Gary Doran

Breaking Down the Utah Utes

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The ASU Devils Den is back with its weekly statistical break down featuring the Sun Devil’s upcoming conference opponent; the Utah Utes. This week’s analysis will detail the Devils and the Utes by their strengths and weaknesses in either running or throwing the ball based on the field position and by the down, both from an offensive and a defensive standpoint, along with a few other stats that point to a trend . Let’s take a look to see where there are matches and mismatches. Just to let you know, four of the five teams the Buffaloes have played are non-conference teams and all of them are in non-Power 5 conferences with losing records. As always, we want to thank cfbstats.com for their excellent compilation of statistics, along with pac-12.com stats.

ASU Offense vs Utah Defense

ASU_Field

ASU_Down

Utah Offense vs ASU Defense

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Utah_Down

Turnovers

Gained: 17………average 3.4 per game
Lost: 7………..….average 1.4 per game
Net: +10……..…average gain of 2.0 turnovers per game

This is one of the biggest keys to Utah’s success so far this year. The Ute defense has faced 62 drives so far this year and 27 percent of them have resulted in a drive-killing turnover.

Running the Ball by Down

First Down Running Plays
 …………………………………..ASU                                 Utah
Number of Runs…………………….114…………………………….103
Avg Yds per Carry………………….5.17 (8th tie)……………….4.74 (10th)
Touchdowns…………………………. 4 ……………………..………. 8
First Downs………………………….. 17 ………………….………… 14
10+ Yard Gains……………………… 17 ………………….………… 14

Second Down Running Plays
……………………………………ASU                                  Utah
Number of Runs……………………. 92……………………….……..73
Avg Yds per Carry………………….4.54 (6th)…..……………….4.34 (9th)
Touchdowns…………………………. 3 …………………………..…. 2
First Downs………………………….. 23 …………………………… 19
10+ Yard Gains……………………… 14 …………………………… 11

Third Down Running Plays
……………………………………ASU                                  Utah
Number of Runs……………………. 29……………………………..39
Avg Yds per Carry………………….2.24 (7th)…..……………….5.18 (3rd)
Touchdowns…………………….……. 2 ……..…………..…………. 0
First Downs………………………….. 14 …………………………… 16
10+ Yard Gains……………………… 2 …………………..………… 5

Fourth Down Running Plays
……………………………………ASU                                   Utah
Number of Runs……………………. 2…………………..…….…….. 7
Avg Yds per Carry………………….2.50 (5th tie)………………. 10.57 (1st)
Touchdowns…………………………. 0 …………………..…………. 1
First Downs………………………….. 2 ……………………………… 7
10+ Yard Gains……………..……… 0 …………….…………..…… 2

Overall, only four yards separate the total rushing yards between ASU and Utah, (1077/1081). ASU has run the ball 15 more times to get within the four yards of Utah. On first and second downs, ASU appears to be a little more productive in yards per carry, while on third and fourth downs, Utah seems to be more productive. Notice that all seven running plays on fourth down got a first down, and averaged over ten yards a carry doing it.

In the fourth quarter of its games, Utah has been strictly a running team where almost 80 percent of the plays are on the ground, (55/15). By contrast, ASU has used pretty much a 50/50 mix in the fourth quarter, (63/62).

Passing the Ball by Down

First Down Pass Plays
……………………………………ASU                                  Utah
Number of Passes…………………. 87………………….…………. 52
Completion Percent………………. 60.9 (10th)………….…… 73.9 (2nd)
Avg Yds per Pass..………………….5.97 (11th)……….…….…. 6.87 (8th)
Touchdowns………………………….. 3 ……..………………………  3
First Downs………………………….. 15 ……………………………  12
15+ Yard Receptions……………… 12 ……………………………   7
Interceptions………………………  . 0 ……….…………………….  1

Second Down Passing the Ball
…………………………………….ASU                                  Utah
Number of Passes……….…………. 67……………………………. 46
Completion Percent………………. 61.2 (9th)………………… 61.5 (8th)
Avg Yds per Pass..………………….7.58 (4th)……….………. 5.87 (11th)
Touchdowns…………………………. 6 ……………………..………. 3
First Downs………………………….. 25 …………………………… 14
15+ Yard Receptions……………… 10 ……………….…………… 5
Interceptions…………………………. 2 ……………….……………. 1

Third Down Passing the Ball
…………………………………..ASU                                  Utah
Number of Passes…………………. 72……………………………. 37
Completion Percent………………. 61.1 (3rd)………………… 73.0 (1st)
Avg Yds per Pass..………………….7.27 (7th)……….………. 6.70 (10th)
Touchdowns………………….………. 4 …………….………………. 1
First Downs………………………….. 29 ……………………..…… 16
15+ Yard Receptions…………….… 7……………………………… 3
Interceptions……………………..…. 1 …………….………….……. 1

