Looking At Texas A&M Football’s Offensive Numbers
Most Texas A&M football fans can sense the difference in the offense since Weigman went down with an ankle injury. Though Max Johnson started off pretty fast, throwing two touchdowns in both the second half vs. Auburn and first half vs. Arkansas, things have bogged down significantly since that point. Now, to be fair, Texas A&M football has faced some significantly tougher defenses over that stretch, but even adjusting for that fact shows that the offense has taken a dip.
With this in mind, I decided to take a look at my spreadsheets to get an idea of how things have changed since that time. I found some things that I expected, and some things that I was surprised by. Ultimately, though, I think the numbers bear out that things have been rougher offensively, especially in the passing game, since Weigman went out for the season. One note: the Auburn game is not included in these statistics, as Conner went down midway through and Max took over, making it hard to cleanly divide the statistics I was dealing with. However, even though that was a slow start by Conner and a big half by Johnson, I don’t think it would change these numbers too terribly much.
The first thing I decided to look at was yards per attempt, as that is a good basic number to measure how efficient your passing game is. I was surprised to find the following:
Before Injury: 7.97 YPA
After Injury: 7.82 YPA
This didn’t quite seem right. It certainly feels as though the offense has struggled significantly not only more to push the ball downfield but even to complete routine passes since Weigman went down. Scoring is obviously way down. What gives? Similarly, I found these numbers to be similar on an opponent-adjusted basis:
Before Injury: 45% adjusted success rate, 46% adjusted third down conversion rate
After Injury: 45% adjusted success rate, 44% adjusted third down conversion rate
A closer look at the numbers shows the issues. Here’s passing success rate (the ability to consistently gain required yardage on passing plays) pre and post-injury:
Before Injury: 47% passing success
After Injury: 40% passing success
You could see the effect in scoring efficiency metrics as well (both of these are adjusted for opponent defensive quality):
Before Injury: 3.11 adjusted points per drive, 0.510 adjusted points per play
After Injury: 1.99 adjusted points per drive, 0.358 adjusted points per play
Red zone has been another area where Texas A&M football has had trouble in recent weeks. How differently did that look before the injury?
Before Injury: 6.33 red zone possessions per game (52.77% of drives), 68% touchdown rate
After Injury: 3.33 red zone possessions per game (27.78% of drives), 30% touchdown rate
Given that these are not opponent-adjusted, you can’t rule out that a lot of it has to do with the increased defensive quality of Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee. I was able to get one opponent-adjusted statistic that’s telling, though: points per red zone trip.
Before Injury: 4.91 adjusted points per red zone trip
After Injury: 3.64 adjusted points per red zone trip
So it seems that even on an opponent-adjusted basis, the Aggies are having significantly more trouble converting in the red zone than previously. Finally, here is the total PPA (projected points added) that the Aggies gained in the passing game for Conner’s three full games vs Max Johnson’s three full games:
Before Injury: 62.38 total passing PPA
After Injury: 16.64 total passing PPA
It should be manifestly obvious that the fact that Conner Weigman is no longer running the offense here is limiting the ceiling of the team, even after accounting for the higher level of competition that Texas A&M football is facing. One need look no further than the Miami game to see how well #15 can overcome adversity when it arises—Guidry threw everything and the kitchen sink at a young QB making his second-ever road start and Weigman acquitted himself extremely well. When he was lost to injury for the season, Conner had the fourth-highest QBR in the nation. That’s not just a product of weak opponents. That speaks to the quality of quarterback he is. One way or another, though, the Aggies will have to make do without him.