In last week’s 27-14 win at Kentucky, MSU achieved the perfect offensive balance, numerically speaking. It ran 78 total plays, with an even run/pass split: 39 apiece.
Coaches talk all the time about wanting to have a 50/50 balance with the run and pass, and Dan Mullen is no exception. It’s just that it’s very hard to actually achieve that, and there are countless factors that can prevent it from happening. But the Kentucky game was not an anomaly, because the numbers bear out this fact: MSU’s offense is more balanced than it ever has been under Mullen.
Through five games, State has run 336 total offensive plays – 185 rush, 151 pass. That’s 55.1 percent running plays, 44.9 percent passing. It’s far closer to 50/50 than in previous years. Here are those numbers.
• 2011: 513 runs, 349 passes = 59.5% run, 40.5% pass
• 2010: 619 runs, 288 passes = 68.2% run, 31.8% pass
• 2009: 555 runs, 266 passes = 67.6% run, 32.4% pass
The main reason for this newfound balance is Tyler Russell, the first quality pocket passer MSU has had in years, maybe ever. The scary part is, he’s not come close to tapping his full potential. He’s completed 82 of 145 passes (56.6%) for 1,091 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception.
It’s not like there’s been a big falloff at tailback. MSU was strong there with Anthony Dixon and then Vick Ballard, and now LaDarius Perkins has stepped in and just done fine. He and the other backs just haven’t been asked to carry as big a collective load, because they don’t have to. Yet at his current pace (99.8 yards per game), Perkins is on pace to rush for nearly 1,300 yards (we’re assuming 13 games), which would be more than Ballard ran for last season (1,189).
Of course, Perkins is getting a good chunk of the carries – 44.3% to be exact. Last season, Ballard got 37.6% of the carries. So there’s actually less balance within the running game itself, which is sort of odd considering how deep MSU is at that position; then again, all those guys are young. Perkins was a strong change-of-pace back who took carries away from Ballard for two seasons.
By the way, MSU is on pace to throw the ball about 392 times this season, easily surpassing last year’s mark.