How Badly Do We Need a Good Rushing Game?

How Badly Do We Need a Good Rushing Game?

We have been discussing our running backs and rushing offenses a lot lately so I decided to look back over the last 11 years to see what correlation, if any, there were between our rushing production and our W/L record.  This isn’t rocket science and I think any Pitt fan would be able to say “Of course we do…” but I wondered so I crunched some numbers.

x1x2That is what we have done from 2007 to 2017.  I’m not exactly sure what the above shows as definite, but certainly the better we rush the ball the more we win but even that has some exceptions such as:

in 2008, even with McCoy, we had a poor overall YPC at 3.7 but we had a defense that gave up only 21.5 PPG and we finished 9-4.

In 2013 we rushed for only 3.4 YPC but we had a strong passing offense with Tom Savage and finished 7-6.

Then in 2014 we had a great 5.3 team YPC but we had a poorer passing offense with Voytik behind Center in his first starting year and lost the heartbreaker to Houston in the bowl game and finished 6-7.

In 2015 even though we had less than a 5.0 YPC we had a pretty good passer with Nate Peterman’s first year (20 TDs vs 9 INTs), our defense held opponents to 26.1, and we won eight games.

In 2016 we had WR Q. Henderson’s 631 yards on a 10.5 YPC to supplement the RB’s yardage and Peterman’s great passing year to complement Conner and we won eight games.  That was in spite of our defense giving up an horrendous 35.2 ppg.

Last season we had a 17 point drop in offensive production from 40.9 ppg to 23.9 ppg and that killed us.  However, the good news is that we also limited our opponents to 8.6 ppg less than they scored in 2016. That was a drop from 35.2 ppg down to 26.6 ppg. Nice job doing that and let’s hope that becomes a trend.

But I really think we have to get into the 20-23 ppg allowed this coming season to cover what I think will be major shortcomings on offense.


Here is a look at something similar to what we have been (hotly) debating about lately regard taking two top runs away to show more consistency over the course of a RB’s season.

Now – I understand that Hall had only 128 carries last year and that those two monster runs against Duke (combined 167 yards!) were big outliers for him. But his consistency was lacking.

He’s not alone in that though.  Ray Graham’s 2010 season saw him with a big (-).9 ypc dip after his top two runs of 143 yards (big 79 and 64 yarders)  were removed.

Truth be told his 2nd biggest run was longer than most other Pitt RBs’ longest run from scrimmage.  So let’s take that into consideration when looking at this table below. I put it up not so much to show Hall’s dip in adjusted ypc but also to show what others have done in the past.

Remember the benchmark for good and effective RBs is a 5.0 ypc average, so when an adjusted ypc drop of over .5 ypc happens that is a big decline. You want your RBs to get  at least 4.5 – 5.0 ypc on a consistent basis.


Please understand that I’m not saying those runs never really happened and I sure do give credit to the RBs for breaking off two big plays. I acknowledge those runs especially because they probably won games for us just like Hall’s two did against Duke last year. Without his plays that game  we would have finished 4-8 on the season…so Yeah! for him there.

But what I’m really concerned about is what a RB does in the vast majority of his carries. For example Hall’s adjusted YPC reflects 97.5% of his carries.  That percentage gets even bigger with our past RBs who carried more times.

For instance in Conner’s great 2014 year he had 298 carries and with those two carries removed that leaves 99.3% of his carries left to show his consistency of 5.5 ypc over them, which is huge.  In comparision to Tony Dorsett who’s career ypc was 5.6 ypc over four years.  That is pretty much the same with all our RBs who had more than 200 carries.

Every team needs some big hitters at RB but you have a better chance at winning seasons when you get more consistent yardage from your RBs over the course of 12 or 13 games.

NOTE: Off to NC tomorrow morning.  If I can I’ll try to post something but help out if you can.

One last thought – I know I use stats a lot in my writings.  But when you have written 601 articles in 676 days you basically have to find things to write about and in my case stats help provide content for you all to read.  Otherwise I’d be dropping to probably only one or two articles per week like the other Pitt blogs do – if even that.