Gary Doran

Opening Drives for the South Division


The first drive of a game, along with that first one after halftime is looked upon as touchstones of a team’s offensive productivity. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the South Division teams in the Pac-12 to see what type of productivity is being generated on the first drives for each half through Week Nine.



The Sun Devils are pretty darn productive on their first drives as they score points on almost two-thirds of them (9 of 14 drives). In fact they have scored points on six out of seven of the drives coming out of halftime. The lone exception was during the rain and windstorm in Seattle last weekend. ASU has scored more points on opening drives than any of the other South Division teams, even though USC, UCLA and Colorado had two more drive opportunities because of playing one more game than the Sun Devils. It’s also interesting to note that on the first drives after halftime against UCLA, USC and Stanford, the ASU offense averaged over 70 yards per drive, but all three ended with a field goal instead of a touchdown. They averaged thirteen plays in those three drives.

Another trend to note is that the Sun Devils have punted on three of their last opening drives in the first quarter. Of the fourteen total opening drives for the first and third quarters, none of them have been a three-play and a punt series for ASU. Washington has been the only team that forced a punt in both the first and third quarter opening drives. The shortest ASU opening drive occurred against USC in the first quarter gaining only 18 yards on five plays. The longest occurred against Weber State coming out of halftime where the Devils marched 85 yards in only five plays.


The Arizona Wildcats are also productive with their opening drives. They would have tied ASU for the most points scored in opening drives for the South Division, but missed a first quarter field goal attempt against USC. The Wildcats have the highest yards per play average of any of the South Division teams with almost nine yards a play in their opening drives after halftime. That average was helped along nicely with a one-play touchdown against UNLV that traveled 92 yards.
The Wildcats have produced the highest yards per play for both sets of opening drives than any other South Division team. That was also helped along by another one-play touchdown against UTSA that traveled 85 yards. The Wildcats were most productive against Washington State in covering 145 yards in 19 plays and scoring ten points in their two drives. Arizona ran 20 plays fewer and gained 76 yards less in the their opening drives in the third quarter compared to those in the first quarter, but have scored four more points.

Cal has been the only team to get the Wildcats to punt on both of their opening drives. In fact, the Bears were also the only team to force the Wildcats into a three-play and punt series. That was Arizona’s shortest drive covering only four yards, while the third quarter touchdown against UNLV was the longest.


USC has scored the most touchdowns of the South Division teams on opening drives at six in sixteen drives. However, four of those touchdowns happened against Fresno State and Colorado, as the Trojans scored in all four opening drives against those two teams. They also produced 175 yards in 27 plays in their two opening drives against Fresno State. That was more than a quarter of all the yards the Trojans have gained on their opening drives in eight games. Their longest drive happened against Colorado, where the Trojans marched 94 yards in ten plays. They lost a total of nine yards in a drive against Boston College in three plays.

The Trojans punted on both of their opening drives against three different teams; BC, OSU and ASU. They have also been forced into a three-play and punt situation six times in sixteen drives. USC has also had three drives where the team either gained no yards or lost yardage on the drive, two of them were against Boston College. USC’s only turnover occurred last weekend in letting a fumble lay on the turf for an eternity that Utah finally scooped up for a touchdown.


UCLA has only scored three touchdowns in sixteen opening drives, and two of those scores happened on a single play each. UCLA scored on a one-play net 85-yard touchdown against Colorado in its first quarter opening drive, and a one-play 80-yard touchdown in its opening drive of the third quarter against ASU. The only other touchdown came on a seven-play 75-yard drive against Texas. Those two single-play drives helped the Bruins overall yards per play look a lot better, because without those two plays, their average would have dropped from 6.35 to 4.47 yards per play.

Up until the Colorado game last weekend, the first quarter opening drives for UCLA were nothing to write home about. Before the run by Paul Perkins against the Buffalos, the longest opening drive for the Bruins was in their first game against Memphis where UCLA had a 48-yard drive that ended in a missed field goal attempt. Additionally, it was the first touchdown on an opening drive for the Bruins since the one-play score against ASU four weeks earlier.

The Bruins have punted in six out of eight of their opening drives in the first quarter. In fact, better than four-out-of-five of all their opening drive have failed to score points. However, on a somewhat positive note for the Bruins, only one of their ten punts has come from a three-play series which happened last weekend against Colorado in the third quarter.


First quarter opening drives have not been very productive for the Utes, as the seven tries have only garnered three points. Also, the Utes have punted five-out-of-seven times on their opening drives in the first quarter. However, last weekend against the Trojans, Utah marched 74 yards in 14 plays in their first quarter opening drive only to fumble it away in the USC red zone. The Utes also have the lowest yards per play of any of the other South Division teams at only 3.28 yards a snap in their first quarter opening drives. The good news is that they improve their productivity significantly in their third quarter opening drives in scoring in three of their seven opportunities, and increasing their yards per play by over 80 percent.

The Utes did punt a total of nine times, with five of those coming on a three-play series. Utah’s longest drive covered 75 yards in their opening game against Idaho State that took 12 plays, while their shortest drive went for negative 11 yards in their opening first quarter drive against UCLA. Utah has not yet scored a touchdown against a Pac-12 opponent, as their only two opening drive touchdowns came against Idaho State and Michigan. They do have a field goal against Oregon State on their opening third quarter drive.


Colorado has not been overly productive on its opening drives, especially in the first quarter. The Buffalos only scored three points and ran only 30 plays in eight first quarter opening drives. That’s an average of only 3.75 plays and 21.75 yards per drive. Colorado punted five times and turned the ball over twice in those eight opening first quarter drives. Their longest series in the opening quarter went for only 48 yards against U-Mass that ended in a field goal.

Colorado’s third quarter drives are better, but not by much. Their only opening drive touchdown in the third quarter happened against Colorado State in their first game of the season. Colorado’s longest drive happened in the third quarter against ASU covering 66 yards and ending in a field goal. The Buffalos have had ten straight opening first and third quarter drives since the ASU field goal without scoring a single point. They have had five drives where they snapped the ball three times and then punted. That’s almost a third of all their drives. Colorado’s shortest drive was also against ASU in their first quarter opening drive that netted negative three yards in three plays.

Opening Drive Takeaways

  • ASU is very productive in its first drives after halftime, however their last touchdown from an opening drive after halftime was against Colorado.
  • Arizona’s opening drive offense is good, but their yards per play would drop from 7.75 to 6.03 without the two one-play touchdowns against UNLV and UTSA.
  • ASU and Arizona didn’t commit a turnover in almost 200 combined plays.
  • UCLA is not very productive in its opening first quarter drives.
  • Utah is not very productive in its opening first quarter drives
  • Colorado is not very productive in any of its opening drives.
  • The six teams in the division only turned the ball seven times in 90 total opening drives, which averages to one every 12.85 drives.
  • Colorado has only had 67 total opening drive plays. That is 16 less than the next lowest teams; Utah and UCLA

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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