Connect with us


Stat of the Week: Like Gundy, Using Yards per Attempt to Evaluate Run Game

‘Getting around that 4- to 4.5-yard average per carry is gonna be more important. …’



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

It’s an obvious statement to remind you that I don’t know as much about the sport of football and evaluating teams than the guys who get paid to coach the game professionally like Mike Gundy.

I do know enough, though, to realize Oklahoma State struggled running the football in 2022 and those woes seem to have carried over after two weeks of this season. Gundy confirmed our assumptions numerous times this offseason that the Cowboys were indeed bad at running the ball last year. Gundy’s not pleased yet with this season’s run performance either.

“Two weeks we’ve gotten away with not running the ball well in the first half,” Gundy said at Monday’s media luncheon. “Our luck’s gonna run out eventually. And that’s not a secret. That’s what the offensive staff’s been told, that’s what I told myself in the mirror and that’s what the players have been told. And everybody knows it.”

Outside of an eye test, though, I wasn’t sure the best way to evaluate OSU’s run game and if it’s truly getting better like Gundy predicted it would this offseason. Rushing total per game? Rushing yards per carry? A stat I’ve never heard of?

Gundy answered how he evaluates the run game at Monday’s media luncheon.

“Getting around that 4- to 4.5-yard average per carry is gonna be more important than saying, ‘They need to rush for 150 yards in this game,'” Gundy said. “I don’t want to go in front of the team and say, ‘Hey, if we don’t run for 150 yards in this game it’s gonna be hard to win.’ Well, that might not be true. They might overload the box and play a lot of man, and we might have to throw for 350. So it’s more of the 4 to 4.5 yards per carry.”

It seems efficiency is key. Gundy was correct pointing out that game plans change and so do the defenses teams face and the new play clock rule has also decreased the amount of plays for offenses. A rush total could be lower, but yet, for Gundy and his staff, could be considered more of a success than an outing before with more total yardage.

That leads us to using yards per carry to evaluate the OSU run game.

The Cowboys are averaging 4.2 yards a carry after two games. That’s right between the 4-4.5 average Gundy mentioned. However, he also harped on the lack of that production coming in the first half. OSU had zero rushing yards at halftime last week against Arizona State. That’s a 0.0 average, by the way. Ultimately, the Cowboys finished averaging 3.6 yards in the game. That number was 4.8 the week before against Central Arkansas after another strong second half, particularly the fourth quarter.

Last season seems to be the season to compare for what not to do. OSU averaged an abysmal 3.4 yards a carry in 2022. That average was at 4.7 yards a carry after OSU’s first three nonconference games.

During the offseason, Gundy mentioned the offense looking more like 2007 and ’08 schematically to improve the ground game. We may not have seen those changes evident yet, but we can still use those years to gauge what Gundy believes is success running the football.

In 2007, OSU averaged 5.3 yards a carry. That stat increased to 5.8 the next season. I can see why Gundy would like to get back to that.

What about 2011, the year OSU fans think of when asked about what a successful season should look like? The Pokes then averaged 5.3 yards, just like ’07.

The 2023 Cowboys are obviously not there yet. They’re technically at Gundy’s 4-4.5 range. But he also knows the Big 12 schedule is still ahead. Big 12 champion Kansas State held OSU to 1.9 yards a carry last season. That stat was 1.6 — a season worst — against Iowa State. Overall, the Cowboys averaged 3.2 yards a carry against Big 12 opponents in 2022.

In other words, things only get tougher after Central Arkansas, Arizona State and South Alabama. The Cyclones, who held OSU to a season-low last season, are actually up first in conference play.

The Cowboys have one more week before that significant stat will start to dip if there’s no improvement.

“It’s kind of like when a wide out drops a pass and a coach says, ‘You gotta make that play. You gotta make that catch,'” Gundy said. “Really? He knows that. Tell him why he dropped it and fix it. He knows he needs to make the catch.

“We know we need to run the ball better. But we are putting things in place to make it happen, and we’re practicing and working hard and we need to get it established earlier in the game. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to overcome some of that while not being able to run the ball in the first half.”

Most Read