When a coach such as South Carolina’s Will Muschamp says stats lie, he’s not strictly correct. Some stats obscure the truth, some show it more clearly.
But few stats stand out as much as liars as the most common way teams are stacked up in terms of red zone effectiveness.
The standard metric is red zone scoring rate. It takes touchdowns and field goals, divides it by total red zone trips and calls it a day. This is not great at all.
NCAA.com doesn’t list any stats that go more in-depth, and few sites have more basic stats that go beyond that (there are some useful, if more advanced metrics out there).
Gamecocks quarterback coach Dan Werner has no time for that bland number.
“I don’t even look at that stat that says red zone scoring, which means if you kick a bunch of field goals (it gets boosted),” Werner said. “I look at how many times we score touchdowns, and we weren’t close to where we want to be.”
For what it’s worth, South Carolina didn’t rank highly in that traditional number, 117th in the country.
But digging in on the percentages Werner might be more concerned with, it’s not a pretty picture.
USC got touchdowns on 57.1 percent of its red zone trips. That number ranked 101st nationally. The top offense in the country (UCF) was just shy of 80 percent.
Parker White field goals accounted for the outcomes of nearly one fifth of USC’s red zone trips.
Although the red zone scoring percent isn’t the most useful tool, the inverse can actually be more instructive. Flip the stat around, and South Carolina failed to get points on 23.2 percent of its red zone trips, an average of one a game.
Five of those came when the team missed on fourth down or missed field goals. Eight were turnovers, five Jake Bentley interceptions.
Will Muschamp and Werner said the aim was 70 percent of the trips ending in touchdowns, 100 ending in points. On defense, the aim was 60 percent ending in field goals.
According to the SEC Network, the Gamecocks running game didn’t help, averaging 2 yards per carry in the red zone, 120th in the country.
The goal is to change that, cut down the turnovers, fire up the running game, clean up that issue.
Though it might end with one player putting a dent in his former roommate’s stats.
“We’d rather take it out of the kicker’s hands and just let him knock the extra point through,” Bentley said. “Let us do the work and score the touchdown. I love Parker and have full confidence that he will make it if he has to but I’d rather us, you know, get it in there and let him, he still gets the kick and you just take it for one point instead of three.”