The Citadel’s 2021 spring football season: a statistical review

Well, it is July, which is the last full month without any college football this year. That means gridiron activity is right around the corner.

After the last year and a half, a semi-normal fall college football season will be a wonder to behold. Of course, COVID-19 is still out there and remains an issue. The arrival of what I’ll call “NIL Fever” is also likely to be something worth watching in terms of producing unforeseen developments across the NCAA landscape.

As for this blog, there will be adjustments. After about a decade of weekly game previews, I’ve decided to change things up a bit. Part of the reason for that is due to time constraints. However, I also felt like things were starting to get a little stale in terms of what I wrote and how I wrote it.

I’ll probably be making shorter posts throughout the college football season. There won’t be a weekly game preview per se. I might also post about the college sports scene as a whole from time to time. It will be a variety pack of a blog, perhaps with more total posts than before, just not as individually lengthy. At least, that is my hope.

Also, WordPress threw me a curveball and I am now stuck with editing software that I do not like. There is still a chance I switch to another media format in the near future.

The main purpose of this specific post is to introduce a spreadsheet that incorporates statistics from the 2021 spring football season. You can access the spreadsheet at this link:

The Citadel, 2021 Spring Football

Almost anything anyone ever wanted to know from a statistical perspective about the Bulldogs’ 2021 spring gridiron campaign is included in that spreadsheet. Also included are many, many things no one ever wanted to know…

There are seven tabs. A quick overview of each:

General Info: This is exactly what it sounds like. It includes (for each of The Citadel’s SoCon contests) time of game, officiating assignments, attendance, and weather at kickoff. It also has the ever-fascinating coin toss data.

VMI did not include the weather conditions in its game summary, thus the “not recorded” entries for that game in those categories. I considered just listing the weather as “miserable”, based on historical precedent, but decided to let it go.

Readers will notice the Bulldogs were very good at winning the coin toss. The Citadel did not always defer, which is my preferred maneuver when it comes to the choice, but some thought does appear to have been put into the decision on a game-by-game basis. I’m good with that.

Run-Pass by down: The Citadel’s run-pass breakdown for the league games is listed by down and distance (there is an explanation of the categories at the bottom of the sheet). I’ve also listed the breakdown for the opponents, to show what the Bulldogs’ defense faced.

In a column on the far right, there is an average for each category based on run percentage — for example, on 3rd-and-long the Bulldogs ran 70.15% of the time, while their opponents rushed the football on 28.07% of 3rd-and-long plays.

I plan on making a post in a couple of weeks that will discuss some aspects of The Citadel’s run-pass ratio in further detail; it will be more along the lines of game theory/philosophy.

Offensive statistics: I would like to think that every significant and semi-significant category has been included. A few notes:

  • I consider sacks (and sack yardage) to be part of a team’s passing statistics, and calculate rushing/passing numbers accordingly. That is why you will see categories like “adjusted rush yards” and “adjusted yards/pass attempt”. The numbers are not the same as what appears in the official game summaries, but I believe them to be a more accurate reflection of how the games were played. This also means that pass plays include both actual attempts and sacks.
  • I also have some less-than-standard categories on the sheet, including average yards gained on first down and yards to go on 3rd down. I think those are important numbers when evaluating a team’s success moving the football.
  • This year I have added a special group of categories related to 4th quarter passing. I wanted to examine the difference for The Citadel’s offense in passing when in “desperation” mode, versus passing on regular (non-passing) downs earlier in the game.

Defensive statistics: These are the same exact categories as are listed for offense. I’ll mention here that some of those categories include trendy stats like “havoc rate” and “fumble luck”.

There are also categories for big plays allowed (my definition of a “big play” is 20+ yards, running or passing) and QB hurries (although I think that particular statistic is unevenly applied throughout the conference).

Red Zone numbers, 3rd- and 4th-down conversion rates, passes defensed — it is all there.

Fourth-down decisions: Ah, one of my personal favorite talking points. All fourth-down decisions in the eight games are listed, both for The Citadel and its opponents.

This tab includes some (really lame) color coding, and an alphabetical system that will probably annoy a few people. In my defense, I have never figured out a cleaner method for denoting a fourth-down decision.

Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page to get an explanation for both the zones and the A-B-C-etc. descriptions. This year, I’ve recorded the decisions by quarter as well as by zone.

Short-yardage conversion rate: This is something I haven’t catalogued before. I’ve broken down the numbers for The Citadel (and its opponents) for 3rd- and 4th-down plays of four yards or less. I have also noted the times on 4th down when the Bulldogs or their opponents did not go for it in a short-yardage situation.

Yes, your initial reading was correct: Brent Thompson went for it on 4th-and-1 every single time last spring. He went for it on 4th-and-2 every single time last spring. On 4th-and-3, he went for it every time but once.

One reason that is notable is because The Citadel had a lot of 4th-and-short plays last season. Regardless of where the Bulldogs were on the field, though, they were going for it.

Miscellaneous: This is basically a bunch of other stats that aren’t necessarily offense/defense specific. Time of possession, points per quarter, penalty yardage, net punting/kickoffs, things like that.

Some other statistics mentioned in this tab: average starting field position, three-and-out rate, scoring rate, and seconds per offensive play.

A quick observation: when putting together the spreadsheet, I was pleasantly surprised by the overall accuracy of the game summaries for the 2021 spring season. I was afraid there might be a lot of input errors given how stressed the staffs for each school must have been at the time, but those mistakes turned out to be minimal. I joked earlier about VMI not including weather information, but that was definitely an exception to the rule.

Sure, there were blips. A punt entered as a kickoff here, an absence of tackle-for-loss yardage data there. Still, nothing major, and all fixable. Credit must be given to the athletic media relations folks throughout the Southern Conference.

I tried to make the spreadsheet easily understandable, but I realize some of the categories are not intuitive. If anyone has any questions (or corrections!), feel free to ask me here or on Twitter @SandlapperSpike. I am probably more likely to see questions/feedback faster on Twitter, to be honest. Comments are welcome as well.

We’re getting closer to football season. Just not close enough.

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