hand, faced passing downs 33% of the time (20 of 60 offensive snaps), as the Nole defense did a decent job of putting Maryland in difficult spots.

Still, 25% against 33% isn't enough disparity to explain the 34 point margin.  

Maybe we can find some other clues?

Success Rates & Leverage

Overall Offensive Success Rate: 52% (35 of 67)

Passing Success Rate: 62% (16 of 26)

Running Success Rate: 45% (19 of 42)

Non-Passing down Success Rate 64% (14 of 22)

Non-Passing down running:  66% (10 of 15)

Non-passing down passing:  57% (4 of 7)

Passing Down Success Rate: 40% (6 of 15)

Passing Down running: 33% (2 of 6)

Passing Down passing: 44% (4 of 9)


Florida State 1st Down Offense

The Noles were decent on 1st down as the offense succeeded on 15 of 30 1st downs, for a 50% success rate.  The goal for 1st down is typically 44%.  

The passing game was brilliant, SUCCEEDING ON 80% OF FIRST DOWN PASSES (8 OF 10 ).  That is exceptional.  Ponder (& D'Vo) combined for a 1st-down quarterback rating of 154!  This had a lot to do with Jimbo's playcalling and Ponder's recognition and line- checks.  

Interestingly, the running game was below average on first down as only 7 of 20 runs were considered successful (35%).  That's pretty poor.  Clearly, Maryland wanted to stop the run on 1st down.  

Was the 1st down running game really that poor?  On the surface, clearly.  Looking deeper, however, a few things really stick out.  First, one of the "carries" was a fumble by D'Vo.  Chances are this was a running play, but we have no way of knowing.  With only 20 chances, even one questionable result can skew the data.

Second, stuffed %.  1st down Stuffed % is defined as the % plays that do not set up the offense for a 2nd and 7 or less situation.  7 of the 20 runs were stuffed.  Again, this is rather poor.  Most interestingly, however, was that Florida State had four 4 rushes of 4 yards.  That's interesting because while it falls a yard short of "success" (defined as 5+ yards on 1st down), it sets the offense up for a nice 2nd and 6 situation; or in other words, a non passing down.  We will see the practical impact of these 4 yard runs on 2nd down...


Florida State 2nd Down Offense

The obvious takeaway here is that the Florida State offense played with excellent leverage throughout the entire game.  The Noles faced 15 Non-Passing 2nd Downs, and only 9 passing 2nd downs.

Overall on 2nd down, the Noles were 13 of 24 (54%), which is very good.  Running (56%, 9 of 16) was slightly better than passing (50%, 4 of 8).

FSU dominated Non-passing down 2nd downs, succeeding on 9 of 15 (60%).  Our success in these favorable situations has been mixed, so it was good to see FSU taking care of business.  Florida State ran the ball really well on 2nd down in non-passing situations, succeeding on 7 of 11 Non-Passing Down runs (64%).  FSU threw the ball effectively but not spectacularly on Non-passing situation 2nd-downs (Two of four, 50%).  

As expected, success was more difficult to come by in passing-downs, as the Noles succeeded on only 4 of 9 passing 2nd downs (44%).  44% is actually pretty decent, given the situation.  The Seminole running game was 2 of 5 (40%) in this situation, while the passing game was 2 of 4 (50%).  


Florida State 3rd down offense

Florida State played with decent, but not great leverage on 3rd down (7 non-passing situations to 6 passing situations).  

Just as they did on 2nd down, the 'Noles succeeded on more than 50% of their 3rd downs (54%, 7 of 13).  

FSU was again very good in 3rd down in Non-Passing situations,  going 5 of 7 (71%).  The running game succeeded at a 75% rate (3 of 4) and the passing game went 2 for 3 (66%).  This is above what we expect, but not insanely so.  The offense works hard to get to these spots and they should cash them in.  One of the unsuccessful plays was actually a fumble by ponder.  

FSU performed about as expected in 3rd down passing downs, succeeding on only 2 of 6 opportunities (33%).  Passing was 2 of 5 (40%), while running was 0 for 1.  This seems low, but it's not.  These situations are unfavorable to the offense.  


Florida State's Defense

Leverage: 33% of Maryland's snaps occurred in defensively favorable leverage situations.  Maryland had 20 2/3/rth down passing situations and 14 non-passing situations

Overall defensive Success Rate:  42% (25 of 60)

Passing Success Rate:  35% (13 of 37)

Running Success Rate:  52% (12 of 23) (UNF-- this is your tackle play)

Non-Passing down Success Rate:  43% (6 of 14)

Non-Passing down running:  50% (3 of 6)

Non-passing down passing:  38% (3 of 8)

Passing Down Success Rate:  25% (5 of 20)

Passing Down running: 50% (3 of 6)

Passing Down passing:  14% (2 of 14)


1st down Success Rate: 54%  (14 of 26)

Passing Success Rate: 53% (8 of 15)

Running Success Rate: 55% (6 of 11)

Clearly, this is not as good as we want to see.  Maryland was very good on 1st down.  Maryland should have stuck with their running game on 1st down as we had a ZERO% STUFF %  That's right, zero tackles for 0 or loss on 1st down run plays.  


