This is a conclusion of a series of posts designed to measure how explosive a team is. For information on the stats used, check out the post on Points Per Play here.
Anyone that saw the AA championship between Billings West and Helena Capital probably can point to a single number to explain what happened: 7. Capital forced West into seven turnovers, all interceptions, two of which came in the endzone to kill scoring drives, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Considering Points Per Play is based on how many plays an offense runs, I'm curious to how that number of turnovers will impact the numbers.
Remember, when judging these number, the guide I used was a straightforward pass/fail system: if you’re PPP ratio for the playoff game was at within 25% of what your average was up to that point in the season, you passed. Further away than 25% of your season average was a failure. (Concerning offensive PPP, this means within 25% less of the average, and within 25% more concerning defensive PPP. Obviously, if a team did BETTER than its average by more than 25%, it would still be a pass.)
Let's start with Capital's offense vs. West's defense.
Capital offense: 0.66 PPP (0.82 PPP up to this game) PASS West defense: 0.66 PPP allowed (.15 PPP allowed up to this game) FAIL
Up to this game, the highest PPP that the Bears had allowed on defense was .30, against Capital in Week 5. The Bruins more than doubled their explosive output on offense in round 2, posting a very healthy 0.66, or greater than a point every two plays run on offense.
If I hadn't been at the game and had just seen the numbers, I would have thought this was a fluke; the result is so far out from the average obtained over the course of a full season, the most likely case is that this number was an outlier and should be treated as such. However, because we're dealing with sports (where anything can happen, regardless of the averages or odds), there must be a reason for a number so different than what the averages predicted.
For now, let's look at the more conventional stats to see if we can clear it up a little... Capital rushing: 40 carries, 193 yards, 4.8 YPC Capital passing: 6-13, 124 yards Total offense: 53 plays, 317 yards
Capital certainly moved the ball well, and anytime you can average close to 5 yards per carry, you're doing something right. The passing yardage seems impressive, but remember that one of those passing plays was a screen pass that went 75 yards. Take that play away, and Capital was 5-12 for 49 yards...hardly dominate.
More importantly, however, their total yardage output isn't all that high, yet they still scored five touchdowns. In short, West's defense did a good job for most of the game holding Capital's offense in check. They gave up some yards on the ground, but not so much that it would kill them, and save for one play all but eliminated the pass. Despite not giving much yardage, they still have up 35 points...which means that when Capital scored, they probably didn't have to travel that far. Reason for that? Yep, turnovers. Here is a great example of a defense setting the offense up for shorter drives, as we'll see from the second set of PPP numbers.
West offense: 0.19 PPP (0.61 PPP up to this game) FAIL Capital defense: 0.19 PPP allowed (0.30 PPP allowed up to this game) PASS
On offense, the Bruins were more explosive than any team West had played this season. On defense, the Bruins held West's explosive output in check better than any team had this season. The 0.19 PPP for the Bears offense was it's lowest number of the season...in short, Capital's defense did to West's offense what West's defense had done to teams all year long.
Looking at the yardage, we see again how turnovers turned this game on its head.
West rushing: 36 carries, 156 yards, 4.33 YPC West passing: 18-39, 187 yards Total offense: 75 plays, 343 yards
West outgained Capital in yards, and ran more plays overall. With a strong running attack (and averaging over four yards a carry should be plenty strong), West had an opportunity to really control the clock against Capital, something the Bruins had been very successful in doing for much of the season. However, gaining yards in nice, but it only really counts if you put some points on the board at end of those long drives. Capital surrendered yards, and West had pretty good success moving the ball, but when it counted, the Bruins defense tightened up and forced one turnover after another.
Conclusion: In a post attempting to predict out the championship game would play out using Points Per Play, I reached this conclusion...
If Capital holds West’s explosive plays in check, the Bruins should win. If West is successful with the big-play on offense (and the defense continues what it has done all season), the Bears should win.
As evidenced by the offensive and defense PPP numbers for both teams, that's pretty accurate, if I do say so myself. One of West's greatest strengths was it's explosive nature, but the dirty little secret was that the Bears had, in a way, been too dependent on their big-play potential. Capital managed to keep everything in front of them defensively, and in doing so, took the legs out from underneath the Golden Bears offense.
Points Per Play has been a valuable stat this season in measuring how explosive an offense is and how successful a defense is limiting the big play. So long as it's remembered what this stat measures, it can be a great tool for analyzing why a game played out the way it did. In the case of the championship game, PPP showed us in an analytical manner that Capital won this game handily without having a tremendous amount of success on offense. The Bruins protected the football, forced West into making mistakes, and make sure to capitalize on the mistakes when they appeared. It's a pretty tried-and-true formula, making it no surprise that the Bruins emerged victorious.
That will do it for our series on Points Per Play. I'm curious what everyone else thinks of this type of breakdown, if it made sense and if you felt it was valuable. If so, we'll try and do it again next season.