Shortly before the 2020 season, IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack was asked how a defense can succeed in modern, offense-heavy college football.
Kane’s answer was two-fold: (1) Limit explosive plays, and (2) Create negative plays. The first is about making the offense string together a series of successful plays to put up points. The second is about forcing the offense into passing downs and then getting off the field.
If Coach Wommack is measuring the success of his defense on those elements, we thought the least we could do is help him track it. And so, the Kane Ratio was born. The numerator is explosive plays, which we define as running plays of 10 yards or more or passing plays of 15 yards or more. The denominator is negative plays, which we define as tackles for loss, sacks, and turnovers. And before you say it, yes, I know sacks are technically tackles for loss, but I’m breaking them out here to show negative plays created against the run and pass specifically. So any “TFL” you see in the charts below came on run plays or screens. TFLs or sacks that also result in turnovers are not double-counted, so Jamar Johnson’s TFL and forced fumble against Penn State is only counted as a turnover. A Kane Ratio above 1 is a problem (from a defensive standpoint), while the closer you get to zero, the better it is for the defense.
With that, here’s a look at Coach Wommack’s Kane Ratio from IU’s first two games.
Not surprisingly, the Rutgers’ KR of .55 is much lower than Penn State’s .91. IU created the same amount of negative plays in both games at 11, including the same amount of turnovers, with the difference driven by Penn State racking up four more explosive plays. I suspect Kane and his players would tell you 6 explosive plays is a few too many to give up to an offense of Rutgers’ caliber (even though they are an improved unit). One question is whether IU can maintain its level of negative plays without the same level of turnovers, which, as we’ve pointed out a few times this week, are unlikely to continue at the current rate.
Of course, the Kane Ratio need not be limited to the defense. It can also gauge how Coach Sheridan’s offense is doing at creating explosive plays and limiting negative ones. Take a look:
It’s more than a little surprising that IU ended up with the same number of negative plays in each game, albeit in different ways. Against Penn State, it was a combination of sacks, turnovers, and a few tackles for loss, many of which were at least partially attributable to Penn State’s dynamic defensive end duo. Against Rutgers, it was a pair of stout defensive tackles that created a number of IU’s TFLs, but Michael Penix was never sacked1, and IU didn’t turn it over. The KR in the respective halves against Rutgers tell the story of an offense struggling to and then eventually finding its rhythm. The 1st half Kane Ratio was .8, with 4 explosive plays (only 1 passing) against 5 negative plays (including that snap that went through Penix’s hands, which was obviously a self-inflicted TFL). In the 2nd half, IU had a KR of 2.5, with 5 explosive plays, all through the air, against only two negative plays. If IU hadn’t called off the dogs for most of the 4th quarter, that ratio could easily have gone higher. Heading into the Michigan game, IU must maintain the explosive passing form it seemed to find in the 2nd half against Rutgers. If the offense reverts back to what it showed for most of the Penn State game and the 1st half against Rutgers, it’s hard to see how IU can secure a win.
We’ll continue to track the Kane Ratio as the season progresses. (And yes, that’s Kane Wommack’s head on professional wrestler Kane’s body)