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Thursday, November 5, 2009

From the Mailbag: Adversity Comes in Different Sizes

From Ant123: "David, If you could look back and report on something it would really help provide a clearer picture about our defense. In Richt's first four years here, what percentages of turnovers in our territory led to fieldgoals, touchowns, or nothing. Then do the same then for the last 3 years and compare."

Ask and you shall receive...

First, I couldn't get drive charts for 2001, so I had to throw that out in terms of in-depth analysis. If anyone knows where I can find the full drive charts, I'll be happy to update the stats down the road.

Anyway, one of the main explanations for the defense's struggles this season has been the high turnovers. It makes some sense. Georgia has turned the ball over a lot, and the D has been put in some bad positions. But do turnovers really have that big of an impact overall? Let's look at it by year:

Turnovers Points/Game
2001 20 18.91
23 15.14
2003 18 14.50
2004 19 16.50
2005 18 16.38
2006 31 17.62
2007 17 20.15
2008 19 24.54
2009 34* 29.38

*Note: Georgia has 21 turnovers so far this season, which would put the Dawgs on pace for 34 through 13 games.

So what do we learn?

From 2001-2005, there was little serious change in the number of turnovers by the offense or the overall points allowed by the defense. In 2006, Willie Martinez and the Georgia D probably deserved an award for their work. Turnovers increased a whopping 72 percent, but scoring only went up by a little more than a point per game.

But it's what happened in 2007 and beyond that seems to ruffle the most feathers among fans. In 2007 and 2008, the turnover numbers were essentially right where they were during the heyday of Brian Van Gorder's administration, but the points allowed increased by a noticeable sum.

But the truth is, even 2007 wasn't that bad. While scoring increased almost four points per game from Van Gorder's last season in 2004 to Martinez's third season in 2007, things had changed throughout the SEC. Yes, Georgia allowed more points per game, but the Dawgs still ranked third in the SEC in scoring defense. Everyone was scoring more.

So really, it's only been the past two seasons that have been dramatically worse for Georgia's defense -- but it is most definitely worse. This season, the Dawgs are allowing 13 more points per game than they did during their last SEC championship season. Of course, they're also turning the ball over a whole lot more, too. So let's look closer at things on a play-by-play basis.

(Note: "Stops" is any drive that ends in a punt, end of half, safety or a turnover on downs.)

Turnovers %TDs %FGAs
2002 23 31% 19% 7% 44%
2003 18 17% 28% 11% 44%
2004 19 32% 21% 5% 42%
2005 18 33% 11% 11% 44%
2006 31 33% 13% 20% 33%
2007 17 23% 18% 18% 42%
2008 19 53% 6% 6% 33%
2009 21 52% 24% 0% 24%

From 2002-2007, there was very little change in how the defense played following a turnover. In every one of those years, Georgia held firm on between 47 and 60 percent of all drives following a turnover. But in the past two years, the number of touchdowns allowed has gone up by 20 percent, while the number of stops has dropped by nearly that much. This year, the opposition scores (or at least kicks a field goal) following 76% of all turnovers.

Looking deeper at the individual drives, During the three years under Van Gorder, Georgia allowed only 10 drives of 30 or more yards following a turnover, and just four of 50 or more yards. Essentially, if Georgia's turnover occurred on the opposition's side of the field, it didn't really matter. On the other side, Van Gorder's D held the opposition to 10 yards or fewer following a turnover on 28 occasions -- i.e., not so much as a first down.

That's a trend Martinez's defenses carried over for the most part in the next three seasons, too. In the past two seasons, however, those numbers have changed. Of the 40 turnovers, opposition has been held to less than 10 yards just 13 times.

In short, when turnovers have happened, it's been more likely that the opposition would keep that momentum going in the past two years.

Of course, the obvious question is: Why?

For the first three years of his career as defensive coordinator, Willie Martinez appeared to be every bit as successful -- and maybe more successful -- than Van Gorder at limiting the damage that turnovers caused. Did he suddenly forget how to keep his defense motivated? Or did his players suddenly get much worse at handling adversity?

Well, there are also degrees of adversity, and as it turns out, Georgia's D has been a bit further behind the 8 ball recently. Of all the turnovers Georgia has had, check out the percentages of those that have occurred inside its own 35-yard line.

2002 2347
2003 18 39
2004 19 47
2005 18 44
2006 31 29
2007 17 41
2008 1953
2009 21 67

It has only been the past two years that the opponent has started more than half its post-turnover drives already in field-goal range. (Those numbers include pick-sixes, too.) This year, the D has been put in an almost impossible situation, with the opponent in scoring range before it even takes a snap two-thirds of the time.

