Big Gains Everywhere
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Big Gains Everywhere

December 08, 2017

In just two seasons, Scott Frost—Nebraska’s new head football coach—flipped Central Florida’s offense from the third worst in scoring among FBS programs, to the best.

In 2015, when the Knights finished 0-12 before hiring Frost, UCF averaged just 13.9 points per game. Only Missouri and Kent State had lower averages according to cfbstats.com.

This season, the Knights averaged 49.4 points per contest, the most by any FBS program since 2013, when both Baylor and Florida State averaged more than 50.

With all of the bowl games still to play, UCF’s increase of 35.5 points per game from 2015 to 2017 is the biggest jump by any FBS school during that span. In fact, the Knights nearly quadrupled their previous average from two seasons ago. 

UCF’s stellar numbers look even better when compared to Nebraska’s decrease in offensive production from former head coach Mike Riley’s first season in 2015 to his last in 2017.

While UCF had a 255 percent increase in its scoring offense, Nebraska’s trended the opposite direction, decreasing by 21 percent.

The Huskers averaged 32.8 points per game in 2015, 43rd highest in the country. Although they improved their record by three games in 2016, the Huskers had a decrease in scoring, averaging just 26.5 points per game, which ranked 79th in the country. Nebraska’s offensive scoring decreased, again, this season to 25.8 points per game.

To show just how different the offensive trends have been between these two programs during the past three seasons, I took a look at a few other statistical categories.

Before Frost’s arrival at UCF, the Knights were dead last in the FBS in yards per rushing attempt with just 2.74 yards gained on average.

Now, in 2017, UCF is averaging nearly double that with 5.2 yards per carry. That current average ranks 22nd best in the country. It’s also the highest average UCF has had in over 10 seasons.

The Knights’ 90 percent increase in average yards gained per carry from 2015 to 2017 is also the largest increase in the FBS during that time.

As for Nebraska, its average of just 3.51 yards per carry this season was the program’s worst in over 10 seasons. The Huskers’ average ranked 113th in the country. In 2015, Riley’s first season, Nebraska averaged 4.72 yards per carry, 44th in the country at the time.

The Huskers’ 26 percent decrease in average yards gained per carry is the 10th largest drop among FBS schools during that time.

Just as it did with the run game, UCF nearly doubled its yards gained per pass attempt.

In 2015, UCF ranked 123rd out of 128 FBS programs with an average of 5.3 yards gained per pass. That average is now 10.5, second highest in the country, trailing only Oklahoma, which averages 12 yards per pass.

Just like the previous stats, the Knights 98 percent increase in yards gained per pass attempt is the largest jump among FBS programs during that time.

Although Nebraska increased its average of total passing yards per game from 2015 to 2017, its yards gained per pass decreased.

The Huskers’ passing game was up-and-down under Riley, with 2016 being the down. Nebraska averaged 6.9 yards gained per pass that season, a 9 percent decrease from its 7.6 average in 2015. The average went up slightly this season to 7.3, still short of Riley’s first year average.

Another one of UCF’s big statistical jumps was total yards gained per game. As you can assume, an increase in average yards gained per rush and pass will make the average total yards gained increase, too.

UCF ranked last in 2015 with an average of 268.4 total yards per game. The Knights increased their average in 2016 to 350.8, but still ranked just 113th in the country.

This season, UCF currently ranks fifth in the country, averaging 540.4 total yards per game. That’s a 54 percent increase from 2016 to 2017 alone, and a 101 percent increase from 2015 to 2017, or in other words, doubled. And once again, that total increase is the largest by any in the FBS from 2015.

Nebraska’s offense went the other way.

After averaging 446.9 total yards per game in 2015, 34th best in the country, the Huskers had a 14 percent decrease this season compared to then. Nebraska ranksed 87th in the country with an average of 385 total yards per game.

Perhaps the largest jump for UCF and the steepest decline for Nebraska during the past three seasons is the amount of explosive plays.

An explosive run play is any rush that gains 10 or more yards, and an explosive pass play is a pass that gains 20 or more yards.

In 2015, UCF ranked last in the FBS with just 24 explosive run plays. In Frost’s first season as the Knights head coach, UCF had a 158 percent increase in explosive run plays from the previous season, totaling 62. This season, UCF increased that amount again to 76, 33rd most in the country.

Between 2015 and 2017, the Knights had a 217 percent increase in explosive run plays.

You guessed it. That increase is the most by any FBS program during that time. The next highest was Florida Atlantic, who had a 120 percent increase.

UCF also had the biggest jump in explosive pass plays. UCF had a 192 percent increase, going from just 26 in 2015 to 76 in 2017. The Knights national ranking in that category jumped from 114th in 2015 to second this season.

As mentioned earlier and many times throughout the 2017 season, Nebraska had a decrease in productivity in the run game compared to previous seasons.

In 2015, the Huskers had 76 explosive run plays, the same as UCF had this season. In 2017, Nebraska had just 44 explosive run plays, which ranks just 115th in the country.

Between 2015 and 2017, Nebraska had the eighth largest decrease in explosive run plays with a 42 percent drop.

The Huskers also had a slight decrease—14 percent—in explosive pass plays, dropping from 57 in 2015 to 49 this season, which is actually up from last year’s total of just 41.

Of the six various offensive stats I looked at, UCF had an increase of at least 80 percent from 2015 to 2017 in all of them, and doubled its 2015 totals in four categories.

In contrast, Nebraska had a decrease in all of the categories during that same span.

The Huskers’ offense wasn’t the worst in 2017, but they sure gave Frost plenty of room to improve, just as the Knights did from 2015 to now.

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