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Finding the statistical upside to whatever we're calling last Saturday's game

As promised, here are the first down stats from the CMU game:

  • 13 rushing attempts for 51 yards: 3.9 yards/carry.
  • 9-12 on passing attempts for 144 yards: 75.0% comp%, 12.0 yards/attempt.

The rushing numbers include 2 first-and-goal carries inside the 10-yard line for 4 yards and a TD.  They also include a QB scramble for 9 yards (Nichol) and an end-around for 2 yards (Martin).  Take those four plays out and you get 9 carries for 36 yards (4.0 yards/carry) on running back rushes in standard first-and-10 situations.  Five of those 9 carries went for 4 yards or more (success rate=55.5%).

Fairly middling results.

The passing numbers, on the other hand, are outstanding.  Both quarterbacks contributed; Nichol was 2-3 for 35 yards on first down.  Six of the 12 pass attempts resulted in gains of over 10 yards.

So there's one data point that says a few more passes on first down might be a good idea.  Given that the first-down play calling was basically a 50-50 split against CMU, there's a limit to hard far you can push things toward more passing before defenses adjust and the big gains aren't as readily available.  But, if the run blocking continues to be ineffective, that may be the only choice.  The positive angle here is our presumed starting quarterback's ability to throw the ball quickly and accurately for 5-10 yard gains may serve as a decent substitute for a running game.