Box score breakdown: 3 positives and negatives following KU's win over South Dakota


The football box score hasn't changed much over the past decade.

Some of the basic stats listed from box scores in the 1930s — like total yardage and passing yardage — still appear today.

But which stats are useful, and which are junk?

Advanced stats expert Bill Connelly examined that exact topic in his recently released book, and in one of the chapters, he proposes a "new" box score.

Basically, his goal is to leave in the important stats that are most telling while leaving out some of the garbage. For example, yards per play and possession are important, as they give some additional context in an age where some offenses are going faster than ever.

Some other stats, like penalties (studies have shown penalty yardage does not correlate strongly to wins and losses) and time of possession (total plays is a better stat) are left out.

With that in mind, I compiled the "new" box score for KU's 31-14 victory over South Dakota on Saturday. Let's take a look:

The "new" box score

The "new" box score by Jesse Newell

A few quick definitions:

• "Passes defensed" is the number of interceptions plus the number of pass breakups a team has in a game. About 21 percent of passes defensed are intercepted in college football, so this number can let us know if a team might have gotten a bit of luck in the turnover department.

• In this box score, sacks are counted against passing totals. If you think about it, that makes sense, as negative yardage from a team trying to pass shouldn't penalize its rushing numbers.

Here are a few takeaways from the box score:

KU's pass defense was stellar

Kansas safety Dexter Linton snags South Dakota recevier Terrance Terry by the jersey before bringing him down during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas safety Dexter Linton snags South Dakota recevier Terrance Terry by the jersey before bringing him down during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Yeah, it's only an FCS opponent, but KU's pass defense still deserves praise for completely shutting down South Dakota. The Coyotes averaged just 2.8 net yards per attempt while managing only 55 net passing yards. Those criticizing KU coach Charlie Weis for taking a 15-yard penalty to make it third and 19 in the fourth quarter only need to look to these numbers to see why he did it. USD had no chance throwing it against KU until that one particular play, where the Coyotes completed a 37-yard pass for a first down. The odds were in Weis' favor when he accepted the walkoff.

KU's pass offense was pretty bad

The Jayhawks' 4.2 net passing yards per attempt has to be a huge concern considering KU's opponents only will get tougher in the coming weeks. This wasn't all on quarterback Jake Heaps, as he was victimized by a handful of drops on some well-thrown passes. KU's yard-per-completion number wasn't horrible (9.2), but the Jayhawks' efficiency was hurt because of the high number of incompletions.

Special teams played a huge role for KU

Here's a stat for you from Connelly's book: In 2012, when two FBS teams played and one team had an advantage of 12 yards or more per drive in field position, that team's record was 151-10 (.938). That stat held true Saturday for KU against an FCS foe, as the Jayhawks held a 12-yard advantage in the statistic, meaning special teams helped turn what could have been a close game into a three-possession win. KU's biggest edge was on punts, as contributions from Connor Embree (four returns, 92 yards), Josh Ford (blocked punt) and Trevor Pardula (42.2 net yards per punt) gave KU a nearly 20-yard per punt edge over USD.

The Jayhawks put themselves in some tough third-down situations

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps turns to throw against South Dakota during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps turns to throw against South Dakota during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

KU's average third-down distance needed was 7.7 yards, which was higher than I'd have expected against USD. Though the Jayhawks averaged 6.6 yards on first downs, most of that success came in the second half. On 16 first downs in the first half, KU gained 71 yards (4.4 yards/play); on 17 first downs in the second half, KU gained 147 yards (8.6 yards/play). You could take this a few different ways. Maybe KU improved in the second half because Weis committed himself more to the run. Perhaps KU was the better conditioned team, and that played a factor late. Either way, KU's 6.2-yard-per-carry average is a strong number, and with it, the Jayhawks should be able to avoid third-and-longs better than they did Saturday.

KU's running-back depth appears to be legit

The Jayhawks ripped off 10 12-plus-yard runs against USD, and five different backs had a 12-yard run of their own (James Sims, Brandon Bourbon, Darrian Miller, Taylor Cox, Tony Pierson). I've mentioned this before, but with so many options, there's no reason for KU's coaches to turn Sims into a workhorse back this year. The Jayhawks have enough talent to keep fresh legs on the field.

As good as the run game was, KU's pass offense was bad enough to make it a below-average offensive performance

You can see on the top that KU's yards (404), yards per play (5.5) and yards per possession (31.1) all were almost exactly on the NCAA average from a year ago. That average, though, only reflects games between two FBS opponents. KU's offense should have been expected to do better against USD, but as mentioned before, the Jayhawks' lack of passing efficiency dragged all the numbers down. The 31 points scored Saturday had a lot to do with KU's defense and special teams providing great field position and not necessarily the overall success of the Jayhawks' offense.