So has Martinez suddenly forgotten how to rally his troops after a particularly bad play? Perhaps, a little. But the bigger issue is that the offense has set the D up to fail on a far more routine basis this season (and, to a lesser degree, last).

That doesn't necessarily explain the big increases in opponent scoring overall, but it's certainly a real factor. And situations like that have a lasting ripple effect beyond any eventual scoring. It changes field position. It forces the D to be on the field longer. It may cause the offense to adjust its strategy to play catch-up more. All things that work against the overall success of the team.

Obviously there's more that has gone wrong in Athens than just this, but Mark Richt is probably right when he says that, if the Bulldogs could simply cut down on those killer turnovers, things might look a good bit different.


Anonymous said...

David, The most telling stat you could ever come up with would be "3 & outs". This is the telling strength of a defense. There were many games this year that the opposing offense gets the ball deep in their field. Then what does Willie D do??? They allow the opposing O to move it into our position. Now the Opposing O may not score, but then they punt to us and we get in inside our 10 or 20....Richt goes nuts "our D was masterful" or some BS like that. When in fact the D did not let the opposing O score, but they certainly left the offense in shitty field position. My point is that the points we give up matter, but the bigger point for me is that our Defense gives up too much field postion and our offense is worse off for it. If there is a state for "3 & outs" I bet you can dig it up and I bet Willies D is last...just a guess.

Anonymous said...

Hey, is there a chat today?

Matt said...

I think more than the points of TO's, is the long drives CWM defense's have given up since 2007. David could you get some states on number of drives over, lets say 60 yards, form CVG time to CWM time? The first two drives of UF game for example. Defense looks unprepared. The soft off coverage kill's them early in games. CWM has stated on multiply occasions that he likes to get pressure with front 4 first, and if he is not then go to blitzing with man coverage behind it. Well sometimes by the time he makes the switch the team is in a big hole. Look the NFL the bring pressure early on 2nd and 3rd and long. Putting pressure on the QB early to get him off his rhythm. Even CVG with the Falcons brings a lot of back side pressure on passing downs. Given this is the NFL, but he still runs the same system. The key with that type of scheme though is tackling, if you bring pressure off the weak side and play zone behind it you have to be able to tackle. Which every way you look at it CWM has failed, scheme wise and with fundamentals. CWM gets caught with his pants down after turnovers as well. Every coach in America will take a shot down field after a sudden change in the game, i.e TO, blocked kick, or big return. CWM just looks like he has no idea of what is coming. Its not that his D gives up points, its the way they give up points. The same thing over and over. Looks like they don't even watch film.

Anonymous said...

David, forgive me if you have already done this and I missed it, could you do a detailed analysis of our penalties? Analysis by quarter, number of penalties by offense vs. defense, and "big penalty" analysis (15 yards or more) - - going back a few years? Is there a way to track the penalties that negate big gains such as holding calls that bring the ball back after an apparent first down, block in the back that negates a long punt return, etc.? Thanks I really enjoy your work.

Justin said...

Great post, love the depth of the numbers. Keep up the good work, love reading your analysis.

Go Dawgs!

Lucas said...

Hey David, I just discovered your blog a week ago and I'm already a HUGE fan. Love the objective analysis combined with reporting any bit of minutia. No detail too trivial; no injury to a third stringer left uncommented upon!

Just wanted to weigh in on the Van Gorder-Martinez differences. On a subjective level, there are two things I think we all saw from Van Gorder defenses that don't seem to exist any more. They aren't the end-all be-all of defense, but I think they are telling. 1) The defense was better in the second half. Coming out of halftime, adjustments were made - whether adjusting to the opposing offense or just getting better at the fundamentals. They improved. 2) If the offense scored go-ahead points late in the game (especially under 2 minutes), the game was over. A Van Gorder defense just wouldn't let you drive the field at the end of the game. The closest Martinez can come is praying that Reggie Ball throws it out of bounds on 4th down.

In terms of the "telling stats," I'm curious about two things. 1) How does the defense perform with its back against the wall - ie with the opposing offense beginning a possession already in field goal range (whether by big punt return, turnover, whatever). How often does that become a touchdown. 2) Can the other team drive the field? How often does a drive beginning behind the 30 culminate in a touchdown (because, really, if you can hold teams to field goals all day, you're doing just fine).

