Classic Study Hall: Texas vs USC (2005)

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 04: A Texas Longhorns helmet is held up before the start of the BCS National Championship Rose Bowl Game between the Longhorns and the USC Trojans at the Rose Bowl on January 4, 2006 in Pasadena, California. Texas defeated USC 41-38. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

One of the constants in both my Varsity Numbers columns and my in-season work at Rock M Nation is the post-game analysis.  Over the years I have tweaked and altered the format of this 'box score,' and I figure the best way to get more familiar with the format is to dive into recent classics to see what advanced stats might tell us.  The plan is to start with the national title games, then expand.  So get your requests in now.  Confused?  Catch up with the stat primer I created at Rock M.

The first Classic Study Hall piece looks at perhaps the most 'classic' game of the last decade, the 2006 Rose Bowl.  Because this is the first in this series, and quite a few readers might not be familiar with a lot of the tools at hand, let's start with a recap of the game itself.  We won't go to quite this much detail every time, as a) not every game is this much of a classic, b) it takes forever to give a full recap justice, and c) in time, you'll hopefully become more familiar with the study hall format.

It honestly takes me a little bit to remember something from the 2005 season that didn't involve Texas and USC.  Wasn't Penn State pretty good that year?  Wasn't that the year that Pat White and Steve Slaton came out of nowhere?  Didn't Rhett Bomar make a cameo appearance somewhere in there?  Wasn't Tennessee supposed to be good?  No two teams have ever dominated an entire season storyline quite like the Longhorns and Trojans ... which made it all the more impressive when the game between them actually lived up to the endless hype.

First Quarter

One thing you'll learn very quickly about me is that I love a good boxing analogy.  (I love mediocre ones too.)  Now that you've been warned ... this was the classic 'feeling each other out, then throwing haymakers' fight.  Both teams were cautious and semi-conservative early on.  USC started the game by going three-and-out, then got a second chance when Texas' Aaron Ross muffed a punt.  A 23-yard pass to fullback David Kirtman set up LenDale White's first touchdown.  Both teams got stuffed on fourth-and-1 run attempts (strangely, both defensive lines made some huge plays despite getting mauled for a good portion of the evening), and we headed to the second quarter with USC driving near midfield.  Neither offense did much damage, and the 'turnover points' generated from Ross' fumble set up the game's only touchdown.  Defensive battle?  Not for long.

First Quarter S&P: USC 0.711, Texas 0.647.

Second Quarter

In the second quarter, the big plays started rolling in.  It started with one of the game's biggest playsReggie Bush caught a short pass from Matt Leinart and darted upfield, gaining 37 yards before being hemmed in and deciding to lateral the ball to an unsuspecting teammate (Brad Walker?).  I've never been able to decide who to blame for the fumble: Bush, or the teammate who somehow didn't see it coming. Obviously Bush made a stupid play, but ... it was Reggie Bush.  Of course he was going to try to lateral the ball for a spectacular touchdown.  You could see it coming as it was about to happen. (Fun with stats: Texas' Drew Kelson got credit for a "forced fumble" on the play.)

The play, though boneheaded, started a series of huge plays.  Texas drove for a field goal, and USC responded before Michael Griffin's spectacular tiptoe interception in the end zone.  (Watching in real time, I thought there was no way in hell that he came down inbounds, but he did.)  Texas would drive to the USC 22, where they would cash in on a controversial, somehow-not-reviewed touchdownVince Young gained ten yards on an option keeper before pitching (with his knee on the ground) to Selvin Young, who gained the final 12 yards for the touchdown.  Karma struck when UT missed the extra point, but after USC went three-and-out, Ramonce Taylor finished a short touchdown drive by racing 30 yards for a touchdown and a 16-7 lead.  A couple of nice gains by Bush set up a late scoring opportunity for USC, but two sacks forced them to settle for a 43-yard Mario Danelo field goal and a 16-10 halftime deficit.

Second Quarter S&P: Texas 1.338, USC 0.653.

