Gary Doran

Letting the Sun Devil Numbers Tell the Story


With the recent injury to Taylor Kelly, it might be worthwhile to examine the Sun Devil offense this week. The following is an analysis of games against Pac-12 opponents from 2013 and the Colorado game this year focusing on the ASU offense under Deputy Head Coach Mike Norvell. The statistics from last year include the Conference Championship Game against Stanford, so eleven games are included in this analysis.

There was a total of 144 offensive drives totaling 826 plays in those eleven games to analyze. This total represents about 98 percent of all the offensive plays, as no drive or play that finished out a half or a game was included. By leaving those drives out of the analysis, a better picture of the offense’s true production is observed.

A Good Start

In the first drive of the game, ASU’s offense was pretty darn potent, as it scored eight touchdowns and one field goal in eleven chances. It scored on 73 percent of its chances. In those eleven opening drives, the ASU offense averaged 7.6 yards per play. The only two non-scoring drives ended in an interception and a punt.

The first drive after halftime wasn’t as impressive as those at the beginning of the game, but still somewhat productive as the offense scored five touchdowns and missed a field goal opportunity. The offense generated a respectable 6.5 yards per play. The non-scoring plays ended with five punts and a turnover with a fumble.


It appears that the production of the offense decreased in each quarter, however, this could be because ASU jumps out to a lead so quickly. In the eleven games analyzed, ASU had outscored its opponents by 67 points after only one quarter. That is almost ten touchdowns. Equally impressive is that it outscored its opponents in the second quarter by almost as much as the first. By halftime, ASU had outscored its eleven opponents by 124 points. That is nearly 18 touchdowns. The ASU offense outscored it opponents in all four quarters, however, the third quarter was very close to even. In its Pac-12 contests, Arizona State averaged 41 points a game. That can win a lot of games.

Scoring by Quarter1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total

Offensive Production by Quarter

Two big pieces of information that jumps out is that the ASU offense scored 60 percent of its touchdowns and generated 60 percent of its 20+ yard plays in the first half of the games analyzed. It also saw the number of plays and the yardage gained drop in each quarter. Again, the score in the games could have had an influence on the results. Notice that by the fourth quarter, the offense was running the ball on two-out-of-every-three plays.

Production by QuarterDrivesPlaysYardsAvgTDs20+ Yds3 and OutRun-Pass Mix
1st Qtr4023315336.61721545%-55%
2nd Qtr4321413626.415191339%-61%
3rd Qtr3420311735.81316641%-59%
4th Qtr271769995.7810564%-36%

A Balanced Attack

It was interesting to notice that the offense scored touchdowns with the same frequency in running or passing the ball (15.7 and 15.5 per play). That speaks volumes about a balanced offensive attack Mike Norvell has established. The offense turned the ball over about once every 70 plays. The sloppiness seemed to happen in the beginning or end of a game, while the offense was pretty stingy about giving it up during the middle of the game.

It is also impressive to see that ASU scored on roughly every 2.35 drives in the first quarter. Also of note that in the first quarter, ASU scored touchdowns in about half as many running play as passing plays, whereas it was just the opposite in the second quarter. That seems to reflect an offense that can run the ball effective one quarter and then switch to an effective passing game then next quarter.

It is also impressive that the ASU offense needed less than eleven running plays to generate a touchdown in quarter number one, and less than twelve passing plays to generate a touchdown in quarter number two.

Production by Quarter by PlayPlay/TDsDrive/TDPlay/20+Drive/3-OutPlay/T.O.Play/Rush TDPlay/Pass TD
1st Qtr13.702.3511.09846.610.8320.6
2nd Qtr14.262.8611.263.310718.111.66
3rd Qtr15.612.6112.685.66101.516.2814.83
4th Qtr223.3717.65.458.6623.419.66

Off to a Fast Start

There is no way around it; the first quarter was ASU offense’s most productive by far. Whereas in the fourth quarter the offense seemed to go into conservative mode, and along with it, the passing game dropped in its efficiency. Again, big leads can do that to a team. In the eleven games, ASU had a double-digit lead heading into the fourth quarter in eight of them. In those eight contests, ASU’s average lead going into the fourth quarter was 23.75 points.

Run-Pass ProductionRun PlaysRun YardsRun AvgPass AttPass CompComp %Pass YardsPass Att Avg
1st Qtr1306865.27103700.678478.22
2nd Qtr1095364.91105610.588267.86
3rd Qtr1144824.2289550.616917.76
4th Qtr1176415.4759330.553586.06


In the conference games analyzed, it appears that the ASU offense comes out of the gate with its hair on fire, and then tapers off as the game goes along, or its lead increases. The offensive numbers are impressive and a reason why the team won nine out of the eleven games analyzed. Will Mike Bercovici be able to come in and be an effective playmaker in the offensive scheme? Time will tell!

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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