Inside the numbers: All you’ll ever want to know about third downs

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Third downs have been a hot topic this season. This article goes into great detail about what the Hokies have and haven’t done on third down. Some of the numbers might surprise you.

Hokies face third and long too often

Virginia Tech has faced third down 105 times this season ( says 104, but I ran the numbers over and over and kept coming up with 105, so we’ll go with that number. Either way, the points of the article will remain the same.) They have faced third and long, or third and super long, way too often.

We’ll define third and short as 1-3 yards to go, third and medium as 4-6 yards to go, and third and long as 7+ yards to go. Here’s how the percentages break out…

Third and short: 30 attempts (28.6%)
Third and medium: 21 attempts (20%)
Third and long: 54 attempts (51.4%)

Over 50% of Virginia Tech’s third down attempts have been of the third and long variety. Of those 54 attempts, 23 of them have been of the third and super long variety, I.E. third and 11+ yards to go.

Think about that for a second: over one-fifth (21.9%) of Virginia Tech’s third down attempts are coming after the Hokies have lost yardage on first and second down. It’s amazing the Hokies are doing so well on third downs this year, and it’s also a warning that Tech better get a lot more efficient on first and second down quickly, or else those third down numbers are going to drop. There’s simply no way they can keep converting 49% of their third downs if they are averaging 7.42 yards to go on each third down.

False Starts a hindrance on third downs

False starts have made Tech’s life more difficult on third down. Let’s go all the way back to the beginning of the season and check out the false starts on third down, and the overall result.

JC Coleman vs. W&M: Makes a third and 3 a third and 8. Tech converts.
Team vs. Ohio State: Makes a third and 9 a third and 14. Tech fails to convert.
Augie Conte vs. GT: Makes a third and 4 a third and 9. Tech converts.
Caleb Farris vs. WMU: Makes a third and 8 a third