Pick up the pace
Pick up the pace
2014-04-09 12:00:00

Examining the rate at which Texas teams scored in 2013.

 By Greg Tepper
 DCTF Managing Editor

In football, speed kills. It’s why recruiters are always paying attention to the 40-yard dash time of prospects – while there aren’t many opportunities during a football game to run 40 yards in a straight line, that type of speed translates into game speed.

But there’s another variety of speed that’s gained a lot of attention lately, what with the proliferation of the spread offense: the speed in which teams score. Time of possession – at least, the idea that controlling time of possession is a key to victory – is considered a thing of the past; instead, it’s about scoring quickly, then getting the ball back to score again.

And in Texas, we’ve got teams that play at a variety of paces. As we’ve established before, teams like Baylor and Houston play at among the fastest paces in the nation, while UTSA and Texas State slow it down to snail’s pace.

But does that pace – that is, running more plays per minute – lead to faster scoring?

The way to figure this out is relatively simple – find out how long each team had the ball, find out how many points they scored, and divide one by the other – but it takes a little bit of extra work. We made sure to tease out the points that didn’t come during the team’s time of possession – defensive scores (since those happen on the opponents’ time) and extra points (since those are untimed downs).

So, what’s the data say?

Team Games TOP (Min:Sec) Points  Score Rate (Points/Min.)
Baylor 13 354:41 555 1.56
Texas A&M 13 347:41 468 1.35
Texas Tech 13 369:30 399 1.08
Houston 13 334:08 345 1.03
NATIONAL xx 47502:39 39243 0.83
Texas 13 393:41 324 0.82
North Texas 13 418.56 336 0.80
SMU 12 347:10 276 0.80
Rice 14 458:58 348 0.76
TCU 12 364:37 258 0.71
UTSA 12 388:49 249 0.64
Texas State 12 382:53 237 0.62
UTEP 12 389:18 219 0.56

Just four of Texas’ 12 teams score at a pace above the national average, but A) the teams should not surprise anyone and B) they’re well above the national average. Baylor scored at the nation’s fastest pace, averaging more than 1.5 points per minute of possession, while Texas A&M’s 1.35 points per minute is similarly impressive. Texas Tech spent a little more time with the ball than those other teams, but their glut of scoring helped push their average over a point a minute. Same goes with Houston, who rattled off a quick-paced 1.03 points per minute.

On the other side of things, UTEP scored at one of the slowest paces in the nation, averaging a full point per minute fewer than Baylor. Now, that’s in large part to their style – coach Sean Kugler wants to grind it out on the ground, and knew that this particular team didn’t have the fireworks to get into shootouts with other teams – but that’s almost too slow, especially when the Miners didn’t feature a lights-out defense.

Proof that you can score slowly and still win: UTSA, a team that averaged just 0.64 points per minute of possession, yet grinded out eight wins. But the Roadrunners also won the defensive battle more often than not, and more importantly, they scored early and used their ball-control offense to keep it away from their opponents.

The highest time of possession? Rice, both in time per game (32:47 per game) and cumulatively (458:58 overall). But the Owls didn’t score a ton – fourth in the state at a modest 348 points – because their run-first offense simply took a little bit more time to get going.

Greg Tepper is the managing editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.

He can be reached via e-mail, via Twitter (@Tepper) and via the DCTF Facebook page.

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