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious to see those numbers analyzed alongside pressure on the quarterback. I've long thought that perhaps our secondary was a bit mediocre and has been masked by outstanding D line play. Lose some pressure by the ends, and you have what appears to be an utterly incompetent defense.

Then again, I've never been in the arena.

Brian said...


The TD % did not go up by 20% . It went up 20 percentage points. The TD% actually increased 70% from BVG to WM following a turnover.

Anonymous said...

Being a numbers guy, I like the stats that have been going up here lately. Sometimes, a little too much, but good none the less. However, the good and bad numbers are just the output; the result of good and bad input. The input is where the problem is and the numbers seem to trend downward around '08. Most would say that the D began its troubles in '07. I would agree as the visible level of play seemed to fall off and since the numbers are the output, you could speculate that the problems began in '07. You just couldn't track them statistically until '08. So what changed in and around '07 to create this downward spiral. You mentioned twice that Martinez managed to be as successful as his predecessor for the next three years. After that, the questions are "Did he suddenly forget how to keep his defense motivated? Or did his players suddenly get much worse at handling adversity?" Maybe, the questions should be "Did he ever motivate them or coach them correctly in the first place?" The biggest criticism any new coach faces when he wins in his first couple of years is "he did it with the last coach's players". Les Miles faced it when he one a national championship with Saban publicly calling him out. Now look at LSU. They're not pulling in the same caliber of recruits that Saban did and the lower level of talent can't make up the difference of lower level coaching. Miles missed his chance by not jumping on the Michigan train when it was going by. What happened before and after 2007 is that almost every single Van Gorder coached player left. Now, we are left with the Martinez coached players. The recruiting is, across the board, plus or minus of where it was. Maybe better. However, the coaching is not. As the Van Gorder mentality left with the changing of the guard, our productivity fell. And that's a trend I think is going to continue until a change of course is instituted.

JRL said...

David - great work. Now can you do something similar with time of possession? I think that will be as telling as anything.

Our offense does little to help the defense - either killing turnovers - three and outs - or in some cases quick strikes.

For you guys that love numbers check out cfbstats dot com

Ant123 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

David when are you going to show stats that compare our i backfield offense with our shotgun offense?

Ant123 said...

David, Well I typed a book earlier and the system ate it somehow. So I'll just say thanks for taking the time to report all this. It's great to have a truly interactive reporter that actually responds.
The big keys in your report to me were 1. Vangorder,s defenses gave up way fewer yards and had more three and outs which in turn puts the offense in better position. 2.The offense has been way more careless with the ball the last 2 years under Bobo. 3. Willie's D is giving up 6 points after turnovers way more often than Vangorder's D especially the last 2 years. 4. Willie's D is not creating turnovers like Vangorders D.
The bottomline is the team has become an increasingly undisciplined team which results in what we have seen the last two years. I don't know where all the blame lies, but I know whose responsibility it is to correct it.

Anonymous said...

Correlation doesn't imply causation, of course, but I wonder if part of the reason for the defense's struggles the last two seasons (and, possibly, change) is the change in *offensive* coordinators: We've seen this season that the defense has been put in terrible positions because of short fields but also (and possibly more importantly) short drives; has UGA's time of possession (especially per offensive series) gone down appreciably under Bobo? I could see that adding pressure to the defense. (Similarly: Aside from losing Knowshon, isn't the main difference between UGA's running game last year and this year the fact that we have a new, unproven [albeit young and popular w/the players] RB coach?)

David Hale said...

Anon 3:21 -- Sorry but I just don't have access to those stats. Play-by-play doesn't give you formations, only results. So short of rewatching all the film, which I just don't have time to do. Sorry.

Anon 5:!4 -- Interesting observation. Let me look into that.

FL DAWG said...

I also think our offensive three and out's have gone up every year could be wrong. All of those offensive three and out's puts the defense on the field to much and kills the field positon game.

UGA NATION Blog said...

Anon 5:14

My thoughts exactly after reading. Not that CWM is lights out on defense but maybe Bobo's play calling deep in our own territory is not right. Maybe he needs to be more focused on high % pass plays instead of taking chances. With that said, his play calling could also be very skeewed by our horrible rushing attack.

Thanks for all of the stats DH!

Anonymous said...

Lucas, a BVG defense wouldn't let you drive the field at the end of the game and score? How much football have you really watched? BVG isn't a genius, infact, he has proven to be a goofus in many ways. Guess you didn't watch that BVG defense as recently as this past Monday night in New Orleans. Brilliant comment. Quit attacking and start supporting UGA.