KU's receivers and tight ends appear to have the most to prove heading into Week 2 against Rice.


tical523 9 years, 3 months ago

Great analysis. Good win with fixable mistakes. South Dakota played very hard and that quarterback was a hell of a runner which is always tricky to stop. I am betting on a lot of progress this week and we will look sharp against Rice.

machinegun 9 years, 3 months ago

Let me simplify it even further. The object of the game is to score more points than the other team. Last night, we got the job done. Hopefully, we can get the job done against a much tougher opponent in Rice.

The big question left unanswered is...Can Weis establish one of the top passing offenses in the league? If not, start praying for rain.

Mark Lindrud 9 years, 2 months ago

Things are fixable here. Heaps is an improvement and I hope now that we've got the first game jitters and what not past us we start building. Now they've got game film to see of themselves and that can be huge for progress to fix hopefully what is little things. We've got a better opponent and no doubt we will need to be better.

They know it as well as we do, stay strong Jayhawk Nation and get behind these guys. If we start to bail now, then what's the point? Find a tv, go wherever you can and let this team know we still believe.

Steve Reigle 9 years, 3 months ago

Any chance this new box score will become a fixture following each game this season?

Jesse Newell 9 years, 3 months ago

Yep, we'll try it the next few weeks and see how it goes.

holbigmac 9 years, 3 months ago

We should have won bigger! I'm concerned about the rest of the season! The competition is only going to get better!

BayPark 9 years, 3 months ago

This was great, Jesse. I hope you do this after every game.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 3 months ago

"The odds were in Weis' favor when he accepted the walkoff."

This made even more sense after the presser when CW also commented on the game situation. The alt to 3-19 was 4-4 at about the 10 min mark in the 4th qrtr. and CW was convinced they would have gone for it on 4th down.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 3 months ago

Jesse - The first possession or 2 was particularly bad in the pass offense category. Do you have a split for passing as the game progressed? It seemed that it got better as the game went on.

Jesse Newell 9 years, 3 months ago

It actually went from bad to good to bad. Heaps started 0-for-5, then went 9-for-11, then ended 1-for-4.

VaJay 9 years, 3 months ago

Great stats and a great conversation starter Jesse!

My take from the game is that yes, we need to work on some things (play-calling, receiver drops, rush defense, etc.) but too many people are reading way too much into this first game & how it impacts our prospects.

It's a first game!! Especially with so many new contributors at key positions on offense & defense, and just had their first opportunity on the field to play together.

We will know a little more after next week, but it will truly require four games to see a real indicator on our level of improvement.

gorilla10 9 years, 3 months ago

Not impressed overall at all. Although we do look much stronger at key positions in qb and kicking. We can finally kick it in the end zone, hit a 30+ yarded and hit receivers in the hands whether they catch it or not. Because the Big12 is down this year I could see us winning 2 MAYBE. Rice will be tough, this team isn't ready to go on the road and our defense did not look good. Team Juco Jayhawks have a lot of work to do if they want 4-5 wins....

Boouk 9 years, 3 months ago

My biggest concern for next week is defending Rice's read option and QB run, and any misdirections or play-fakes they might run off of that with their mobile QB. Hopefully the problems we had with it against South Dakota get addressed and corrected during the week, and some pass-catchers step up and give Heaps some help in the passing game, or it could be another long, frustrating, disappointing season.

gorilla10 9 years, 3 months ago

Agreed, there is a ton of room for improvement. I wouldn't waste ANY time celebrating this win. I wish Weis would've been a little more ticked off after that performance. I thought it was a poor effort and if we do t get it fixed we won't win many even in a weak league. Too many dumb penalties and I didn't like our execution most of the night.....

Jesse Newell 9 years, 2 months ago

From the 2008 season, success rate on fourth-and-4s were 47.5 percent.

This study from 2005-10 on plays from a team's own 21-40 show it as high as 61 percent.

So yes, I believe third-and-19 gave KU's defense a better statistical chance at getting the ball back than fourth-and-4, which at best was about a 50-50 proposition.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 2 months ago

This is not a big deal. Right or wrong it could go either way. If we stuff them on 3rd down, the call looks pretty good. They got lucky. Dude, you are way too negative and need to just enjoy the win and let next week take care of itself. I bet you have high blood pressure.

John Fitzgerald 9 years, 2 months ago

Either way you look at it Weis is the head coach and you're not. If he chose to decline it and they went for it and made it, you'd still be complaining. Lets drop this issue and agree that Weis made his decision based on what was best for the team.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 2 months ago

I was able to watch a replay...the receivers need to improve. I watch every week amazing catches by top teams and can't believe how they came up with them.

