We have officially reached the midway point of the season. By my count we have played 2 bad teams (Towson, Rice), a decent team (Tulane), a good team (BC) and 2 great teams (ND, Clemson). Somehow, they all cancel out and put our average opponent right in the middle of the college football spectrum, right?
I wrote a similar article after the first 3 games, and now its time to revisit the Wake Forest offense. Obviously, since that first article we have played 2 really good teams in Notre Dame and Clemson. The Tigers have the 3rd best total defense in the nation, giving up just 261 yards per game; Notre Dame ranks 47th in that category, giving up 357.3 yards per game. I’ll try to point out any stats that have changed significantly over the past 3 games, but if you want to see the previous article for reference, you can find it here.
Overall, the Wake Forest offense is still moving the ball well. The Deacs have run 511 plays for 2689 yards, which comes out to 5.26 yards per play and 448.2 yards per game (42nd in the nation). In terms of balance, Wake has started to favor the run slightly more than the pass. (As a reminder, in these articles a sack counts as a passing play.)
I initially thought this was due to garbage time plays with the game out of hand and lots of 2nd and 3rd string guys playing. However, with Hartman at QB (I assumed if QB1 was in the game, the game was not yet out of hand), we have run the ball 240 times for 1120 yards and passed 194 times (184 passes and 10 sacks) for 1194 yards. This comes out to a similar 55-45 play selection split run to pass.
On a down by down analysis, the Deacs are still best on 1st down, where they are averaging 5.37 yards per play. That is down significantly from the 5.93 yards they were averaging on 1st down through the first 3 games. On 2nd down, Wake averages 5.11 yards per play, which is again down from the 5.81 yards per play they were getting through the first 3 games. The Deacs are still the worst on 3rd down, but only by about 0.02 yards per play as compared to 2nd down. The Wake offense has managed to increase their yards per play on 3rd down from 5.02 to 5.11 over the previous 3 games.
Speaking of 3rd downs, Wake has converted on 3rd down 47 out of 111 (42.34%) times this season. I initially thought that percentage was pretty low, but it’s actually the 44th best in the nation. The average distance to go on 3rd down has jumped from 5.56 yards to 6.36 yards over the last 3 games. You can see Wake’s 3rd down conversion rate by distance to go in the graph below (Note: distances that have only occurred 1 time are omitted).
On 4th down, the Deacs have gone for it 12 times and successfully moved the chains on 8 of those attempts (66.7%). That percentage is good 24th in the nation. The average distance needed on 4th down in 3.42 yards.
With the overall stats out of the way, let’s head over and take a look at the run game, where the Wake Forest offense continues to prefer to go straight up the middle as opposed to running outside.
Just for reference, like last time, “middle” refers to any run between the tackles. The Wake Forest offense has run the ball up the middle 220 times for 1028 yards, which comes out to 4.67 yards per carry. This is down slightly from the first 3 games, where the Deacs were averaging 5.3 yards per carry up the middle. On the ends, Wake has run to the left 43 times for 233 yards (5.42 avg) and to the right 37 times for 203 yards (5.49 avg).
Above, you can see the average breakdown for each of our main ball carriers (40 or more carries, sack yardage not included). Cade Carney plowing up the middle appears to be the most popular running play so far this season. Carney has gone up the middle a total of 64 times through 6 games for 339 yards, followed closely by Matt Colburn II up the middle 55 times for 209 yards. While Kendall Hinton and Christian Beal-Smith have not had as many carries, I felt it was worth noting that both have done a great job running the football lately; Hinton is averaging around 7.67 yards per carry and Beal-Smith is averaging a little over 6.24 yards per carry.
Shifting over to the passing game, QB Sam Hartman is currently 102-184 (55%) for 1265 yards, 10 TDs, and 6 Ints. He has been sacked 10 times for around 71 yards. Hartman has shown some otherworldly consistency as his percentage is exactly the same through 6 games as it was through 3 (well actually, it’s gone up 0.15% but who’s counting?). The volume of passes has been reduced drastically, going from 123 passes through the first 3 (41 per game) to just 61 over the past 3 (20 per game).
Again, his breakdown isn’t all that shocking. He’s the most accurate at short throws and the least accurate on longer throws, and the bulk of his throws come in that intermediate 5 to 15 yard range, which is to be expected in the RPO offense. Keep in mind these distances are how far the ball travels in the air and I am completely just eyeballing it. It is also not shocking that Greg Dortch continues to be his favorite target.
Note that the above chart refers to passing plays with Hartman at QB. Dortch has almost 40 more targets than the next closest receiver and almost 30 more receptions. In fact, in the last 3 games, Dortch has caught 20 passes from Sam Hartman, while the next closest wide receiver (tie between Alex Bachman and Kendall Hinton) has caught 2.
Dortch is now running away with the yards after catch lead, in part because he has caught so many more passes than everyone else. Again, this is eyeballed, so it may not be exact.
All this being said, I think the Wake Forest offense is doing just fine. I know some people have called for the coaching staff to rethink what we’re doing on the offensive end, but that is premature in my opinion. The Deacs are 51st in the nation in scoring with 32.3 points per game and 42nd in the nation in total offense with 447.8 yards per game. We had a really bad game against a really, really good Clemson team. We had a really good game against a really, really bad Rice team. In my opinion, the second half of the season will be far more valuable in showing the state of the offense, as we play more teams in the middle of the pack.
What are your thoughts on the offense? Do you think the Deacs should keep doing what they’re doing or make a change? Let us know below!