FanHouse writer John Walters was covering what he calls the “BK Broiler” over Twitter today, when he quoted Kelly thusly…
“We just cannot afford 3-and-outs against Navy.”
Which got me to thinking, just how often does ND fall into the 3-and-out trap?
Turns out, about a 5th of the time the offense takes the field, it’ll come right back off the field after 3 plays. Handy spreadsheet below…
I can’t find a metric by which to judge that rate of 21.78%, but it certainly seems high. We already knew that ND’s 82nd national ranking in 3rd down conversions, at just 37.89% was bad. It seems even worse if you consider that the 22 3-and-out drives by ND this season account for about 58% of the drives in which ND punted, meaning there’s quite-a-bit better than a coin-flip’s chance that if ND is punting, they’ve made absolutely no headway in one of the most important aspects of any football game: field possession. Further, at the going rate, almost 1/4th of all of ND’s 3rd down attempts will occur in the first attempt at gaining a new first down and will result in the team punting.
The number gets even uglier when you consider that only ND’s on about the same pace with 3-and-out drives as it is with TD scoring drives. Couple those 3-and-out drives with turnover drives, and the Irish offense’s TD scoring rate is overwhelmed by a “negative result” rate of about 37% over 23%. Even if you pair FGs with the TDs, the “positive result” rate only reaches 34%. More “objectively bad” drives have occurred with ND’s offense to this point in the season than have “objectively good” drives.
Just one more thing to think about: No Navy opponent this year has had more than 12 possessions in a game. Further, Navy’s opponents are only averaging about 10 possessions a game. Notre Dame’s offense averages 14 possessions per game thus far. When an opponent, like Navy, manages to eliminate 3-4 of your possessions simply by virtue of the style of football they play, you truly can’t afford to throw away 22% of the remaining possessions by going three-and-out. Some quick, cocktail napkin math extrapolates that, if all of these rates remain unchanged for the Navy/Notre Dame game this weekend, Notre Dame will only score about 17 points.
Addendum: Hey kids, positive note here: The rate of 3-and-out drives per game has been steadily decreasing since hitting a high during the BC game at 41% (my god was that game atrocious). Pitt – 33%, WMU – 20%. Let’s see that drop to 10%, or about 1 drive (one. drive. only…) on Saturday! Please?