Inside the offensive stats of 2009 and 2010

by - Senior Writer -
Last season, the Tigers made 46 trips into the red zone and scored on just 34 of those (73.91%).

Four more Saturdays without college football. That’s it.

The 2011 college football season officially begins on Thursday, September 1st with 15 games, there are two games on Friday, and then the party begins in earnest with all of the games on Saturday, September 3rd, including Troy at Clemson in a 3:30 p.m. matchup in Death Valley.
Tiger fans are excited, and with good reason, about seeing Chad Morris’ new offense for the first time under real game conditions, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said last week at the ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst, N.C. that the biggest improvement he wanted to make this season was scoring more points.

“Scoring. It’s that simple,” Swinney said. “The year before, we played for the [ACC] championship and we scored more points than any other team in Clemson history. I think it’s pretty correlated. This past year we really struggled scoring. We did some good things. We competed our butts off. You have to give the guys a lot of credit.

“They played hard. We were in a position to win a lot of games- five losses by six points or less. We did a really poor job on the road in all of the close games- four of those were 17 points. To me, if you ask me for one thing, we have to score more points. If we can score more points, it will take the pressure off of our defense.”

With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the offensive stats from 2009 and 2010 and compare and contrast, and I was a little surprised to find that there were very little differences in the actual numbers of the two units – except in points scored.

I guess we can call it the “C.J. SpillerC.J. Spiller
Running Back
#28 5-11, 195
Lake Butler, FL

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and Jacoby FordJacoby Ford
# 5-9, 175
West Palm Beach, FL

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Short Field Effect.”

The 2009 team averaged 31.14 points per game, which was good for 28th in the nation. In 2010, the offense averaged 24.00 points per game and dropped to 86th in the country.
The two offenses were very similar in their overall numbers, with the biggest discrepancy coming in the rushing attack, not a big surprise considering Spiller’s tremendous 2009 campaign and the fact that Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
Running Back
#23 5-10, 190
Moncks Corner, SC

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was hurt in late October a year ago.

The 2009 offense ranked 40th in the nation in rushing at 170.36 yards per game, and C.J. Spiller was 41st in the nation at 86.57 yards per game. In 2010, Clemson ranked 79th at 139.00 yards per game, and Jamie HarperJamie Harper
Running Back
#8 6-0, 235
Jacksonville, FL

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was 100th in the nation at 58.46 yards per game. Ellington was averaging 85.75 yards per game rushing at the time of his injury, however.

In the passing game, the Tigers actually fared a little better nationally in 2010 than in 2009, going from 88th in the nation (192.00 ypg) to 78th in the nation (195.62 ypg).

In total offense, Clemson was 74th in 2009 (362.36 ypg) and 88th in 2010 (334.62 ypg).
The Tigers’ struggles in the red zone [inside the opponents’ 20-yard line] over the past two seasons have been well-documented, and the numbers for both years bear that out. In 2009, the Tigers made 51 trips inside the red zone, and scored on 41 of those (80.39%). Clemson scored 28 touchdowns on those trips (54.90%) and kicked 13 field goals.

Last season, the Tigers made 46 trips into the red zone and scored on just 34 of those (73.91%). They scored 25 touchdowns (54.35%) and kicked nine field goals.

In comparison, Oklahoma St. led the nation in 2010 in red zone conversion, converting on a whopping 58-of-61 chances (95.08%), scoring 41 touchdowns along the way (67.21%). All of the teams ranked in the top 25 in the country in red zone conversions scored 87% of the time or better, and most of those scored touchdowns 65% of the time or better.

For the record, the Tigers were 111th in the red zone a year ago, out of 120 teams, and 69th in 2009. They were 68th in 2008, and were fifth in the nation in 2007 when they scored on 49-of-54 attempts (90.74%), scoring touchdowns on 33 of those drives (61.11%).

In short, the stats bear out what we already knew – the inability to convert red zone trips into touchdowns cost the Tigers last season. The reason I call it the “C.J. and Jacoby Effect” is because the Tigers were given several short fields in 2009 due to the kick return and punt return prowess of C.J. and Jacoby, and the Tigers were unable to convert on the longer drives last year. Mistakes and turnovers and missed field goals all contributed to the malaise.

We have one season of college football to look at on Morris’ resume, but the numbers are encouraging. In 2010, Tulsa ranked 5th in total offense (505.6 ypg), 6th in scoring offense (41.4 points per game), 15th in rushing offense (216.92 ypg), 13th in passing offense (288.7 ypg), and converted 60-of-70 red zone trips (85.71%), scoring 46 touchdowns (61.71%) along the way.

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