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Bowl's 55-48 score wasn't all about offense

Steve Mitchell/USA Today

Paxton Lynch accounted for 7 TD, but the Miami Beach Bowl wasn’t that much of an offensive show.Memphis defeated BYU in double overtime in Monday’s Miami Beach Bowl, winning by a final score of 55-48. The 103 total points is tied for the third-most in any bowl game ever.

It might seem as if 55-48 has to represent an offensive shootout with little to no defense, but if you look at what happened in the game, it’s clear that the high scoring is not necessarily indicative of good offense.

Consider:

  • The teams combined for nine turnovers. One was a fumble lost by Memphis’ special teams, but each offense had three interceptions and one fumble lost. Turnovers are huge negatives for offense and huge positives for defense, negating a lot of yardage in terms of their effect on point margin (erasing points and setting up the opponent to score).

  • Both teams had more than 400 yards of offense (Memphis 480, BYU 425), but some of that has to do with how many possessions there were in this game. Partly due to the scoring and partly due to overtimes, each team had 21 drives in the game. So if you look at it in terms of average yards per drive, it’s less than 23. Compare that to the FBS average this season of about 31 yards per drive, and it’s not that great.

  • The teams combined for 15 punts (BYU nine, Memphis six). Combining punts and offensive turnovers, 10 more drives ended with defensive stops (23) than offensive touchdowns (13).

  • The defenses did a great job setting up the offenses to score. In addition to the defensive touchdown (BYU’s pick-six in the fourth quarter), the offenses had 11 combined drives where they started on the opponent’s side of the field. BYU’s five such drives resulted in two touchdowns, two field goals and one turnover; Memphis had six such drives, resulting in four touchdowns, one field goal and one missed field goal.

  • In the first overtime, both offenses moved backward, losing yards. But both kickers stepped up, nailing 45- and 54-yard field goals to force double overtime. Memphis scored a touchdown on its possession in the second overtime, but the game was in fact sealed by another big defensive play – a game-ending interception by Memphis.

Expected points added

2014 Miami Beach Bowl

Put it all together using expected points added, and the final totals look like the chart to the right (before opponent adjustment, just looking at this game in isolation).

In other words, once you look at all the offense and defense did to contribute to the scoring margin across all plays, Memphis’ offense was slightly above average, and BYU’s offense was actually fairly below average. The 55-48 final score is misleading in terms of how productive the offenses really were: The high point totals were actually more of a result of defenses setting up the offenses and the number of drives in the game.