Comparing USF football stats, 2011 to 2012 ...
As USF has struggled through its 2-6 record, there have been obvious problem areas that have continued to limit the Bulls' success -- the total lack of takeaways, the difficulties in protecting late leads, those kinds of things we've written about all season.
But I wanted to take a step back and compare last year's Bulls and this year's teams statistically -- this season is hardly finished, but you have a large enough sample to judge the team on per-game averages, for certain. Is the offense better or worse? How much worse is the defense? What about special teams? The answers aren't all that surprising, but you get a better sense of where the problems are ...
-- Offense: First, overall scoring -- the Bulls averaged 29.2 points last year, and are averaging 26.5 points in 2012. The offense is actually nearly identical to 2011 -- USF's defense had five defensive or special teams touchdowns last season (four during the 4-0 start) and this year's team has zero. If you subtract those 35 points over 12 games, it's a difference of 2.9 points per game, which is pretty much the difference. This year's Bulls have actually scored more per game than the 2010 team that went 8-5 -- USF averaged 24.1 points per game that year, but the defense gave up on 20 per game.
Rushing offense? Nearly identical -- USF averaged 183.2 yards per game last year and is at 181.4 this season. The Bulls' average per carry is up nicely, from 4.6 to 4.8. B.J. Daniels had 601 rushing yards last year; he's on pace for 617. The top two RBs? Darrell Scott and Demetris Murray combined for 1,317 yards and 13 touchdowns last year; Murray and Lindsey Lamar are on pace for 1,371 and 12 scores, and they're on course to finish with four fewer carries than last year. (Lamar's likely done for the season, so Shaw will essentially replace him the rest of the way).
Passing offense? Down slightly, from 248 yards per game to 236.9. B.J. Daniels is on pace for 2,804 passing yards, which would trump his career-best by 200 yards; it's down slightly from USF's overall total when you add in Bobby Eveld's yards last season. Daniels completed 58.9 percent of his passes last year; he's at 55.8 now, but the dropoff amounts to less than one completion per game, or about one more completion for every 32 passes. Daniels already has 14 touchdown passes, so he's matched his career high; he does have nine interceptions, which puts him on pace to challenge another career high. His quarterback rating is barely changed, from 126.7 to 127.1 this season; he took 14 sacks last year and is on pace for 15.
In short, the offense is very much what last year's offense was -- averaging 13 yards a game less overall, but essentially the same unit. At its best, the Bulls are second in the Big East in rushing offense; on the whole, they're a middle-of-the-pack offense statistically.
Two areas where USF's offense has made big steps forward are the clutch situations -- third downs and red zone. USF has jumped from 40 percent to 48 percent on third downs, leaping from 70th nationally in 2011 to 18th this season. (Keep in mind the Bulls were connecting on 32 percent in 2010, so this is a huge upgrade over a two-year period.)
And USF's overall red-zone scoring percentage went from 41st nationally last year to 10th in I-A this season, having converted on 22 of 24 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line. The touchdown red-zone percentage is also up -- Bulls had 27 in 48 trips last year, but have 16 in 24 trips in 2012, so there's improvement in getting 7, instead of 3.
-- Defense: USF's points allowed is up by nearly a touchdown, from 22.7 points per game (fourth in Big East) to 28.6, highest in the league. Skip Holtz has called out his pass defense consistently, and understandably, since opponents have gotten those last-minute game-winning drives largely through the air. In total defense, USF is giving up 55 more yards than a year ago, going from 351.8 yards (5th in Big East) to 406, which is within 2 yards of last place. (For comparison, the 2010 Bulls gave up just 317 yards per game).
The pass defense, in terms of yards allowed, is actually better than last year -- giving up 235 yards per game, down from 244. In touchdowns allowed, last year's Bulls gave up 16; this year's are on pace to allow 18, so not a huge change. The big difference is in opponents' efficiency -- they're completing 69 percent of their passes, up from 61 percent last year, and their passer rating has jumped from 122.6 last year to 149.6, giving USF one of the 10 worst pass efficiency defenses in I-A football.
Rush defense? Much worse. USF was 15th nationally against the run last year, giving up just 107 yards per game and holding opponents to 3.0 yards per carry. This fall, the Bulls have dropped to 74th nationally -- passing half of I-A football on the way down -- allowing 170 yards per game at an average of 3.9 yards per carry. Opponents totaled 11 rushing touchdowns last year, but this year's opponents already have scored 15, putting them on pace to double their scoring on the ground.
Sacks? Way, way down, from 39 last year to all of 13 in 2012, on pace for half as many. The Bulls ranked second in I-A football with 99 total tackles for loss in 2011; this year's team is tied for 85th, with 40 through eight games.
What makes this all the more inexplicable is that USF didn't lose any huge pass-rushers from 2011 -- of last year's top nine players in TFLs, seven are back, all but DT Keith McCaskill and third-down DE Claude Davis. Davis, for instance, had 7 TFLs last season off the bench, an impressive number now because it's more than all of USF's 2012 defensive ends have totaled this season. Of those seven returning defenders, only one -- DT Cory Grissom -- is on pace to even match their TFL total from 2011.
The other glaring dropoff is in takeaways -- the Bulls had 12 interceptions last year, with six current Bulls getting at least one, and as we've mentioned a few times, USF doesn't have any in 2012. For perspective on how incredible an achievement that is, from 2007-11, every Big East team had at least SEVEN interceptions in every season. Fumble recoveries are down as well, from 14 last season to just five this year, so that's going from 26 takeaways to being on pace for ... eight.
-- Special teams. Kickoff returns are down (20.7 to 15.2), punt returns are slightly up (6.5 to 8.1). Justin Brockhaus-Kann's numbers are up nicely -- his average has jumped from 36.3 last year to 40.2 in 2012, and his net has risen slightly from 34.7 to 36.1. Maikon Bonani is kicking fewer field goals, but he's more accurate, going from 19-for-26 last year to 11-for-13 this season, offset slightly by two missed extra points. He was a solid 13-for-15 inside the 40 last year, and he's 5-for-5 in 2012, plus 6-for-8 on longer kicks.
-- Oh, and because it comes up a lot -- penalties are up slightly, from 60.1 yards per game to 66.9, though the difference is less than half a flag per game. ...