The Numerical, Week 7: Surges, missed opportunities and 31 passes to one guy

Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The stats that mattered from the seventh week of the 2012 college football season.

578. Yards gained in the third quarter of Toledo's 52-47 win over Eastern Michigan. The teams combined for 55 points and averaged 17.0 yards per play during perhaps the most MACtion quarter of all time. Toledo even threw in a kick return touchdown for good measure. Consider this the MAC's response to the Big 12's shot across the MACtion bow.

450. Yards gained by Oregon State in a 42-24 win over BYU. My favorite tidbit of 2012 is officially done; BYU hadn't allowed over 300 yards in a game for 12 consecutive contests before the Beavers, led by backup quarterback Cody Vaz, blazed through the Cougars at a rate of 7.5 yards per play.

392. Days between Tulane wins. The Green Wave beat UAB, 49-10, on September 17, 2011, then lost 15 in a row before a rather shocking 27-26 win over SMU in front of 11,519 at the Superdome. Tulane went up, 20-9, late in the third quarter, fell behind by six with just 1:22 remaining, then drove 68 yards in five plays to score the game-winner with 35 seconds remaining.

If you're a fan of a winning team, never take the winning for granted.

261. Total yardage for Wisconsin running back Montee Ball in the Badgers' 38-14 win over Purdue. Welcome back, Montee! The senior rushed 29 times for 247 yards and three touchdowns, and he caught one of two passes for 14 yards. He single-handedly outgained the Boilermakers by nine yards, and he was part of a Wiscy attack that is beginning to find its form. After gaining fewer than 300 yards in three of four contests, the Badgers gained a combined 1,072 vs. Illinois and Purdue.

238. Ole Miss' yardage margin in a 41-20 win over Auburn. Not only did the Rebels win by three touchdowns, but it could have been so much worse. Ole Miss outgained Gene Chizik's embattled Tigers, 451-213, and won the turnover margin handily. How this game stayed within 30, I'm not sure.

167. Rushing yards gained by Oklahoma's Damien Williams in the Sooners' 63-21 demolition of Texas. Like I said, "moving the ball on the ground will be a rather iffy proposition."

121. Spots differing Baylor's offense (currently No. 1 in Off. F/+) from its defense (currently No. 122 in Def. F/+) in the F/+ rankings. In a 49-21 loss to TCU, the Bears let Horned Frog quarterback Trevone Boykin find his rhythm for the first time. Boykin completed 22 of 30 passes for 261 yards and four touchdowns, and he ran for 73 pre-sack rushing yards, as well, a week after Iowa State had almost completely shut TCU down. Baylor's got problems, and they really don't have much to do with Robert Griffin III's departure (though quarterback Nick Florence did throw four picks on Saturday, as well).

44. Total plays by Central Michigan in a 31-13 loss to Navy. The Midshipmen, meanwhile, ran 73 of them. CMU simply could not get freshman quarterback Keenan Reynolds and Navy off the field; it was the strongest imposition of flexbone will Navy has shown in quite a while. Of course, you don't have to run the flexbone to control the clock. LSU limited South Carolina to just 60 plays and held the ball for 36:57 in a 23-21 win over the No. 3 Gamecocks. The Tigers prevented S.C. quarterback Connor Shaw from developing any sort of rhythm, both by rushing him (four sacks in 38 pass attempts) and keeping him pinned to the bench. Three LSU running backs carried the ball at least 10 times, and the Tigers rushed for well over 200 yards in the game vs. a tremendous S.C. front seven.

22.2. Completion rate for West Virginia's Geno Smith on passes longer than 12 yards in the Mountaineers' crushing 49-14 loss to Texas Tech. Smith completed four of his first five such passes and looked as if he was maintaining his "70 points vs. Baylor" form. But then he missed his next 13 attempts, and a back-and-forth game turned into a blowout. Smith remains the Heisman favorite, but he was drastically outplayed by Tech's Seth Doege, who responded to a disappointing performance vs. Oklahoma by completing 32 of 42 passes for 499 yards and six touchdowns.

17.8. Iowa State's average starting field position in five second-half possessions against Kansas State. The Cyclones trailed just 17-14 at halftime and actually still managed to only lose by six, 27-21, but they were pinned deep for the entire second half, and an already iffy offense had little hope of sustaining more than one drive in the half against the KSU defense. The Wildcats, meanwhile, started drives at Iowa State's 30, 46 and 8 after halftime. They were sloppy against a strong ISU defense, but the field position advantage allowed them to win anyway.

13. Sacks of San Jose State quarterback David Fales by Utah State defenders. Want the perfect example of why counting sacks in rushing stats gives a horribly inaccurate picture of a game? San Jose State had four net rushing yards; sacks of Fales lost 103 yards.

12.0. Alabama's average yards per play in the Tide's first six drives of a 42-10 win over Missouri. Bama went up, 28-0, early in the second quarter, barely allowing a first down in the process, but the offense was the story. The Tide gained 311 yards in their first 26 plays, and for the game, running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined to gain 321 yards on 36 carries. Of all of Missouri's problems this year (offensive line injuries, quarterback injuries, receiver drops), stopping the run wasn't really one of them. South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore, Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy and Georgia's Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined to average just 3.5 yards per carry versus the Tigers. But Alabama is close to otherworldly on both sides of the ball right now.

