Syracuse Football By The Numbers Special Edition: Ball Security

Ok, so by now you either find these fanposts really interesting or really lame  and annoying. And initially I wasn't going to do any more of these until the end of the Football season...but hey, we had a bye week so I'm recharged and invogorated.

This actually has less to do with SU Football history and more to do with the HCDM era as we know it now. And if we've been paying been any attention to what Scott Shafer has been saying in that time, we know stats are for losers. But there's one stat I've been paying attention to since HCDM & Co it's this: Turnovers. or Ball Security. Fumblitis. Dyshawn Davis blowing up ol' what-his-face. Whatever you want to call it.

(via IntersportChicago)

I'll stick with Ball Secruity. Infamous words, I know. I think I heard the coaches utter those words to each other in some way shape or form at least half a dozen times during the ESPNU special (I could be wrong, but I think I heard those words emphasized to actual SU players only once Rob Moore). In any case, let me get to the numbers.

31 games deep in to the HCDM era:

- SU is 10-1 in games they win the turnover battle. Average margin of victory for those wins is 14. The one loss was to PSU in 2009, which SU finished +1 on the turnover board but -21 on the scoreboard

- SU is 2-10 when losing the turnover battle. Average margin of victory was 14.5 as a result of beating Akron by 26 and Rutgers by 3 in 2010 (more on those wins later). Margin of defeat in those 10 losses is 18.1.

- SU is an even 4-4 when coming out equal on TO's. Average margin of victory was 6.5, while the average margin of defeat was 4.1. 3 of the 4 OT games of the HCDM era resulted in even turnovers for both teams.

While 31 games is somewhat of a small sample size, these numbers tend to show that the (overstated) football factoid/saying that the team that wins the TO battle generally wins the game applies to HCDM's brand of SU Football as well.

So now that I've had my Captain Obvious moment for the day, let me explain more why I believe this to be such an important topic for the team. Let's take this one season at a time.


If there's one thing Greg Paulus* was good at, it certainly wasn't ball security. His 14 INTs plus 3 lost fumbles (by my count) accounted for a whopping 63% of the teams TO's that season. But I'm not throwing Duke-boy under the bus here. I think he had to force some bad throws to overcompensate  for an overall weak offense just to make something happen. Call it the Jade Scorpion effect (He was a PG in a previous life after all...). Plus having to do some OJT after 4 years of not  playing football couldn't have helped.


*Was he really our QB for one season? Cuz it seems wierder now than it did then

But my real sticking point here is that a few, poorly timed and more importantly, UNFORCED TO's cost SU at least 2 victories and a would-be 6-6 bowl bound season. Alas, it just wasn't to be.

- SU gave up 27 TO's on the season, opposing teams converted 14 (52%) of those extra possesions into a total of 98 points (14 TDs, 0 FG). Or an average of 3.63 pts per TO, if you want to look at it that way.

- SU gained 21 TO's on the season, converting 8 (38%) of them into 52 points (7 TD, 1 FG). Average of 2.48 pts per TO.

- Net of -6 in turnovers and -46 points on the season. Per game, averaged 0.5 TO  and 3.83 pts less than what opponents managed.

- Those 2 victories that got away? Minnesota and @ UL. Both games were decided by a FG or less, but were virtually ended by Paulus INTs.

- It's also worth mentioning that USF scored 28 pts off TOs in a game that was decided by 14 pts, so I have to believe that game would have been in reach if the offense had taken care of the ball. Paulus had a career day, throwing 5 picks (okay, I sorta did trash him a bit there).

- You want some good news out of this mess? Ok, here it is. SU managed a GW-FG off of a Mike Kafka INT vs Northwestern (Hooray for Max Suter! Hooray for Ryan Lichten$tein!).



- SU also managed to convert both turnovers in to TDs vs Rutgers, and the offense didn't cough up the ball even once. Let's do lots more of that. 


Captain Obvious moment #2: Syracuse Football got much better in 2010.