Third Quarter

Now things got crazy. Texas went three-and-out to start the half ... and it was the last drive that didn't result in at least a strong scoring opportunity.  A pass to Dwayne Jarrett set up LenDale White's second touchdown and gave USC the 17-16 lead.  Then Young rushed for 39 total yards in an 80-yard scoring drive for Texas; UT 23, USC 17.  USC tight ends Dominique Byrd and Fred Davis caught three passes in a USC drive capped by another White touchdown; USC 24, UT 23.  The offenses found holes in the defenses, and the quarter ended with Texas driving again, down one.

Third Quarter S&P: USC 1.381, Texas 1.108.

Fourth Quarter

David Pino, Texas' least valuable player in this game, started the final 15 minutes by missing a 31-yard field goal.  The four points he had cost Texas so far appeared terribly costly when USC leaped to a 12-point lead.  Bush and White accounted for the final 43 yards of an 80-yard drive, and an acrobatic Bush touchdown gave USC a 31-23 advantage.  Underrated Texas receiver Billy Pittman caught two passes for 35 yards to get Texas rolling again, but on third-and-5 from the USC 17, Frostee Rucker stripped Young.  Texas lineman Kasey Studdard recovered (another underrated play that gave Texas the final edge), and Pino made a 34-yard field goal to cut the lead to 31-26.  No Studdard recovery, and at the very least this game goes to overtime.

At this point, it seemed the field goal was just delaying the inevitable.  USC was smoking hot.  They went 80 yards in just four plays, with Leinart once again finding Kirtman for a long gain (33 yards, with an additional 15 coming on a roughing-the-passer penalty) and Dwayne Jarrett dishing a beating on a 22-yard touchdown catch.  USC led, 38-26, with just 6:42 remaining.  Texas had to pass, and they kept it short.  Seven yards to Limas Sweed, nine to Quan Cosby, then a huge 16-yarder to David Thomas.  Six more yards for Thomas, six more to Sweed*. Then, Young tucked an ran the last 17 yards himself.  USC 38, Texas 33, 4:03 remaining.

* I'm not sure anybody has ever designed an offense around one player's skills better than since-embattled coordinator Greg Davis did with Vince Young in 2005.  Even as Texas was winning a lot of games in 2004, Young struggled making complicated reads and made quite a few mistakes, and in 2005, they seemed to simplify things.  Pass plays were typically designed in similar fashion: send as many wide guys as possible deep to stretch the secondary out and let Vince either a) dump to a guy like Thomas or b) tuck and run in areas with a lot more open space.  Throw in a swing pass or two to RBs like Ramonce Taylor.  Occasionally Young would find someone like Sweed open deep (enough to keep teams honest), but most of the time Young was firing eight-yard underneath passes or running. And it was spectacularly successful.  Davis was very deservedly forced out of his job this past season, but his design was near-perfect in 2005.

You likely don't need my help remember how the rest unfolded.  A nice return from Bush set USC up at their 34, and punishing runs by White (and a short pass to Jarrett) allowed USC to eat up two minutes.  They faced a fourth-and-2 from the Texas 45 and decided, in pure Pete Carroll fashion, to go for the jugular.  Instead of punting and pinning Texas deep (which seems like a pretty good idea in hindsight), USC tried to win the game outright.  And they tried to win with their MVP of the game, LenDale White.  As you know, he was stopped a yard short.

Honestly, though punting was the right call in hindsight (it would have at least forced Young to throw further downfield a time or two), I loved the aggressiveness here.  (And beyond that, offenses in 2005 converted 62.5% of the time on fourth-and-2, and 118 of them didn't have LenDale White.)  And I thought going to White was perhaps the right call.  The biggest mistake, I think, was in not even putting Bush on the field as a decoy.  I always thought that lining Bush up wide would have at least provided a bit of a distraction if nothing else.  Instead, with Bush on the sideline, everybody in the stadium knew the ball was going to White, and ... if it had been only fourth-and-1, he'd have gotten it.  But he didn't.

From that point, things almost felt preordained.  USC forced a fourth-and-5 from the Texas 49 ... or they would have had Darnell Bing not grabbed Quan Cosby's facemask on yet another underneath pass.  Young found Brian Carter for nine, ran for seven, then found Carter again for 17.  (Again, the Texas offense in a nutshell.)  Young threw incomplete twice to Sweed, however, and Texas faced fourth-and-ballgame with 19 seconds left.

