Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Ball Guy

Typically in the game of football, quarterbacks get too much credit for leading their teams to wins and too much blame causing their teams to lose. However, in the case of Georgia Tech football, its almost impossible to assign too much blame on Reggie Ball. Not since Byron Leftwich, has a player been carried more by the team he played for. Georgia Tech went 7-4 almost entirely on the strength of their defense. The Yellow Jackets rank 16th nationally in scoring defense, giving up an average of 18.5 point per game. If you remove the debacle against Virginia Tech, they drop down to 15.2 points per game. They are 10th nationally in yards per game, allowing a scant 296 per contest. They are also 17th nationally in yards per play giving up an average of 4.6 yards per play. While not perfect indicators of how well a defense has played, points, yardage, and yards per play are probably the three best indicators of performance at the college level where there is a dearth of advanced stats like the ones you might find at Football Outsiders.

If the defense is this good, why has Georgia Tech lost 4 games? Look no further than the other side of the Ball. Georgia Tech is 99th in scoring offense averaging a paltry 19.3 points per game. They are 81st in yards per game with 352. So who bears the responsibility for this offensive ineptitude? All the evidence points squarely at Reggie Ball. Consider this, Georgia Tech is 48th nationally in rushing yards per game with 156 per contest. Hardly dominant, but at least in the top half of Division I teams. They are 90th in passing yards per game averaging 190 per contest. So why does Georgia Tech struggle so much in the pasing game? Reggie Ball's horrible accuracy is to blame.

In my opinion, completion percentage is a highly overrated statistic. Short dump offs in the flat can drive up a quarterback's completion percentage and not do much at all to help a team win games. That is why yards per pass attempt is a much better measure of a quarterback's passing ability. However, Division I quarterbacks need to complete more than half the passes they throw. For the season, Reggie Ball has a completion percentage of 48%. He has completed 164 passes, and has thrown 178 incompletions. Out of 121 Division I quarterbacks who have thrown more than 100 passes, he ranks 116th in completion percentage. Only Allan Evridge (Kansas State), Perry Patterson Jr. (Syracuse), Austen Everson (Ohio), Erik Ainge (Tennessee), and Carl Meadows (Troy) have a worse completion percentage. What makes Reggie's inaccuracy mind-boggling is the presence of Calvin Johnson. Only a sophomore, Johnson is an All-American wide receiver. Defenses also typically double his side of the field; a practice that should lead to easier throws to Tech's other receivers.

Of course, even a quarterback with a low completion percentage can do other things to help his team win. Take the case of Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson. Robinson is not a great passer (he completed a little less than 52% of his passes), but he tossed more touchdowns than interceptions: 16 to 9 (as opposed to 10 and 10 for Ball), and also ran well: 137 rushes for 855 yards, 6.2 average per rush, and 11 touchdowns. Many people similarly believe Ball is a good running quarterback. He's not. Ball rushed 87 times for 429 yards (a 4.9 average) and 4 touchdowns.

In the home loss to NC State, the offense managed only 14 points. In the home victory over Clemson, the offense managed only 10 points. In the home loss to Georgia, the offense managed only 7 points. In the road win at Miami, the offense scored only 14 points. In the two games where the defense struggled (at Virginia Tech and at Virginia), the offense managed a combined 24 points. If Georgia Tech had gotten just average production from the quarterback position they could have finished 9-2. As it stands, a solid defensive performance will be wasted as Tech travels to San Francisco for the prestigious Emerald Bowl.


____________ said...

Matt....love the post . You are 100% right and 0% wrong. Reggie Ball, they call him a dual threat QB. Well guess what, he's not dual threat, he can run, but he cant throw.

Anonymous said...

haha, i wonder why so many people think he can run fast? there must be a good reason...im stumped though, perhaps you can help?.

matt said...

He's from Stone Mountain, Georgia. Isn't there some old adage about guys from there being real fast? (ed. note ==> tounge firmly planted in cheek)