Inside the Numbers: Red Zone Offense

Share on your favorite social network:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit

As good as the 2011 Hokie football offense was, they struggled to score in the red zone. That phrase “struggled to score in the red zone” has been thrown around a lot, and we know it’s true because the Hokies ranked #103 in the nation (out of 120 teams) in the NCAA’s “Red Zone Offense” statistic.

But what does it mean, and how do the 2011 Hokies compare to previous VT teams in the Beamer Bowl Era?  And when we say that 2011 offense was “good,” what do we mean by that?

Let’s start with the last question first.

How Good was the 2011 Offense?

As Virginia Tech offenses go, the 2011 version was pretty good. Since the lights-out Michael Vick era, the Hokies have had some bad offenses and some mediocre offenses, but they’ve had some productive (by VT standards) offenses, too: the 2003 offense featuring Kevin Jones was good, Marcus Vick’s 2005 team could run and pass, and Tyrod Taylor ran some solid offenses in 2009 and 2010.

By one metric — yards per game (413.0) — the 2011 offense was the best since 2000, and the fifth-best of the Beamer Bowl era.

By another metric — yards per play (5.81) — the 2011 offense was the eighth-best of the 19 seasons of the Beamer Bowl era.

But when it came to pure scoring — points per game (27.9) — the 2011 Hokies were among the worst of Beamer’s bowl teams. Their 27.9 ppg average landed them 16th out of 19 seasons, beating out just the 1994, 2006 and 2008 teams. When you chart the top five Beamer Bowl Era teams in yards per game, and you include the points per game stat, the disparity jumps out at you.

[table “47” not found /]

(Note that for the top four seasons, I factored in the bowl games, so if you look up season stats on hokiesports.com — which don’t include bowl games prior to 2002 — they won’t match what I have here.)

It’s an odd contradiction: a team that can move the ball up and down the field with the best of them, but can’t score.

Yes, the team scoring average is affected by facets of the game other than offense. The 2011 Hokies scored just one touchdown on defense and special teams, the fewest since 1990, and the only time since 1990 they haven’t scored multiple times on D and special teams.

But one other stat points to the idea that the 2011 Hokie offense

...