KU's receivers missed some in their mittens or on the numbers, anyways.

I thought we got to the qb most of the time when he dropped back to pass.

OU might be tough because they run.

I hope most everyone hasn't spilt any of the Kool-Aid...there is a lot of football to be played.

Micky Baker 9 years, 2 months ago

Overall, the defense didn't do that bad, allowed less than 300 yards. Gotta have someone on the QB at all times and keep the edge sealed off and make him cut it up towards pursuit. There wasn't much to scout with the two young backs, one who hadn't ever played college football before Saturday.

Heaps needs to take the check down when it's wide open and make the other team pay for leaving it open and make the cover it. Then the deeper passes will be there and he threw some pretty good balls going deep. McKay probably should have been able to go up and catch that first one. There were at least 4 dropped passes, and then long one to Rodriguez if just a little more air under that would have been a TD.

What hurt KU the most was the penalties, although I thought a couple of them were flat out questionable including the one where they called KU for one and completely missed the USD player ripping off one of our OL's helmet off during the play right in front of the ref. The one where the guy took his helmet off was bonehead. That was on Stower's INT, and that block in the back really was a weak call and the TD should have stood there. The fumble in the redzone took points off the board, I'm pretty certain we would have another TD right there. There were probably two more scores that we lost, 10 points, because of McKay's first drop and the one to Coleman. So there you have it, 48-14 if we simply didn't make mistakes on our own.

In regards to the adjustments at the half, Weis decided to run the ball and he was right to do that against this opponent. I'm thinking there will be a few more reps for the WR's this coming week to fix the dropped ball problem and the discipline is going to have to improve. However, I think that had more to do with getting their feet wet as a unit than anything else.

Heaps, if you read this, take the easy check off passes as we got guys that get a lot of yards after the catch. Weis, screen plays are okay to run in a pro offense. They do it all the time in the NFL. Do not use the Jayhawk formation unless you intend to pass from it at least 1/3rd of the time. It's way to predictable.

If you can get the ball out quickly on the check downs and have success, it will slow down the pass rush quite a bit and open up some holes for some delayed draws or a quick pitch to any one of the backs, usually to the week side with some misdirection. I know it's in the playbook. Let's use the plays that use the skills of these players to full advantage.

leonard 9 years, 2 months ago

I like the new look box score...and would like to see more use of the this case the 2012 overall college avg...comparing KU's numbers against college averages.

Brandon Pope 9 years, 2 months ago

Great stats as usual. I am very excited about the Rice game. Yes, this was a below average offensive performance. But is was an above average defensive, and special teams performance with an offensive effort that proved we can still run the ball on anyone. I dont think any facet of the game was ever above average last year (aside from rushing). There is a lot of room for improvement everywhere, and I think if the receivers hadn't been dropping everything in the first quarter we may have scored another TD and Heaps % may have been closer to 70%. TIme will tell on that one. A lot of the nerves and kinks will be worked out this week as there is always a big jump from week 1 to week 2.

Jonathan Allison 9 years, 2 months ago

I am concerned that everyone seems to think that the answer to our problems is as simple as "practice not dropping passes". Dropping passes is mental. These guys probably never drop a pass in practice. That have to catch some passes and make some plays in game to get any shot at correcting the mental/confidence side of drops.

Hopefully the dropped passes were a side-effect of the fan base overplaying the "2012, zero TD catches by WRs" stat, and those nerves are relaxed come Saturday.

I liked the new Box Score, and l look forward to reading it after many more victories this season.

I'll be in Rice Stadium cheering the Hawks this weekend.

Rivethead 9 years, 2 months ago

In addtion to the drops, we had one pass interference that, statistically was an incompletion, but really ended up being a postive play because we got a 1st and goal at the 5 out of it.

So, yeah, Heaps and the passing game were better than the stats are showing.

Thomas Thompson 9 years, 2 months ago

I like your new box score analysis. The box score is the first thing I turned to on Sunday morning.

I have a question about two players, Snedish and Coombs? Do you know why Snedish only played in the second half? Also, why Coombs didn't play at all?

I did not read anything prior about injuries or doghouse for them. We enjoyed the game, we were a little disappointed in the mistakes. A win is always good and it was the first game.


hammerhawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I was overly excited about our chances when the game began but quickly came back to earth and realized that in fact nothing much had changed on KU's football team. Darn.

But I really did enjoy the late flyover!

Based upon the vanilla play against a team that was dead last in their conference last year, I don't think the Hawks have much chance against Rice. Prove this old alum wrong, boys!!

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