Stats that must improve: critical rushes

Football will be back in Eugene, Ore., soon enough, but it’s good to reflect on 2013 and see what can be learned from last season and taken into next. Leading up to spring football, we’re going to be breaking down some stats that need to improve next season.

Stat that must improve: Oregon’s rushing on third and fourth down.

Backing that up: The Ducks had a pretty nasty rushing attack last season. Between Marcus Mariota, Byron Marshall and De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon had some rushers most defenses hated to line up against. The Ducks were ninth in the nation in rushing yards per game (273.5) and fifth in the nation in yards per rush (6.3).

Only 101 of the Ducks’ 568 runs didn’t get past the line of scrimmage, which put Oregon in the top 15 nationally in that category. And when it came to breaking out for long runs, again, it comes as no surprise that Oregon excelled there -- 277 of the Ducks runs went at least five yards, 117 runs went at least 10.

All that is great, but, with how impressive those numbers were, there were a few interesting rushing stats that the Ducks accrued last season. When it came down to the game being on the line and the Ducks needed the run game to produce, it didn’t. Oregon converted only on 52.3 percent of its third-down rushing attempts. That puts the Ducks behind 49 other teams that were more efficient with the run on third down, including Washington State, Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon State and Washington. The Ducks are only marginally better than the national average in that category (national average is 50.8) while their yards per game and yards per rush absolutely crush the national average.

And things only got worse when it came to rushing attempts on fourth downs. Oregon finished 56th in the nation with a 60 percent conversion rate on fourth-down rushing attempts. Unlike third-down rushing conversions, the Ducks didn’t hit the national average here, falling just below the line (national average was 60.8 percent).

With how great Oregon was running the ball, it’s surprising that when the Ducks needed the run game to produce the most, it didn’t do all that well. Oregon was in the top 10 for rushing yards per game, yards per rush, total rushing touchdowns and first downs per rushing attempts. There’s no reason for an offense that can produce so well consistently to struggle in one of the most important moments of the game. This is certainly an area that will need to improve going into the 2014 season.

Other stats that must improve: