Time to look a little more closely at the positives this season. We're four games in, we've got a decent sample at our disposal and while the road probably becomes more difficult as time goes on we can at least take a glance at where we are today and where we were last year from an offensive perspective.
Certainly the improvement is visible. You don't have to dive into a statistical analysis to see that Kansas is better on the offensive side of the ball. 12 months ago we were all screaming for Turner Gill to recruit a quarterback, 6 months ago we were cursing the fact that said quarterback ran into some "challenges" and today we've all but forgotten bout that because Jordan Webb looks significantly improved. Factor in the running attack that Turner Gill promised and delivered and on one side of the ball we're moving in the right direction.
So how far has the Kansas offense come? Besides the obvious eyeball test let us take a closer look at what the offensive improvement looks like for Kansas from a statistical perspective.
For perspective let's start by saying that we're four games in. Four games is exactly one third of the way through the season and we're comparing to a full season a year ago. Taking that into account the Kansas offense is stacking up nicely compared to our inept version of one season ago.
|2011(Through 4 Games)
|Per Game Average
It's probably safe to assume that the average is likely to come down from here but one year ago through four games Kansas had only scored 89 points. That's a 22 point average. With what many would consider a more difficult schedule Kansas scored at a higher clip through four games and even Kansas scored just over a touchdown per game from here on out they would outpace last year. That's the easy one. So what else?
In terms of first downs Kansas sits at 100 as of today and finished with 219 a year ago. If Kansas keeps a similar pace they'll hit 300 by the end of the season which is a solid improvement over 2010. Another interesting piece to that is how we are getting the first downs. Last year Kansas was almost a 50/50 split in terms of running or passing for a first. This year Kansas is getting the first down by running the football 60% of the time. That's a good sign that we're executing the way we want to on the ground.
That point is emphasized even more by the increase in over a yard per carry and the fact that Kansas has 10 rushing touchdowns on the ground. Last season the Jayhawks finished the season with just 13. It's also encouraging that the numbers for Kansas a season ago weren't substantially different in conference versus out of conference so it does provide a fairly accurate depiction to date. Obviously one hopes to see that be the case again this season, but the conference does look fairly tough top to bottom.
What about the passing game? The term we've been kicking around is efficiency. Pretty easy to see we're more efficient.
Honestly I was a little surprised that the yardage number was such an improvement in terms of average but I think that could balance out. The factor that is more impressive to me is that we are doing accomplishing both while attempting seven passes less per game on average. Again, that number could change as we get into conference play but we're doing more with less in the passing game and that is a credit to Jordan Webb making good decisions and becoming a more polished quarterback in his second year.
All that brings us to my favorite statistic of the year and it's one that we looked at a few weeks ago and that's 3rd down conversion percentage. Kansas has faced 57 third downs this year. They've converted 30 of those for a 52% average conversion rate. That average has dropped a bit as the season has progressed and it is likely to drop more but it is a marked improvement from the 198 3rd downs faced a year ago. Of those Kansas only converted 81 for a 40% ratio. It's not a huge difference but it's significant in effectively utilizing our running game and controlling possession. Another positive is that Kansas is finding themselves in 3rd down situations at a slower pace than a season ago as well.
All good things, all positive trends and for that you have to give Kansas and Turner Gill some credit for the improvement year over year. It's just one piece to the puzzle and more will need to be accomplished but it's a start.