Don Hansen

Week 13 ASU Stats Notebook


The “Sun Devil Stats Notebook” series looks at some key statistics throughout the 2014 Sun Devil season.

Key Oregon State Game Stat

The key statistic from the coldness in Corvallis game was simply the final score of 35 – 27. This Pac-12 loss hurts the Sun Devils as they no longer control their own destiny in the South. The Sun Devils must win out, and they must cling to the hope that UCLA stumbles against USC or Stanford in their final two conference games.

Team Offensive Stats

In head coach Todd Graham’s Monday press conference, Graham stepped up and shouldered the blame for the loss at Oregon State. While Todd Graham is the leader of the entire football program, it is the Sun Devil offensive which is struggling.

First, senior Taylor Kelly is the starting quarterback for the Arizona State Sun Devils, and he will lead the team this Saturday in its final home game of 2014. Kelly has done a good job as the starting quarterback in Tempe, and he should be celebrated this weekend for his three years of success and hard work. Second, junior Michael Bercovici is the back-up quarterback for the Arizona State Sun Devils this season. This is not meant to be a quarterback controversy starting statistic review. These statistics are to show that the entire offense is struggling.

Over the past four games, the Sun Devil offense has scored 17 (Washington), 19 (Utah), 41 (Notre Dame), and 20 (Oregon State) points. The offense itself (i.e. defensive touchdowns removed) is averaging 24.25 points over the past four games. Simply put, that is not enough points for a Pac-12 offense to be scoring per game. If you dig deeper, the 41 points against Notre Dame includes three touchdown drives that started on the Notre Dame 13, 23, and 8 yard lines. The Sun Devil offense does deserve credit for putting up 21 points after those three turnovers inside the Notre Dame red zone, but those were not long drives to execute.

The following figure examines offensive drives with five different outcomes, comparing across three different schedule stretches. The blue bars represent the first three games under Kelly (Weber State, New Mexico, Colorado, the red bars represent the next three games with the offensive under Bercovici (UCLA, USC, Stanford), and the green bars represent the last four games under Kelly (Washington, Utah, Notre Dame, and Oregon State).


The graph, created by Gary Doran, clearly shows why some local media are “blasting” for Bercovici to be leading the offense again. Key takeaways from the graph above are as follows:

  • Over the past four games, offensive drives led by Kelly are have lower touchdown and field goal scoring percentages with a higher punting percentage than the previous three games with drives led by Bercovici.
  • The percentage of drives resulting in turnovers between the two quarterbacks, often cited as Kelly’s major advantage, is surprisingly similar. Kelly has thrown five interceptions in his past four games.
  • The drive result that pops out is the drastic difference in “three and outs”. Approximately one of out every five drives led by Kelly resulted in a three and out, while about one out of eleven drives led by Bercovici ended in a three and out. This is critical to the overall team success as the Sun Devil defense is young. The defense needs time to get rest and get coaching on the sidelines, and “three and outs” do not enable that. Additionally, the Arizona State punting situation has not been the same since Josh Hubner left. Matt Haack does not drastically flip the field with a 50-60 yard boom of a punt.

Digging further into the “three and outs”, the Sun Devils cumulative 3rd down conversation rate is shown below.


The Sun Devils are not converting on third downs, and it has gotten worse the past four weeks. The Sun Devils have gone from converting approximately 45% of their third downs to approximately 39% of their third downs in only one month. Why look at 3rd down conversion percentage? Third downs are where games are won and lost, and this metric is a quantifiable means of evaluating the overall offensive team effort and success. This statistic looks at all third downs converted for the season whether the third down is short or long. For example, a “third and short” conversion shows how powerful the offensive line can be, and “third and shorts” often described as a drive for “which team wants it more”. A “third and long” conversion often shows how creative an offensive coordinator can be in reading the defense and calling the correct pass play.

The struggles of the offense must end if the Sun Devils want to win their final two regular season games against Washington State and Arizona.




Here are some key takeaways when looking at the polls:

  • The Sun Devils find themselves at #13 in the AP Poll and #14 in the Coaches Poll, behind UCLA in both polls.
  • Notable Pac-12 Writers and their Arizona State rankings: Ringo (14th), Wolf (12th), Wilner (21st), Berk (12th), Jude (14th)
  • The Sun Devils dropped six spots in both polls which is better than the Pac-12 average as this season, Pac-12 teams fall an average of eight spots following a loss.
  • The College Football Playoff will release new rankings later on today. It will be interesting to see where Arizona State is placed with respect to UCLA and Arizona in the next poll. Notre Dame lost to Northwestern this past week which does not help the Sun Devils .

Cumulative Team Stats

tflsThe defensive line for Arizona State has matured over the past month, and they are getting into the backfield making plays. One month ago, the defensive line was responsible for 21% of the teams tackles for loss, but in the past four games, the defensive line has improved its overall tackles for loss percentage to 27%.

In the Oregon State game, the defensive line was responsible for five of the seven tackles for loss, their highest amount and highest TFL team percentage this season. The unit has been led by senior defensive end Marcus Hardison. Hardison has 8.0 sacks on the season, but he has erupted for 6.0 sacks in the past four games. Additionally, Viliami Latu and Tashon Smallwood have started to show up in the statistics more significantly these past four weeks. With an improved defensive line, this should allow the secondary to focus on its pass coverage a bit more.

What other statistics do you want to see us look into? Post a message below and let us know.

About Don Hansen

Don Hansen

Don is a 2003 graduate of Arizona State University where he spent four years sitting in the front rows of many ASU athletic events leading the rowdy student section. Now, Don co-hosts the "ASU Devils Den" podcast covering every detail of ASU football. Don works and resides in Gilbert, Arizona with his beautiful Sun Devil wife and their two beautiful daughters!

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