Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lack of identity, execution among Terriers' 2013 inconsistencies

Last year, there were obviously a lot of problems and little inconsistencies that ultimately played a major role in the disappointing finish Mike Ayers and staff oversaw. Perhaps they were big inconsistencies. 

Nevertheless, let's take a look at some of the most prominent.


In 2012, a successful campaign which set an expectant tone into the subsequent offseason, the Terriers outscored their opponents 375-216, averaging close to thirty points per game. Of those 375 points, 146 came in the second half of games (an additional six came in overtime), and while that leaves a noticeably larger 223 points that were racked up in quarters one and two, either one of those stats is superior to the numbers that Wofford put up last season.

A majority of the Terriers' 233 points scored last season (they were outscored 274-233, the first time the Terriers have been outscored since the disappointing 3-8 campaign in 2009), 120 of them to be exact, were produced in the second half. This, though, is not far from the remaining 113 scored in the first half, but it is still surprising. (Also, it's a full 100 less than the conference leader, Samford).

Observing a Terrier game from last season, one could make the assumption that the Terriers played their best in the first half, and fell apart, physically exhausted and psychologically worn, in the second half.

The Terriers ranked eighth in the SoCon in scoring offense, and third in scoring defense. Let's put that into perspective. In 2012, Wofford's scoring offense was fourth, and the defense led the league in scoring.

One aspect that hasn't swayed much, however, would be the Terriers' perenially-powerful rushing offense, that only dropped one spot in the league, from second to third. Georgia Southern actually led the pack both years, but The Citadel overtook Wofford in the rankings in 2013.

Lack of Identity on Offense

The Terriers have had some obvious problems gaining yardage on offense. While they've traditionally been heavily run-based, last year's team, while still subtle on the passing front, was, in a way, caught in a place between the usual rushing dominance headed by a smooth execution of the triple option, and the ever-growing presence through the air.

With Eric Breitenstein and company, the Terriers put up numbers like 4,375 on the ground in 2011, and 4,546 during the 2012 campaign. This past season, they only amassed 2,969 rushing yards. And that's not all. In 2011 and 2012, they averaged 6.0 and 5.9 yards per rush, respectively. Compare that to 2013's 4.6 yards per rush. A surprisingly low amount of rushing touchdowns were scored last season - 24 - unlike the playoff teams of the two years prior, who put up 43 and 39. A look at average rushing yards per game shows that the previous averages of 364.6 and 349.7, in 2011 and 2012 respectively, dropped off significantly last season, as Wofford only averaged 269.9 a game.

On the other end of the spectrum, let's look at how the Terriers have done through the air in recent years:
Looking at the data, it seems plausible that (with 2010's sharp rise as an exception) the Terriers have continually eased the pass into the Wofford offensive system, giving it more and more jurisdiction over the play calling choices (albeit with shorter passes).

The problem is, we used to be an outstanding rushing team. Don't get me wrong, we're still an exceptional program on the rushing front, but in recent years, we've seen less of that rushing prowess, and more experimentation (for lack of a better word) with passing plays. Do those passing plays work? Sometimes. But add in the instability and lack of fluid execution with the quarterback position (especially running the option), and behold: we've produced the stats of not a premier rushing power, but a mediocre mix of run and pass that didn't get us anywhere.

Wofford junior QB Michael Weimer lost
four fumbles last season, the most of
anyone on the team.
Photo: Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

It must say something that while the Terriers put ten fewer balls on the ground last season than in 2012, they lost the same number of them - 14 - in both seasons. I don't have the exact number, but it seems as if a good number of those were from some botched pitched attempts, another inconsistency, or hesitancy, I should say, with our option execution.

Last season, Terrier quarterbacks threw ten interceptions, which were returned for 175 yards, an average of 17.5 yards per interception return. On the other hand, in 2012, Brian Kass' two picks thrown were the only ones recorded on the year, and they weren't returned.

Time of Possession

It used to be a known fact that Terrier drives, ever so long and methodical, would eat up sizable portions of the clock, which could be a good or bad thing, depending upon the game circumstances. Well, they still do take a while (that is, if they don't get forced three-and-out), but it just doesn't show on the time of possession anymore.

Time of possession has, just like some other trends with Wofford, been steadily declining the last couple of seasons, and, like the other trends, we had a bad year in 2009 - when we didn't perform well, and it showed on our 3-8 record. See the similarities?

Anyway, the team's time of possession dipped below thirty minutes a game last season. The cause: most likely less rushing success, too much difficulty executing, and, as a result, more three-and-outs and turnovers.


In just three seasons, Wofford's fourth-down conversion rate has dropped seventeen percent, and the third-down conversion rate dropped an additional six percent.

Oddly enough, last season's Terriers went for it on fourth down 35 times - nine less than in 2012, and only one less than in 2011. Fourth down conversions has always been a big part of the offensive culture of Wofford, and it was once said that picking up gains of two to three yards a play, then going for it on fourth-and-one was completely fine, and it does add a sense of confidence if you establish a fourth-down presence, but when it's not working out, and you're putting extra pressure on your defense by giving your opponent the ball much closer than necessary - it might just be better to punt.

The Give and Take: Penalties

One thing I will give to the 2013 Terriers - fewer penalties. The high of 69 penalties were were flagged with in 2010, which ended up costing the Terriers a whopping 549 yards, has reduced quite a bit over the last few seasons, ultimately resulting in last season's 51 penalties, for 406 yards.

In fact, this was one of the rare seasons where our opponents had more penalties (56 for 469 yards) than we did.

In Conclusion

Though it's slightly off topic from last year's inconsistencies, when I think of Wofford's offensive and defense schemes, my mind can't help but wander back to a quotation from Sports Illustrated's 1992 article detailing former Terrier standout QB Shawn Graves:
"...Graves dazzles the crowd with the Wofford wishbone, which, he says, is so foolproof that ''it's kind of like stealing.'' At the same time, no opposing quarterback can run the wishbone on the Wofford defense."
Nearly twenty-two years after those words were printed, that should still be the case with our wingbone offense we still run today. It should be like stealing. I recall reading another account of Graves' playing days that recounted how he would almost be touching the defender before a pitch. Ah, the pure option.

But enough of the nostalgia. We have something special on our hands. At another school, I might have lumped in tight ends with receivers, but at Wofford, I felt compelled to include them with the offensive line, because of the blocking presence they hold in our offensive system.

If we can get our execution and focus set straight, we can be unstoppable as a team. We just have to get there first, but, hey, this is Wofford.

[Statistical data courtesy SoConSports.com]

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