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AFTER FURTHER REVIEW: All the turnovers

#WTIB was on steroids.

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Pistols Firing had this tweet, which got me thinking as I watched a DVR'd version of the game.

So upon further examination...

TD...defensive TD
FG...turnover, but it was a length off the field drive, so I'll give the offense credit
TD...defensive TD

To recap, that's 14 defensive points, plus 28 off turnovers, for a total defensive assist of 42 points. Every turnover resulted in points, and all but one turned into a TD. Subtract that from 69, and you get 27.

Now I'm not saying that's all the offense would have scored. Sans half the turnovers (and I think that's reasonable given UTSA's previous games), the Cowboys still roll up 40+, even without the defensive TD's. The offense should also get some love for turning all 4 short field TO's into TD's.

The offense definitely looked better, and Gundy/Yurcich were obviously intent on running the ball, with the play count at 40/26 in favor of the ground game. The ypc avg of 5.4 is more to Gundy's liking, and if you take away the pocket QB's (Rudolph/Cornelius), that creeps up to 5.7 ypc. Even if you take away Raymond Taylor's late game production on top of that, the average remains a healthy 5.6 ypc.

The Roadrunners only gave up 4.3 ypc against Arizona, and 4.0 ypc against Kansas State. The Cowboys improved decidedly on those numbers, so I would say "mission accomplished." The passing game was fine, with Rudolph and Walsh efficiently distributing the ball to 11 different receivers, and I don't recall any of the dreaded "lateral" swing passes to WR's (maybe I'm just blocking them out). On average, 11 different players are catching a ball per game over the first three games. That's pretty impressive.

The thing that I'm more interested in is OSU's ability to repeatedly sustain drives. Let's look at all of the Cowboys' possessions that started on their end of the field this season. I'm going to ignore the 4th quarter of the UTSA and UCA games, for obvious reasons. I'm not worried about scoring points so much as I am avoiding the 3-4 play, give it right back to the opponent type possessions.

To the best of my knowledge, the Cowboys have had 26 non-garbage time drives that have started on their side of the field. Of those:

  • 12 punts/1 TO (50.0%)
  • 7 TD's (26.9%)
  • 6 FGA's (23.1%)
The biggest thing that sticks out to me is that 50% of these drives gave the ball back to the defense, and if you look closer at the numbers, they gave it back very quickly. On those 13 possessions, OSU is averaging 4.6 plays and 16 yards per possession. Almost half (6) were three and out's.

I'm not a stats genius, but that doesn't seem good to me. I'd also like to see the TD/FGA ratio improve, but here's a weird stat for you...on the 7 possessions that resulted in TD's, OSU averaged 6.0 plays and 69 yards per possession. That's 11.6 ypp. Only one TD drive that started in their own end has lasted more than 8 plays.

On the 6 possessions that resulted in a FGA, the Cowboys averaged 10.0 plays and 61 yards per possession. That kinda seems like the number of plays per possession should be reversed, right? OSU's shortest possession that started in their own end and resulted in a FGA was 8 plays.

So essentially, OSU is giving the ball back to the opponent pretty quickly on 77% of it's possessions that start on their end of the field. That's ok if you're scoring TD's, but that's only happening on 35% of those possessions. Throw in that on 24% of possessions that start in their own end, the offense is sustaining long drives that only result in points 67% of the time, and the pressure is definitely on the defense. OSU is averaging just 2.35 points per possession on drives that start in their own territory. That seems a little low, but I would like to see what better offenses are doing.

If you look at FEI's "FD" stat (% of drives that result in a 1st down or TD), 2011 OSU was #25 in the country at 72.9% for all possessions. This year's Cowboys are at 73.1% with just the drives that start in their own territory, compared to 88.9% for Weeden's crew. If that percentage drops similarly to 2011 after conference play, that would put 2015's number at 57.1%. That's not going to work for a team that wants to contend.

Over the first three non-conference games of 2011, the Cowboys ran 259 plays that accounted for 19 touchdowns. That's 86 snaps a game, scoring a TD every 13.6 plays. This year's bunch ran 207 plays that accounted for 14 touchdowns. That's 69 snaps per game, and a TD every 14.8 plays. That doesn't sound so bad until take a couple of things into consideration.

First, 2011's team averaged an extra touchdown per game just on the number of plays. Second, if you take out the UTSA game (4 drives resulting from TO's on a short field), OSU was averaging a TD every 20.1 plays. That's not very good, given that the Cowboys are averaging 69 plays per game, and the competition.

These are very concerning numbers for me as OSU gets ready to face much tougher defenses in conference play (I didn't say great defenses...I just mean tougher than what they've seen so far), as well as offenses that will make what the Cowboys have faced so far seem like high school squads. I'm also waiting to see if the defense can create turnovers on a regular basis, not just in bunches.

If you think back, 2011's offense did some of the same stuff. Three and out's were not completely uncommon, however, when they weren't going 3-4 and out, they were scoring TD's in bucket loads. Add to that the defense was CONSISTENTLY turning the ball over, and presto, you have points and wins. Let's have a look at their stats, based on the same formula I used above for 2015. That season, OSU had 27 possessions in the first three games that started in their end of the field (2015 had 26):
  • 6 punts/3 to's (33.3%).......2015 had 12/1 (50%)
  • 12 TD's (44.4%).........2015 had 7 TD's (26.9%)
  • 5 FGA (18.5%).........2015 had 6 FGA (23.1%)
These numbers are pretty obvious. If you count the missed FG's, 2011 went scoreless on 37% of their possessions that started in their own territory against non-conference opponents (one of which was Arizona). Of the drives that ended in punts or turnovers, only a third were 3 or fewer plays. Points per possession for drives starting in their own territory?
  • 2011...3.56
  • 2015...2.35
This year's bunch has gone scoreless on almost 58% of their drives starting on their side of the field against overall much weaker competition, and that includes the barrage against UTSA. Here are the numbers side by side ("punt" includes turnovers):

I realize it's really not fair to compare this offense to the greatest offense OSU has ever seen (some would argue for 1988, but we'll leave that for another day), but it's good to see how much room there is for improvement, and that even a little will have big results. At some point this season the offense will likely have to carry it's own weight.

All in all, it was the blowout we were looking for, and the run game was vastly improved. Turnovers or not, this is a big step in the right direction for an offense that needed it badly. They may need to take the next step in Austin, as Texas appears to have found another version of Vince Young.

Well ain't that just fabulous.