11.0. Tackles for loss made by Maryland defensive end Joe Vellano this season. Vellano is the Terps' third-leading tackler overall (incredibly rare for a 3-4 end), and he has logged three sacks and intercepted a pass. If you're looking for a reason why Maryland is a surprising 4-2 right now (albeit with wins over just William & Mary, Temple, Wake Forest and Virginia), look no further than a defense led by Vellano and linebackers Cole Farrand, Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakeford. The Terps rank a healthy 29th in Def. F/+, and they logged 11 tackles for loss and forced two turnovers in a 27-20 win at Virginia on Saturday.

9. Interceptions thrown by Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell in 626 passes during the 2008 football season. Mike Leach's most successful quarterback had a paltry interception rate of just 1.4 percent. Leach's current quarterback (well, one of them) Connor Halliday, on the other hand, has thrown 11 picks in 206 passes this year, a rate of 5.3 percent. Halliday lost his job (again) to Jeff Tuel after throwing two bad picks in 10 passes on Saturday. He is vocal, a little cocky, and quite fun to watch, but he's got to stop throwing the ball to the other team.

7. Failed fourth-down conversions in Oklahoma State's closer-than-expected 20-14 win over Kansas. Kansas went 0 for 5, with all five coming in Oklahoma State territory; OSU, meanwhile, went 0 for 2, with two inside Kansas' 35. Throw in a missed OSU field goal, and you've got more missed opportunities than you can count. (Okay, you can count them. Kansas entered OSU's 40 six times and scored twice; OSU entered KU's 40 seven times and scored four times.) Of course, these teams were not alone in their inability to capitalize.

  • Miami and North Carolina crossed each other's 40 13 times and scored a grand total of five times. Miami turned the ball over on downs in UNC territory three times, while UNC contributed a pair of missed field goals. The Heels and 'Canes combined to gain 901 yards … and score 32 points.
  • Temple and Connecticut crossed each other's 30 11 times, scored three touchdowns, attempted four field goals -- UConn missed all three of its field goal attempts and eventually lost -- lost a fumble and turned the ball over on downs once. Eleven trips, 31 points.
  • In a 23-15 loss to Rutgers, Syracuse entered RU's 40 six times and scored just twice. They missed two field goals, threw a pick and turned the ball over on downs near the Rutgers goal line. Gaining 418 yards on the Scarlet Knights' defense is damn impressive; it's a shame they didn't have more to show for it.

6. Total first downs converted by Kentucky in a 49-7 loss to Arkansas. Yes, the game was abbreviated -- for all we know, they may have ended up with seven, or even eight, had the game progressed through 60 minutes! -- but apparently, the Wildcats were just the right cure for what was ailing the Arkansas defense.

4. Defensive pass interference penalties drawn by Louisiana Tech receiver Quinton Patton in the Bulldogs' narrow 59-57 loss to Texas A&M. That is perhaps the most impressive part of a downright silly stat line: 27 targets, 21 catches, 233 yards, four touchdowns. Patton was targeted 31 times (including penalties) in one game! The two teams combined for 116 points and 1,293 yards (and neither belong to either the MAC or the Big 12 … anymore), but Patton's ridiculous night overshadowed even flashy Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (41 pass attempts for 389 yards and three touchdowns; 18 non-sack carries for 187 yards and three touchdowns).

1.1. Virginia Tech's yards per play in the first three drives of the Hokies' eventual win over Duke. They fell behind, 20-0, and were outgained by a 144-11 margin, but then the pendulum swung very, very hard in the other direction. From the fourth drive on, Virginia Tech outgained the Blue Devils, 514-185, and outscored them, 41-0. Better late than never. Just ask teams in Big Ten country: Iowa averaged 2.4 yards per play for its first nine drives before erupting for 154 yards in their final three possessions of regulation and forcing overtime against Michigan State. Three overtime field goals and a turnover later, Iowa was your 19-16 winner. Against Minnesota, Northwestern used its surge at the beginning, scoring three touchdowns in four drives, then averaging just 3.2 yards per play the rest of the way in a narrow, 21-13 win. Indiana pulled a reverse-Indiana from the previous week; after erupting in the first half and falling apart in the second against Michigan State, the Hoosiers gained 363 yards and scored 35 points after the break in a narrow 52-49 loss to Ohio State. Illinois, meanwhile, is still waiting for its surge. The Fighting Illini averaged 2.5 yards per play for the entire game in a 45-0 loss to Michigan.

(And I guess it's fair to squeeze Notre Dame into "Big Ten country:" the Irish averaged 2.7 yards per play over their first nine drives in an eventual overtime win over Stanford, and they averaged 7.1 per play and gained 227 yards in their finial four drives.)

Of course, the teams above experienced a valley and a peak. For teams like Mississippi State, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, there were multiple peaks. MSU's gameplan versus Tennessee was near-perfect; the Bulldogs scored 27 points on their first five drives, gaining 252 yards in 38 plays. On their next six drives, however, they were held scoreless and averaged just 3.2 yards per play. A late surge (two drives, 15 plays, 105 yards, two scores), however, gave MSU a 41-31 win. Pittsburgh did the same thing against Louisville but fell too far behind in the middle and lost by 10, and Cincinnati started and finished strong against Fordham but let the Rams stick around for far too long in between -- it was just 14-6 at halftime.

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