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If we throw it 40 times, we're going to have a bad time

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Down 31-10 with 18:47 remaining in the game, UB ran the ball 4 times and dropped back 25 times to end the game.

Thanks to a 47-yard run, the Bulls ran for 16.25 yards per carry on their final 4 runs. Meanwhile UB dropped back to pass 25 times and only gained 5.68 yards per drop back, 10 yards per completion and 7 yards per pass attempt. In doing so, UB threw the ball 41 times and were defeated by the NIU Huskies. It became the 22nd UB loss with 40+ pass attempts in regulation since 2006.

After back-to-back 40+ attempt games led to two important losses at home, UB has resisted relying heavily on the pass, until last week. Should UB control their passing and run more? Or should the Bulls embrace the pass and the strides made in the fourth quarters of these games to jump start the lethargic UB offense?

Points

40+ Pass attempts in 2015: 24 points for, 31 points allowed, -7 overall

0-39 Pass attempts in 2015: 25 points for, 25 points allowed,  even

40+ Pass attempts 2006-2015: 23 points for, 34 points allowed, -11 overall

Wins

40+ Pass attempts in 2015: 0-3, 0%

0-39 Pass attempts in 2015 (FBS only): 4-2, 66%

40+ Pass attempts 2006-2015: 2-22, 8.3%

Both of these categories either showcase the fact that we are no better when we throw it 40 times in scoring and we definitely lose more or the fact that we go pass heavy when we are already down big, and thus we won't score more as a result and we definitely won't be apt to win.

That said this year in UB's three big passing games (Nevada, BGSU, NIU), it seems they threw themselves into a problem, then threw themselves out of it. UB averaged 10 drop backs in the first quarter, a 39 drop back/game pace, and faced an average 7 point deficit.

In the second quarter UB averaged 17 drop backs, and the deficit increased to 16 points. In the third, drop backs fell back down to 11, and the deficit decreased to 10, only for UB to increase their drop backs in the fourth quarter to 18, and the deficit cut to 7.

It's interesting to note here that in UB's six "regular" gameplan FBS games, Licata dropped back to pass 191 times. In his three pass heavy games, Licata dropped back 157 times. From 32 drop backs per game, to 52.

Results

By all metrics except TD/INT, UB's passing game is better when Licata is dropping back often.

Situation Yards per Catch Yards per Attempt Total Yards per Drop Back TD/Int
Over 40 Since 2006 10.61 6.50 5.90 4
Under 40 2015 9.86 6.30 5.51 2
over 40 2015 11.06 6.84 6.38 -1

That said when you look at Je

Quarter Completion percentage Drop Backs Total Yards Yards Per Catch Yards Per Attempt Total Yards Per Drop Back TD/Int
Q1 50.0% 28 235 16.79 8.39 8.39 0
Q2 61.4% 46 257 10.04 6.16 5.59 -1
Q3 59.4% 32 175 9.21 5.47 5.47 -1
Q4 74.5% 50 340 10.43 7.77 6.80 1

UB was most effective in the first quarter getting 17 yards per catch and almost 8.5 yards per dropback. In the fourth quarter UB's yards per attempt jumps to 7.77, however the completion percentage shoots up to 75%. That seems to suggest that the fourth quarter success is a result of softer prevent coverage from opponents.

My hypothesis is that UB has found good success early because their opponents expect UB to start the game run heavy. Thus UB exploits holes and one-on-one matchups for big gains. UB doubles down with more passing, but by that time, the opponent has adjusted and the holes and opportunistic matchups are gone.

Finally in the fourth quarter, UB "has" to pass, and find holes in the prevent defense of opponents.

As Jordan Johnson runs for 4.9 yards per carry, it seems unwise to continue to throw 28 times in the 2nd and 3rd quarters to gain 5.54 yards per dropback, especially when Licata has thrown 2 more interceptions than TDs during those quarters.

I can't say running more is the answer. UB has the #1 running back duo in the MAC in carries with 291 between Taylor and Johnson, but the duo is eighth in the conference in yards per carry. I can say that after losing 25% of the season to high pass attempt losses, I would hope UB limits the passing game in our final two games.