You probably remember what happened from there.

Fourth Quarter S&P: USC 1.163, Texas 1.078

Now ... to the box score.

Texas 41, USC 38

Texas
USC


Texas
USC
Close % 100.0%

STANDARD DOWNS
Field Position % 44.7%
46.3%

Success Rate 66.1%
59.4%
Leverage % 77.6%
78.1%

PPP 0.51
0.49




S&P 1.166
1.085
TOTAL



EqPts 36.5
33.2

PASSING DOWNS
Close Success Rate 60.5%
53.7%

Success Rate 41.2%
33.3%
Close PPP 0.48
0.40

PPP 0.39
0.10
Close S&P 1.085
0.941

S&P 0.806
0.429







RUSHING
TURNOVERS
EqPts 23.9
19.3

Number 1
0
Close Success Rate 61.1%
52.6%

Turnover Pts 4.3
8.0
Close PPP 0.66
0.51

Turnover Pts Margin +3.7
-3.7
Close S&P 1.274
1.035




Line Yards/carry 3.70
3.90

Q1 S&P 0.647
0.711




Q2 S&P 1.338
0.653
PASSING
Q3 S&P 1.108
1.381
EqPts 12.6
13.8

Q4 S&P 1.078
1.163
Close Success Rate 60.0%
54.6%




Close PPP 0.32
0.31

1st Down S&P 1.119
1.030
Close S&P 0.916
0.860

2nd Down S&P 1.265
0.789
SD/PD Sack Rate 0.0% / 0.0%
6.9% / 6.7%

3rd Down S&P 0.439
0.915
Projected Pt. Margin: Texas +7.0 | Actual Pt. Margin: Texas +3

Until the final drive, this game had been decided by basically two factors: Texas' turnover points advantage and David Pino's blown four points.  As you see by the projected point margin (determined by adding together the EqPts margin and the Turnover Points margin), Texas was about four points of where they should have been.  This can be determined rather easily: the expected point value of a PAT is 0.96 points (since kickers make approximately 96% of PATs in a given year), and the expected value of a 31-yard field goal is about 2.41 points (since kickers make approximately 80% of field goals of that distance).  In a game Texas trailed by five, Pino had taken about 3.37 points off of the board.

Meanwhile, the only reason USC only led by five was that they had lost the turnover battle.  Bush took at least two expected points off of the board with his foolish lateral, and Michael Griffin's beautiful interception took off a few more.  Combine that with Kasey Studdard's key recovery of a Young fumble, and you've got the difference in the game.

So many other factors in this game were incredibly even.  Both teams ran basically the same number of plays in opposing field position (Field Position %), and both teams had about the same ratio of standard downs to passing downs (Leverage %, a term with which you will become extremely familiar on Football Study Hall).  Both teams were very successful in the running game (making it more amazing that each defense was able to come up with big fourth-and-short stops ... and suggesting that both coaches became a hair too conservative on offense in those situations) and solid with the pass.  Young's legs gave Texas a large advantage on passing downs -- he rushed seven times on passing downs for 86 yards -- but even that evened out later in the game.  (Another underrated factor in the game: Texas' ability to shut USC down on passing downs until the fourth quarter.)  I often think it's a bit lazy to say that a very small handful of plays decided a game, but with so many categories even overall, the game truly did come down to a couple of turnovers, a couple of missed kicks ... and Vince Young's fourth down legs.

Targets and Catches

The concept of targets and catches has begun to catch on at the NFL level, and as the data becomes more available to me, I hope I can point to its usefulness quite a bit at the NCAA level as well.  It is such a much more accurate way to look at receiving effectiveness.  It's a lot like FG% in basketball; who cares if you caught 10 passes, if it took 21 targets to do it?  In that way, Yards Per Target is like Points Per Shot -- it hints at actual efficiency in the passing game.

