On occasion, a Monday Mailbag question requires too much research for me to include in the weekly feature, so I end up writing it separately as a "Mailbag leftover." I got such a question this week from my boss, Anthony Resnick (NSN's director of operations), who asked me how often the Nevada football team has scored on its opening drive under Jay Norvell. I had never crunched those numbers, so it was a fun research project. Let's break it down.
I separated Nevada's game-opening drives by season and then added them together for a complete overview. The results are:
2017: 24 points on 12 series (three touchdowns, one made field goal, six punts, two turnover on downs)
2018: 31 points on 13 series (four touchdowns, one made field goal, one missed field goal, five punts, two turnover on downs)
2019: 23 points on 13 series (two touchdowns, three made field goals, eight punts)
2020: 13 points on nine series (one touchdown, two made field goals, four punts, two turnover on downs)
2021: 14 points on four series (two touchdowns, two punts)
2017-21: 105 points on 51 series (12 touchdowns, seven field goals, one missed field goal, 25 punts, six turnover on downs)
That tallies out to 19 scoring drives on 51 series, a success rate of 37.3 percent. It also comes out to 2.06 points per possession. Assuming 12 possessions per game (six in each half, which seems about right), that's 24.7 points over a full game at the opening-drive rate. Is that good opening-drive success rate? I would have to go and crunch numbers for all FBS schools (or at least all the Mountain West schools) to get a firm grasp on that, but I'd guess it's slightly below average. It is worth noting that Nevada has never had a turnover on its opening drive of the game under Norvell, which is impressive.
I took the research one step further by looking at Nevada's average points per drive under Norvell, thanks to BCF Toys. Here is the number of points the Wolf Pack has averaged per drive each year under Norvell: 2.20 (2017), 1.99 (2018), 1.77 (2019), 2.72 (2020) and 2.50 (2021). That's an average 2.24 points per possession, higher than the first-drive rate of 2.06 points per possession. So Nevada hasn't been as good on game-opening drives as it has been on other drives during the Norvell era. That could partially be a result of opening drives typically having longer fields. If you receive the opening kickoff, you're likely looking at a starting position around your 25-yard line. But first-dive success rate appears to be an area where Nevada could improve.
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.