How much better? Well, there is that nifty Pinstripe Bowl Trophy, and that banner hanging in the Dome. But for as much complaining we did about lack of production from the offense, ball security did improve (thank you Delone Carter). And the offense actually did a great job converting extra possessions into points:

- SU gave up 21 TO's on the season (6 less than '09) AND included a bowl win as an extra game. Opposing teams converted 8 (38%) of those extra possesions into a total of 44 points (5 TDs, 3 FG). Average of 2.1 pts per TO.

- SU gained 17 TO's on the season (4 less than '09), cashing in 13 (76%) for 67 points (7 TD, 6 FG). Average of 3.94 pts per TO.

- Net of -4 in turnovers and +23 points on the season. Per game, averaged 0.31 TO  less and 1.7 pts more than what opponents managed.

- SU managed to dominate Akron while still being -3 in the turnover margin, and beat Rutgers despite being -2. Those are the only two games SU has won under HCDM while giving up the ball more times than the opposition. Obviously this is still a small sample and those two programs are dreadful, but it's worth pointing out.

- As mentioned above, SU did a great job at turning extra opportunities into points. We gained 9 more points off of TOs than WVU, and as we know that game was decided by 5 pts. And versus Rutgers we gained 4 more points off TOs than them, and that game was decided by 3. That was the difference between being 7-5 and 5-7.

- Obviously we remember blowing out Cincy, but those 17 pts of TOs cannot be ignored. Especially when Derrell Smith intercepted Chazz Anderson on the SU 3 while the game was still 17-7, flipping field position and killing whatever momentum Cincy had for good once the offense completed the 14 pt swing.


One half season deep already? Holy crap.

-   SU has given up 9 TO's on the season so far (compared to 16 in  '09 and 11 in '10 at mid-season). Opposing teams converted 3 (33%) of those extra possesions into a total of 13 points (1TDs, 2 FG). Avg. 1.44 pts. per TO. These numbers all are an improvement over mid-season '09 and '10.

- SU has gained 11 TO's on the season so far (compared to 14 in '09 and 7 in '10) and cashed 2 (18%) in for a total of 14 pts. Avg. of 1.27 pts. per TO. Yuck.

- Net of +2 in turnovers thus far, which is the first time an HCDM has seen a positive number overall in TO's by midseason. It's just too bad the offense can't do anything with those bonus possessions.

- On the plus side, as bad as the D has been, they've done outstanding damage control and haven't gotten beat badly by points off TO's.




Final thoughts,

- Part of the reason I'm paying so much attention to TOs is the huge impact they have on the outcome of a game (especially close games), but I also sorta kinda feel like Ball Security is to HCDM what Free Throws are to JB. I fully acknowledge I could be totally wrong on this, but it seems to me that except for players that are named Delone Carter, we generally haven't done a particularly great job sercuring the ball on far.

- I like what Scott Shafer is doing with his defense, even this season. It may not always be pretty right now, but I think if you focus on what is going right (particularly not caving in the red zone/immediately following a TO) and consider the depth/injury/experience factors, there's reason to be optimistic about the rest of this season, but especially the next.

- But ball-hawks...they aint it. 2010's defense did some amazing things, but still were one of the worst in the nation at takeaways. Under HCDM, the defense has created more than 3 TOs only once, and the team overall has yet to finish a game better than +2 in turnovers. 

- That's not as much of a knock on the defense as it is a warning to the offense. Basically, the message is: cough up the ball, lose the damn game.

- Not to mention TO's have a way of decimating field position and TOP...and have an uncanny way to reduce your chance of winning an OT game to zero in an instant.

- For whatever reason, the first Big East home game has been a turnover fiasco for each of HCDMs teams. Dunno what's up with that, but that's def. not good for business. Omit that game from the 2011 season, and SU has actually been doing a good job protecting the ball. But that's one ugly game is pretty tough to ignore.

- So If the 2011 offense isn't going to blow people out or convert extra possessions into points, the least they can do is hang onto the ball, right? Secure the football, win the game. Point blank, period.


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