2nd down Success Rate: 30% (6 of 20)

2nd down Passing Success Rate: 11% (1 of 9)

2nd down Running Success Rate: 45% (5 of 11)

2nd down Non-Passing down Success Rate 44%% (4 of 9)

2nd down Non-Passing down running:  50% (3 of 6)

2nd down Non-passing down passing:  33% (1 of 3)

2nd down Passing Down Success Rate: 18% (2 of 11)

2nd down Passing Down running: 40% (2 of 5)

2nd down Passing Down passing: 0%% (0 of 6)

While the 1st down defense was pretty poor, the 2nd down defense was excellent.  


3rd/ 4th down Success Rate: 36% (5 of 14)

3rd down Passing Success Rate: 31% (4 of 13)

3rd down Running Success Rate: 100% (1 of 1)

3rd down Non-Passing down Success Rate 50% (2 of 4)

3rd downNon-Passing down running: -- (0 of 0)

3rd down Non-passing down passing: 50% (2 of 4)

3rd down Passing Down Success Rate: 33% (3 of 9)

3rd down Passing Down running: 100% (1 of 1)

3rd down Passing Down passing:  25% (2 of 8)

4th down (0 FOR 1, was a pass on 4th n 3)

In stark contrast to the BC debacle, the defense really cashed in their high-leverage situations.  

I'll update this later tonight and I welcome your thoughts on the data.


TrueCubbie's Thoughts

We took care of business in all aspects of the game (minus a couple of fumbles here or there that we didn’t lose). FSU kept MD unbalanced by being unbalanced. See what I mean below.

Our offense showed what it can and will be capable of in the future. We have all talked about where Jimbo is going with this group. We simply took care of business against MD. We averaged 0.44 offensive points per play which is outstanding when combined with the 36:02 minutes we held on to the ball. This is in stark contrast to what MD did: .05 points per play with only 23:58 minutes of possession. We came out in the third quarter and dominated their defense, holding onto the ball for a whopping 12:05. Not having any turnovers helps…but look at our drive chart.

Our longest drive was 8:13, and we averaged 3:15 per drive (including the end of the half “drives” where we were running out the clock) We had 3 drives over 3 minutes. MD’s longest drive: 4:11 and it ended in an interception, a lot of work for nothing. They had three drives over 3 minutes.

So what do I mean that we were unbalanced? We ran the ball 62% of the time. Previously, we are closer to a 51/49 split with a slight advantage to the run. On 1st down, we ran the ball 68% of the time. On second down we ran the ball 67% of the time. It helped that only 38% of our second downs were passing situations. As FSUncensored mentioned, we did well on 1st down. We averaged 3.75 yards per play. If you hypothetically carry that over three downs, its a first down every series (obviously that doesn’t happen).

We averaged a little over 6 yards to go on second down. For the first time in a couple of games, we stayed patient with the run, keeping the ball on the ground 67% of the time. Previously we have thrown the ball significantly on second down, and this may explain why we were so successful on second down. We were “unpredictable” and stayed patient with the run, despite the fact that 25% of those plays we were 2nd and 10+. (I don’t have the specific break down of pass vs run on the longer plays)

Where did that lead us to on third down: We averaged 3 rd and 6. However, a majority of those plays (4/14) were 10+ yards to go. However, we still ran the ball effectively, running 38% of the time when 46% of the plays were passing downs. Clearly, the offense did well during this game.

The defense did just as well, holding MD to only 0.05 points per play. Granted, they were coming from behind the entire game, so they had to take some risks and hence the decreased efficiency. We forced turnovers and killed drives, allowing our patient offense to do their job. They also had some huge field flipping plays.

That brings me to my next point. We also did well in the field position game. Our average starting field position was our on 33. MD started at their own 28. However in the 4th quarter they started at their own 24. Gano had 3 punts, one downed inside the 20 and 0 touchbacks.

Overall, we played a balanced effective football game. But the nitty gritty shows that we deviated from our norms a little(We’re are a great running team so we should stick to it and to be fair, we have been coming from behind in a few of the games I have looked at like this making this a slightly skewed analysis…still interesting). I look forward to next week. I think the same overall game plan will make it interesting: smart time consuming efficient offense, no turnovers, a stifling defense that creates turnovers and a great kicking game. We can do it…our players need to believe that they can and not get too excited and play outside of themselves and lose their focus and discipline.


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