We looked at the stats for in-conference games during Petersen’s tenure to quantify where UW needs improvement in 2018.
The numbers are for 2014, 2016, 2017, 2017. The number in parenthesees is the rank in conference. We bolded 2016 and 2017.
Let’s start with the offense…
Sack Yards Allowed- 160, 180, 79, 127
Explosive Plays- +10 yards- 110 (11th), 136 (9th), 174 (1st), 134 (6th)
Explosive Plays- +20 yards- 34 (11th), 40 (9th), 57 (2nd), 43 (7th)
Explosive Passes- +30 yards- 9 (12th), 11 (11th), 22 (1st), 12th (6th)
Rushing Plays- +10 yards- 76 (4th), 68 (7th), 90 (1st), 76 (4th)
Passing YPA- 7.0 (7th), 7.3 (6th), 9.2 (1st), 7.5 (5th)
Red Zone Score %- 80%, 81%, 98%, 78%
Red Zone TD %- 36%, 58%, 76%, 60%
(No TD when in Red Zone)- 16, 16, 11, 17
Points Per Red Zone Trip- 3.84, 4.76, 5.96, 4.74
Field Goals- 14/17, 10/14, 13/16, 10/18
There is room for material improvement as the offense slipped from 2016 to 2017.
The most pressing area is explosive plays. In 2016 UW led essentially led the conference in explosive plays and then fell to the middle of the pack. Even in explosive rushing plays UW fell from 1st to 4th.
Yards per attempt (pass) fell by 1.7 from 1st to 5th. That as well as the reduction in explosive plays has much to do with losing John Ross. That amounts to roughly 40 yards per game less in passing. When we adjust for the extra conference game in 2016 (because of the Pac-12 championship game), we find an average of 1 less explosive play per game of +20 yards.
The next area for improvement is red zone efficiency. Points per red zone trip declined by 1.22 per trip. The last two years we averaged ~4.5 trips per game. That amounts to 5.5 points less per game.
The final area is field goals, which plunged to 55% from ~80% in 2014 and 2016.
I’m confident the offense will improve in explosive plays and probably in the red zone. Hunter Bryant and Salvon Ahmed should take big steps as talented true freshman often make a big jump in their second year. The health of Chico McClatcher is important as he adds an explosive play dynamic. By my count in 2016 in the 8 conference games he played he averaged +1 explosive plays per game.
Digging deeper, we find that John Ross and Dante Pettis combined for 20 explosive catches (+20 yards) in 2016 with Chico adding 7. Last season, Dante had 7 with Hunter Bryant having 3 in only 5 games. Lavon Coleman added 3 with no one else having more. The difference in +20 yard catches from 2016 to 2017 was 12 (from 35 to 23). But adjust for the extra game and it comes out to a difference of 9 (rounded up).
Although we lose Dante, Hunter Bryant and Chico (who combined last season for only 3 explosive catches) realistically and conservatively should total 15. Gaskin and Ahmed who only totaled a few last year could total anywhere from 5-10. Can we get to the 35 reached in 2016 or ~32 if you exclude the CCG? I think 30 is a reasonable target for 9 games. Essentially, the majority of the difference between 2016 and 2017 will be made up by the running backs and at tight end. If the WRs outperform low expectations then the 2016 figure should be reached.
As for field goals, I’m less confident there only because Payton Henry has not proved it in a game yet. Let’s say he halves the difference between 2017 and 2018 (81% and 55%). That would be 68%. Lets halve the difference in attempts and project 17 attempts for 2018. 12 for 17 is 71%. Thats fair. Thats 2 additional made field goals which is 0.67 extra points per game.
But better kicking really doesn’t move the needle for the offense. Its explosive plays and red zone efficiency. Average kicking would lead to only 0.7 extra point per game over last year. However, if we can makeup half the difference in red zone efficiency, that would lead to 2.7 points more per game. I don’t know how to quantify improvement in explosive plays. It would likely give us a more scoring chances.
In 2016 we scored 8 more non red zone TD than in 2017. Thats almost 1 more per game. The red zone attempts were nearly identical (45 vs. 42) for 2016 and 2017.
Those 8 TDs along with much better red zone efficiency are why in 2016 we averaged 9 points per game more (in conference).
Let me be conservative and say we score 3 more TDs because of strong improvement in explosive plays. That amounts to an extra 2.3 points per game improvement.
So add up 2.3 along with 2.7 (red zone improvement) and 0.67 for FG improvement and you get 5.67 more points per game. If we are a bit more conservative and say 2.0, 2.0 and 0.5, that is 4.5 and that would put our points per game at 38. In 2016 it was 43. In 2017 it was 33.6.
Next we will look at the defense, which can also have an impact on the offense. If the defense is not as good then perhaps the offense gets a few less opportunities.