In the first installment of last summer's Auburn Offense Explainer, I wrote about Gus Malzahn's Hurry-Up, No-Huddle (HUNH) philosophy. I ended with this.
Early in the 2013 season, Gus Malzahn was not satisfied with his football team's pace. After all, he had only been on campus for eight months and the quarterback only arrived in time for fall camp. But as the season continued, the Tigers showed more and more of the HUNH. With the coaching staff intact and eight of 11 starters back on offense, I would expect to see even more speed this season from beginning to end.
Well, 2014 came and went and it didn't seem like things got much faster. Maybe in spurts, but that's it. And there was plenty of really, really slow play thrown in there.
The reason why is anyone's guess. Hugh Freeze intentionally slowed his offense down last year because he knew his team's strength was the defense. Surely Malzahn's isn't slowing down of purpose. Even if he was, surely it's not because he thought he could lean on last year's defense.
So, rather than try to answer "why", I decided to answer "how". How did Auburn use the HUNH over the last couple years?
Using my videos of the 2013 and 2014 offenses, I tracked how many seconds were left on the play clock when the ball was snapped in every game but the 2013 Western Carolina and Tennessee games. (The quality of the video available isn't good enough). Every. Snap. Of. Every. Game. It took a while.
With all those numbers, paired with play by play data, perhaps even Bill Connelly's game charts, you'd think we would be able to find some pretty cool stuff, right?
I mostly found frustration.
Play 1: 20 seconds
Play 2: 26 seconds
Play 3: Wait, they didn't show the play clock!
Play 4: 12 seconds
Play 5: Wait, they
Play 6: DIDN'T SHOW
Play 7: THE FREAKING PLAY CLOCK!!!
CBS was the worst offender, often not showing the play clock until 20 seconds on any play, but ESPN contributed to the problem as well whenever they forgot to show a play actually start because of an extended commercial break or because Jesse Palmer was too busy doing the best analysis "in the country." And many of the plays that didn't show the play clock were clearly HUNH plays, which is especially unfortunate.
So, in the end, I feel like the numbers just aren't as useful as they should be and a highly informative post on how Auburn uses the HUNH nearly became just another rant on the internet.
But I won't leave you empty handed. Below are some tables that show just how many snaps fell into five categories of pace, plus a sixth one for plays that didn't show the play clock. The table also categorizes the plays by down.
*Only offensive plays. Punts and field goal attempts not included
As you can see, the undefined snaps make up roughly 15% of the snaps. Basically every seventh play doesn't have data. You can also see that Auburn is not actually going particularly fast. Over two thirds of its plays begin with 5-24 seconds left on the play clock, and whatever pace is there on first down is mostly gone on second, third, and fourth downs.
You can also detect a bit of a change from 2013 to 2014. Auburn clearly went for the ANTI-BERT pace a lot more. In 2014, 39 more plays started with 30 or more seconds left. But the Tigers were also a bit more cautious on third and fourth downs. In 2013, around 50% of 3rd/4th downs were snapped with 5-14 seconds on the play clock. In 2014, that number was around 55%.
And that's about all I feel I can glean from this. Those undefined snaps really bother me. How many of those belong in those top two categories? Most, if not all, I would guess, but who knows? And how does that shift the points I've tried to make so far? Much? Not at all? I just don't know.
Oh, and don't forget that some plays have a 40 second play clock and others only have 25. That obviously skews the numbers downward. And I don't think you can really tell with play by play data because there are thirteen (really?) reasons for it to have only 25 (page FR-47 of the 2013-2014 rulebook).
One more thing. I don't have numbers for any other team, so it's hard to say much because there's not much context.
So with that, I'm turning it over to you. Maybe you can extract some more meaning from the data. Maybe you want to at least give it a try. Great! Here's a link to the data in Google Sheets. I prefer you download it first, but I have another copy so don't worry about messing it up. Go ahead and tinker with it as you wish. And if you get something useful out if it, by all means let me know by commenting below, emailing me, tweeting at me, making a FanPost, whatever.
I look forward to seeing what you can do!