If you’re new to this blog, or haven’t followed me over from the old Bearcats Nation site, let me introduce you to a segment I’ve dubbed “Statestify!”. Here we dive into certain key topics on the minds of UC fans from a statistical standpoint. This time around we breakdown Brendon Kay’s passes from the win over Temple.
Cincinnati’s quarterback has been a mystery thus far this season. After putting up monstrous numbers against the Duke Blue Devils in the Belk Bowl and overall putting up strong performances in the back half of 2012, he’s looked like a newbie to the quarterback position this season. I’ve watched him closely in Cincinnati’s wins and losses this year and the biggest thing that sticks out to me is how uncomfortable he’s looked in the pocket. Part of that I’d attribute to a depleted offensive line that is still working to learn new blocking schemes. But the other part of it is Kay’s inability to get on the same page with his offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.
Now, I’ve been one of Gran’s biggest proponents this season, despite others calling for his dismissal. But this post isn’t about defending him, because quite frankly I don’t think he’s done a very good of a job preparing Brendon Kay for taking over this offense on a full-time basis. His inexperience as a first-time offensive coordinator has really shown through this season. Ever since the Miami (OH) game, Gran has insisted Kay throw the ball deep downfield and hit wide receivers running complicated routes.
The problem with this is twofold. First of all, just a few months in to learning the new offense, it’s clear that Brendon Kay hasn’t fully grasped Eddie Gran’s schemes. This is just a bi-product of the coaching change and takes time to overcome. But Gran did Kay no service throwing the entire playbook at him and as a result Kay started to crumble, getting happy feet in the pocket, not delivering the ball with the appropriate mechanics, and as a result the inaccurate throws and interceptions began piling up.
Secondly, since Kay had to wait for his receivers to come open deep downfield, he had to stand in the pocket longer. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue if Cincinnati’s offensive line was composed of the same personnel as before the season. But senior Dan Sprague is no longer the starting center after suffering a season-ending injury, Parker Ehinger, Eric Lefeld, and Austen Bujnoch have been banged up, and there’s been a rotation at right guard between Andre Cureton and Sam Longo. Not only has the injury bug slowed down this unit but, remember, they’re still trying to learn the oodles of new blocking schemes in this offense. So the longer and longer Kay stood in the pocket, the less and less likely a beaten up offensive line was able to block for him. You know where this is going. The offensive linemen started to let defenders through in droves and even though didn’t always sack Kay, he was getting hit at an alarming rate.
So the narrative here isn’t that that Kay has developed happy feet in the pocket, it’s that it’s a minor miracle that he even had the bravery to step onto the field and take snaps as the quarterback in this offense at all.
But on Friday night against the Temple Owls, Eddie Gran condensed the offense, implementing plays with only the simplest of routes. Brendon Kay responded in spectacular fashion. Despite completing just one pass longer than 20 yards on the evening, the Cincinnati quarterback went 31-37 passing, putting up almost 300 yards of total offense and accounting for three touchdowns. Simply put, Kay just looked like Brendon Kay again.
It was without a doubt his best performance of the season.
Below is a detailed looked at the range of Kay’s 37 passes* following by a breakdown of the types of passes he threw.
*Kay actually threw five more passes but they were negated by penalties.
First the passing distance, broken into three tiers:
- Short Range (0 – 10 yds): 20 – 25
- Mid Range (10 – 30 yds): 11 – 12
- Long Range (30+ yds): 0 – 0**
**Again, Kay threw three deep passes, one of which was completed to Anthony McClung near the endzone, but all were negated by those pesky penalties.
And a breakdown of the exact passes, organized by the routes ran the most to the least:
- Screen: 12 – 13
- Hitch: 3 – 4
- Deep Hitch: 4 – 4
- Whip: 2 – 3
- Quick Out: 2 – 3
- Drag: 1 – 2
- Out: 2 – 2
- Slant: 1 – 1
- Fade: 1 – 1
- Deep Post: 0 – 1
- Deep Cross: 1 – 1
- Stop-and-Go: 1 – 1
- RB Dump Off: 1 – 1
I think the most obvious number that sticks out, and I mentioned it above, is that Brendon Kay didn’t complete a single “long range” pass against Temple. Most importantly, he only attempted three long range passes (if you count those negated by penalties). 37 out of his 37 passes that did count went for less than 30 yards and a vast majority of those were in the 0 – 10 yard range. Most of those short range passes were screens, 13 to be precise, along with other simple routes such as hitches, whips, quick outs, drags, and outs.
In essence, Gran’s gameplan was for Kay to get the ball out of his hand quickly and let his talented wide receivers and runningbacks do most of the work. It allowed the offense to speed up mightily, continuously pushing the Temple defense down the field. Additionally, Kay had to release the pass so quickly that he didn’t have time to think about the complexity of the route the wide receiver was running. The process was simple; catch the snap, throw to the open man. Backyard football at its simplest! Finally, the offensive line, stressed to the brink in recent weeks, only had to keep the blitzing defenders at bay for a couple of seconds at most. So it’s no surprise they surrendered just a single sack against the Owls and kept Kay upright the rest of the time.
And it’s that performance on Friday night why the theories advocating “opening up” the offense made no sense. If Brendon Kay and the offensive line was struggling to understand Eddie Gran’s schemes, why would you throw more and more at them? That would just be a formula for disaster that played out exactly like that against Miami (OH) and South Florida. Simplifying the offense this season will be the key to success and Gran proved that against Temple. Until Brendon Kay and Cincinnati’s offensive line is up to speed, and that may not happen until later in the season if at all, I’d hope we see a condensed offense like we did on Saturday night for the remainder of the year.