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Advanced Analytics: FSU vs Jacksonville State

FSU played an outmatched opponent — but how efficient was the win?

Don Juan Moore

Florida State Seminoles football got their first win of the season yesterday, defeating FCS Jacksonville State 41 to 24.

After starting slow Florida State rallied back from a 21-7 deficit. In this advanced stats review we will look at how the Noles played in each quarter, as well as highlighting the individual performances of the game.

As always we will be acquiring data from, courtesy of @CFB_data, using the cfbscrapR package, created by Meyappan Subbaiah (@msubbaiah1), Tomahawk Nation contributor Saiem Gilani (@SaiemGilani) and Parker Fleming (@statsowar).

First we will look at the overall game boxscore:

Overall, Florida State had a good offensive performance averaging 0.245 Expected Points Added (EPA) per play. They were successful on 56% of plays, with most of that production coming on the ground. This sentiment is reinforced by the low explosiveness number, which tells us Florida State was more methodical in their drives. Florida State’s offensive line was excellent in the run game, averaging 4 OL yards per rush and only allowing 2.1 % of rushes to be stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

Defensively FSU allowed 0.003 EPA/Play and 45.1% success rate. The defense was much better at stopping the run, with 25% of Jacksonville State’s runs stuffed at the line. This box score gives us an overview of the entire game, but we need to go more in depth for a better analysis of the game.

We will break up the boxscore into halves and start with the first half:

The first quarter was a nightmare for the Seminoles. A pick six, a missed FG, and a punt culminated in a 20% success rate on offense. On the defensive side Florida state gave up a success play 46.2 % of the time.

Things changed dramatically in the second quarter as Florida State gave the offense over to Jordan Travis. A pair of touchdowns to go along with a 54.5% success rate on offense put the Seminoles back into the contest. The defense tightened up a little bit, allowing a 41.7% success rate, but a touchdown by Jacksonville State kept the Gamecocks up 21-14 at the half.

Overall -0.199 EPA/Play and 4.289 yards per play was abysmal given the opponent. Things needed to change in the second half if FSU looked to avoid the embarrassing upset.

A dominating second half for the Seminoles helped put away Jacksonville State for good. Success rates of 79.2% in the 3rd quarter and 58.8% in the 4th quarter is what one expected coming into this game. Defensively Florida State continued to improve from the first half performance by allowing only a 36.4% success rate in the 3rd and a 38.5% success rate in the 4th.

Overall a completely different half from the first. The biggest reason for the change in offensive performance came when the reigns were given to Jordan Travis.

On 17 pass attempts Jordan Travis was successful 65% of the time, with a total EPA of 11.3. This of course puts his EPA/Play at 0.66. This isn’t a tremendous amount of passes, but when he did pass the ball he certainly made it count. On the ground Jordan Travis had 11 for a 73% success rate with a total EPA of 5.91. This box score shows us just how efficient Jordan Travis was in this game. We can acknowledge the quality of opponent while also praising Travis for playing at a level recently not seen by Florida State quarterbacks.

The focal point of the FSU offense was the ground game. As shown on the table above, each of the FSU rushers had positive EPA per rush, with La’Damian Webb as the lone back with a sub 50% success rate. Given the distribution of carries, this should not be concerning for Webb going forward. True freshman Lawrance Toafili continues to impress, leading the way in EPA/Rush, Success Rate and Win Probability Added. Having efficient runners at the QB and RB position gives the Florida State offensive staff options in how they want to build their offensive strategy moving forward.

Ontaria Wilson led the way with 7 receptions which was good for 0.88 EPA/Pass and a 71% success rate. Tamorrion Terry showed more of his 2019 self with 6 catches good for 0.75 EPA/Pass, including one long ball of the play action pass from Travis. Keyshawn Helton led the way in EPA/Pass with 1.08, due in part to his long touchdown reception. Overall we did not see too many passes, but when we did it was rather efficient.

Let’s transition over to the defense and to accomplish this we will break down the defensive play by quarter

Similar to the offense Florida State started off slow defensively, giving up a successful play 50% of the time in the first quarter. Jacksonville State allowed a 13% success rate, with a -0.85 EPA/Play which is largely due to the pick six on the first offensive series for Florida State. The defense continued to struggle in the 2nd quarter, giving up 0.23 EPA/Play and allowing a 42% success rate. The increase in EPA/Play with a decrease in success rate means that when FSU was not able to stop the Gamecocks, it was much more costly.

The second half was much better for the Florida State defense, while Jacksonville State started to crumble. The best quarter for the Florida State defense was the last quarter, with a -0.39 EPA/Play with a 42% success rate. This is due in part to an interception by Asante Samuel Jr, his 3rd on the year. Overall FSU’s defense played well, but starting off slow against better opponents could be more devastating.