The offensive story of 2014 was Anthone "Anth1" Taylor, who continued the tradition (save for 20XX) of UB running backs racking up crazy yardage and leading UB to victory. Taylor joined Starks and BO in the 1200+ rushing yard club, and joined BO as the only UB backs with 1400+ yards.
Taylor was great, but the run game was a mirage.
The Run Game - About Average
Overall UB's opponents allowed 169 yards per game and UB exceeded that, running for 186 yards per game. UB ran for 17 more yards, but they averaged 3 more carries than our opponents faced on average. As a result, our opponents allowed on average 4.715 yards per carry, and UB slightly exceeded that running for 4.796 yards per carry.
The advantage dies off against our FBS opponents. They allowed 4.96 yards per carry, and UB ran for 4.988 yards per carry. The run game was important, when UB beat an FBS team, they exceeded their opponents average yards per carry allowed by 1, UB ran for 5.88 yards per carry. When UB lost to a FBS team however, they were .75 yards below their opponent's average, running for 4.267 yards per carry vs teams that allowed 4.996 yards per carry.
UB's two worst outings were the CMU and Ohio games. CMU allowed 4.36 yards per run on average and Ohio allowed 4.66 yards per carry on average. Yet against Buffalo, CMU held the Bulls to 2.15 yards per carry and the Bobcats held Buffalo to 1.83 yards per carry. Buffalo only failed to score a rushing touchdown in 4 games, and that included three straight games shut out against EMU, CMU and Ohio.
UB's two best outings were the final two games, Akron and UMass. Akron allowed 4.35 yards per carry on the season while UMass allowed 4.85 yards per carry. Buffalo exploded for 5.74 yards per carry against Akron and topped that with 6.17 yards per carry against UMass.
Interceptions - A Problem
Coming into the season Joe Licata threw the ball 565 times with only 11 interceptions, a rate of 51 throws between INTs. This season Licata threw the ball 345 times and notched another 11 interception, throwing an interception every 31 throws.
All interceptions are bad, but some are worse than others, especially those that take away a scoring opportunity or set up a good scoring opportunity for the opponent. Unfortunately, the majority of Licata's interceptions were very bad for the team.
Licata threw interceptions from the 15 yard line, the 6 yard line and 13 yard line, and threw two deep interceptions that were caught on the 23 yard line and the 2 yard line. Those INTs took points off the board. Licata also threw an interception from his own 12 that was returned to the 8, one from his own 18 that was returned to the 10, and one from the 34 that was returned for a touchdown.
The teams that beat UB this year caught one interception for every 40 dropbacks faced. Against UB, they caught one interception for every 22 dropbacks. In FBS wins, UB threw one interception for every 91 dropbacks, an amazingly good rate. Licata like Willy, led UB to success by protecting the football, but I think in 2014 he tried to force things and he made mistakes. To be successful, we'll need the more cautious and mistake free Licata in 2015.
Passing Game - Give Licata the Keys
In FBS games, UB averaged 50 runs and 30 passes in wins, and 31 runs and 37 passes in losses. That said through three quarters in those six losses, UB was about even, 24 runs and 24 passes. In the fourth quarter, UB passed on average 13 times vs. 8 runs.
When you remove the BGSU (where UB had the lead for most of the 4th quarter) and the Baylor game (where UB was down so much they ran out the clock) UB averaged 17 passes to 4 runs in the fourth quarter of their four losses.
It is hard to determine if the passing game with the recipient of less coverage due to defenses stacking the box to stop the run. It is also hard to determine if the positive passing numbers are due to UB throwing so much from behind late in games when coverage is softer.
But based on the numbers, the passing game was better than the running game. UB ran for .028 yards per attempt more than our FBS opponents' average allowed. UB threw for .45 yards per dropback more than our opponents' average allowed.
UB's worst passing games were Ohio and Bowling Green, while their best came against of course UMass and Akron. Ohio allowed 6.7 yards per drop back, but Buffalo only managed 3.37 yards per drop back as UB only threw for 105 yards in that game. Again against Bowling Green UB only threw for 134 yards, managing 5.36 yards per drop back against a team that allowed 6.39 yards per drop back.
Against UMass, UB threw for 9 yards/dropback, 2.61 yards higher than the Minutemen allowed all season. The previous week, UB threw for 9.83 yards per dropback, 4.20 yards per dropback higher than Akron's average.
To close, I sorted charts by opponent average, from the most stout defenders to the most permissive. You would expect UB's averages to therefore point to the top right of the screen.
The running chart generally follows the pattern we'd expect except for the big dip against CMU and Ohio. The passing chart shows no pattern as it randomly exceeds and fails to reach opponent averages. That says to me that Ohio and CMU made a concerned effort to stop the UB run game, but UB never made a concerned effort to feature the passing game. Think of this, if Marcus McGill catches his famous dropped pass in the Baylor game, and runs it 73-yard for a TD, buffalo would have thrown for 9.18 yards per dropback in the Baylor game. Basically three of UB's best passing performances came against the 4 toughest secondaries they faced.
Before the season, will Oliver gone, I expected this to become Licata's team. In fact, I wrote that it was already Licata's team. Instead, it became Taylor's team, as he was force fed the ball, with average but not above average results. Cumulatively, it was an amazing season for Taylor, but the result was a 3-6 record against FBS teams and an average offense. Jeff Quinn the spread offense guru who coordinated a high scoring machine in Cincinnati, had his chance to unleash a powerful vertical attack with a Junior QB. Quinn and Wood never delivered, and when UB's defense started to turn around, the offense withered and died against CMU and Ohio, killing 2014's bowl dreams.
Lance Leipold will have to give Licata the keys to the offense, and give him the chance to win games for us. This will keep MAC defenses off balance, open up more room for Taylor and improve the efficiency of our run game and our offense as a whole.