Texas
Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per Target
Limas Sweed (WR)
14
8
57.1%
35.0%
65
4.6
David Thomas (TE)
11
10
90.9%
27.5%
88
8.0
Billy Pittman (WR)
6
4
66.7%
15.0%
53
8.8
Brian Carter (WR)
3
3
100.0%
7.5%
52
17.3
Quan Cosby (WR)
2
2
100.0% 5.0%
16
8.0
Ramonce Taylor (RB)
2
2
100.0% 5.0%
-3
-1.5
Selvin Young (RB)
1
1
100.0% 2.5%
-4
-4.0
Jamaal Charles (RB)
1
0
0.0%
2.5%
0
0.0
TOTAL 40
30
75.0%
100.0%
267
6.7
TOTAL (WR) 25
17
68.0%
62.5%
186
7.4
TOTAL (RB) 4
3
75.0%
10.0%
-7
-1.8
TOTAL (TE) 11
10
90.9%
27.5%
88
8.0

Limas Sweed made some gigantic catches for Texas in 2005, especially in the only two games in which Texas was truly challenged, Ohio State and USC.  But he was not a terribly efficient receiver.  A No. 1 receiver needs to at least be in the 70% range when it comes to Catch%.  At 57%, you better be catching a couple of bombs.  Sweed did not (it's important to note that Young was 0-for-3 passing to Sweed on the game-winning drive), but with his key catches on the second-to-last drive, I'm pretty sure Texas fans will forgive him.  (On the other hand, the Steelers may have drafted him far too early -- second round in 2008 -- with this level of reliability.)

Good tight ends, you'll find, catch passes at an 80% level or higher.  In this game, David Thomas was a great tight end.  He was the definition of efficiency, as were possession(ish) receivers Pittman, Carter and Cosby.  Greg Davis always relied on that steady, underneath guy, even after Young left ... and he didn't have one in 2010.  James Kirkendoll was solid, but he wasn't in the Cosby mold.

USC
Targets Catches Catch% Target% Rec. Yds. Yds. Per Target
Dwayne Jarrett (WR)
15
10
66.7%
36.6%
121
8.1
Reggie Bush (RB)
7
6
85.7%
17.1%
95
13.6
Steve Smith (WR)
5
3
60.0%
12.2%
29
5.8
Dominique Byrd (TE)
4
4
100.0%
9.8%
32
8.0
David Kirtman (FB)
4
3
75.0%
9.8%
61
15.3
Fred Davis (TE)
3
2
66.7%
7.3%
19
6.3
Brandon Hancock (FB)
2
1
50.0%
4.9%
8
4.0
Patrick Turner (WR)
1
0
0.0%
2.4%
0
0.0
N/A
1
0
0.0% 2.4%
N/A
N/A
TOTAL 41
29
70.7%
100.0%
365
8.9
TOTAL (WR) 21
13
61.9%
51.2%
150
7.1
TOTAL (RB) 13
10
76.9%
31.7%
164
12.6
TOTAL (TE) 7
6
85.7%
17.1%
51
7.3

The following is brought to you by the University of Healfhearted Defenses: the consensus after this game was that Vince Young deserved the Heisman over Bush, and while Young proved his case to say the very least, I think Bush's contribution, both in this game and 2005 as a whole, are hlghly underrated, likely due to the stupid lateral, honestly.  In Bush's defense, Young did commit a fumble of his own, and his past-the-line-of-scrimmage lateral to Selvin Young shouldn't have counted ... but that's as strong a defense as I can muster, since a) wow, was Vince amazing in this game, and b) Bush was kinda sorta stripped of his Heisman later on anyway.  But Bush's 19 runs/catches accounted for 177 yards, and it was almost enough.

Summary

We are very much used to ridiculously hyped events failing to even come close to expectations, so we should celebrate when they do.  Though this game was perhaps slightly marred, both by a) the revelations surrounding the USC program at the time and b) Matthew McConaughey's inescapable presence on the sideline. (I refuse to add Keith Jackson's, um, less-than-impressive broadcast performance to this list because ... honestly, I don't need an announcer to be good, just likable ... and I still love Keith Jackson.)  This was an absolutely spectacular game in every way ... and you probably don't need the stats to tell you that, eh?

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