Fourth Down Passing the Ball
…………………………………..ASU                                Utah
Number of Passes………….………. 6 ……………….……………. 4
Completion Percent……………. 33.3 (9th)………………… 75.0 (2nd)
Avg Yds per Pass..……………….8.33 ……..……….………. 13.25
Touchdowns…………………………. 1 …………….………………. 0
First Downs………………………….. 2 …………….……………… 3
15+ Yard Receptions……………… 1  ……………….…………… 1
Interceptions…………………..……. 1 ……………………………. 1

The completion percentage for Utah has been stellar, however their yards per pass attempt is eleventh in the conference and yards per catch is dead last in the conference.  They complete a lot of passes, but a larger chunk of them are short yardage. Notice that ASU is ninth in the conference in the percent of passes the Devils complete on second down, however they are fourth in the yards per pass attempt.  This is because ASU has the second highest yards per catch in the conference on third down.  It is just the opposite on third down passes for ASU, where the Devils are ninth in yards per catch on third down.  One other thing to notice is that Utah got a first down three times in four fourth down pass attempts.

Offense

Yards per Game……………………….…401.8 (10th)
Rushing Yards per Game………….…216.2 (3rd)
Passing Offense per Game………..…185.6 (11th)
Completions %…………………………. 69.1 (3rd)
Points per Game………………………. 37.0 (5th)
First Downs per Game……………… 21.8 (10th)
TFLs Allowed………………………….. 25.0 (2nd)
Sacks Allowed…………………………. 2.0 (1st)
Interceptions……………………………  4 (7th tie)
Red Zone TD’s Made….…………….13 (61.9%) (8th)
3rd Down Conversions……………. 42.1% (6th)

The offensive production seems to be somewhat average, except the offense does a good job of protecting its passer and limiting TFLs. It’s interesting that the run game for both the offense and the defense is in the top third of the conference, while the passing game for both the offense and the defense is in the lower third of the conference in terms of yardage.  Utah has been doing a great job in the passing game on third down, (see below).

Third Down

ASU has had more third down plays on offense than any other conference team. Additionally, its percentage of third down plays to its total plays is second highest at 21.54%. Utah’s percentage of third down plays to its total plays is right behind ASU at 21.05%

When it comes to third down plays, ASU runs the ball only 29 percent of the time, which is tenth in the conference, while Utah runs it 51 percent of the time which is second in the conference. However, ASU picks up a first down off a third down run at the second highest percentage in the conference, while Utah is sixth. Additionally, ASU is fourth in the conference in the percentage of time it picks up a first down off a third down pass, while Utah is third.

When the Utes are faced with a third down and less than ten yards to go, they have completed roughly 85 percent of their pass attempts, (22/26). Additionally, they are averaging 8.23 yards per pass attempt on third and less than ten yards to go and have converted 16 of the passes into first downs. By contrast, ASU hasn’t done too bad in the same situation completing 33 of 49 passes for a 67 percent completion rate. The Devils have converted 27 of the 49 passes into first downs and averaged 7.29 yards per pass attempt on third and less than ten to go.

Where the Devils hurt themselves is in facing the most third down situation with ten or more yards to go in the conference at 23, but completing eleven passes with only two of them being converted into first downs. Another way to view it is that 21 out of 23 times ASU has thrown the ball on third and long and come up short on getting a first down, (91 percent).

It’s an interesting contrast in play call in third down and short yardage situations; when it’s third down and 3 or less yards to go, ASU runs the ball 14 times and passes the ball 14 times. The 14 runs net 9 first downs, while the 14 passes net 11 first downs.
In the same situation, Utah runs the ball 20 times and passes the ball only 4 times. The 20 runs net 13 first downs and the 4 passes net 2 first downs.  Quite a different in play calling on third down short yardage.

Red Zone

In the Red Zone, ASU’s mix of run to pass is the second lowest in the conference at 47.6 percent, only behind pass-happy Washington State, while Utah’s run to pass mix is the third highest in the conference at 74.4 percent. Utah is sixth in the conference in the percentage of runs that gain a first down in the Red Zone at 27.3 percent, while ASU is last in the conference at only 10.0 percent.  It’s just the opposite with passing in the Red Zone. ASU is second in the conference at gaining a first down by the pass in the Red Zone at 29.6 percent of their pass attempts, while Utah is fifth at 27.3 percent of their pass attempts.

Defensive Stats:

Yards per Game…………………………392.0 (6th)
Rushing Yards per Game……………133.2 (3rd)
Passing Defense per Game…………258.8 (11th)
Completion %…………………………. 55.3% (4th)
Points per Game……………………… 19.8 (4th)
First Downs per Game…………….. 20.4 (7th)
TFLs………………………………………..24.0 (10th tie)
Sacks……………………………………… 11.0 (6th)
Interceptions………………………….. 12 (1st tie) (5 against Cal)
Red Zone TD’s Allowed…………….10 (62.5%) (6th)
3rd Down Conversions……………. 42.3% (9th)

The aggressive defense isn’t the same as in years past, in terms of TFLs and sacks, but the run defense is still fairly stout. Interceptions up to last week were decent, but adding five more in one game helped vault them to the top of the conference.  Even though they have picked off a slew of passes, the Utes are next to last in the yards per game they surrender.

Let us know what you think of the Utah breakdown.

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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