Week 9 Statshot: 61.5

MSU’s Chris Smith (left) celebrates with Marcus Green after catching a touchdown pass against Middle Tennessee. Smith’s catch came on a third-and-goal from the 4-yard line. (Photo by Deste Lee)

You might have noticed MSU’s offense becoming more proficient on third downs of late. The numbers verify what your eyeballs have been telling you: Over the last three games – at Kentucky, vs. Tennessee, vs. Middle Tennessee State – MSU has converted on 23 of 44 third downs, or 52.3 percent.

That’s quite the improvement from the first four games, when the Bulldogs were 18 of 51 (35.3%). That’s a sign that, as I wrote about today, the offense is finding a groove. But let’s go deeper on these numbers.

First let me preface this breakdown by saying that while a football game is naturally divided into two halves, your more telling split is first- and fourth-quarter stats versus second- and third-quarter stats. Coaches talk all the time about starting and finishing well, and so that’s how we’re going to break down MSU’s third-down conversion success.

Over its last three games, MSU has converted 11 of 15 (73.3%) in the first quarter and 5 of 11 (45.5%) in the fourth. Combined, that’s a 61.5% conversion rate (16 of 26). In the middle quarters, the rate is 38.9% (7 of 18). So it’s no coincidence that State has scored on its first possession each of the last three games (two touchdowns and a field goal). It was a combined 6 of 7 on third downs on those three drives.

Through the first four games, the Bulldogs were 4 of 25 (16%) in the first and fourth quarters, 14 of 26 (53.9%) in the second and third. They scored on their opening possession only once (vs. Jackson State) and were a combined 1 of 4 on third downs on those drives.

I’ve got the full breakdown below. Enjoy.

Third downs first 4 games:

• Total: 18-51 (35.3%)

–1Q: 3-15 (20%)

–2Q: 7-13 (53.9%)

–3Q: 7-13 (53.9%)

–4Q: 1-10 (10%)

• 1Q & 4Q combined: 4-25 (16%)

• 2Q & 3Q combined: 14-26 (53.9%)

Third downs last 3 games:

• Total: 23-44 (52.3%)

–1Q: 11-15 (73.3%)

–2Q: 5-12 (41.7%)

–3Q: 2-6 (33.3%)

–4Q: 5-11 (45.5%)

• 1Q & 4Q combined: 16-26 (61.5%)

• 2Q & 3Q combined: 7-18 (38.9%)

I am the online content coordinator for DJournal.com. I also co-host The Memo and Prep Rally podcasts and host the Newsbreak program. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04).

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