The Impact of Weather on Mendenhall’s Football Team

Teeth are chattering, hands and toes are becoming numb and large amounts of hot chocolate are being consumed as football fans watch their teams play on a cold fall night. While the fans are freezing, they wonder if the cold is impacting the football players. Rain and cold are two weather conditions that football players face when playing in a game. The question I am trying to analyze is whether environmental factors like temperature and precipitation make a difference on offensive performance in a football game.

Coach Mendenhall took over the University of Virginia football team in 2016 and before UVA he was the coach for Brigham Young University for eleven years. Mendenhall is a student of the game of football and uses an adaptive style of coaching that incorporates the current resources that are available to his program. During his first two year at UVA, Mendenhall primarily used a run and gun offense, which is a type of offense that has a receiver suddenly changing positions by running left or right, parallel to the line of scrimmage, just before the ball is snapped. The traditional tailback runs with a pocket passer. Once Bryce Perkins was recruited to play for the University of Virginia, the offense changed to primarily a run-pass offense because of Perkin’s mobility. Teams playing against UVA had to account for not only the tailback runs but also the quarterback runs and passes. 

I was curious to examine the impact of temperature and weather on the offense while Mendenhall was the coach for both UVA and BYU. I analyzed six years of Mendenhall’s coaching career with two years at BYU and four years at UVA. Overall, Mendenhall won 55% of these games and lost 45% of them. For each game I looked at temperature, weather, total passing yards, passing yards attempted, passing yards completed, total rushing yards, average per rush, touch downs, fumbles, interceptions, total points and whether the team won or lost. I used temperature and weather (rain or clear) as the variables to compare the offense statistics to in order to see if there was a correlation.

The first set of data I analyzed was the impact of temperature on passing and rushing yards. 

When the temperature is below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, both rushing yards and passing yards are negatively affected. The offense was not as effective in achieving yards when the temperature was extremely cold. As temperature increases, both passing and rushing yards per game increase. Between temperatures 26 to 100 degrees, there is not a large difference between passing and rushing yards, however, in general the offense tends to have more passing yards than rushing yards. 

The next set of data was the impact of rain on passing and rushing yards.

When it was raining, the offense ran the ball more and when the weather was clear with no rain the offense passed the ball more. Before starting this project I hypothesized that the offense would rush the ball more when it was raining due to a higher chance of mistakes in the rain with less visibility and grip on the ball. The offense had to adapt to the weather conditions in order to have the best chance of winning.

I also looked at the impact of temperature on fumbles and interceptions (turnovers).

Interceptions were minimally affected by temperature and remained relatively constant. The offense had the greatest number of fumbles per game in cold weather. As the temperature increased, the average fumbles per game decreased. Overall there is a correlation between cold temperatures and number of fumbles.

The final set of data I analyzed was the impact of rain on fumbles and interceptions (turnovers).

When it was clear outside there were more interceptions compared to when it was raining. This makes sense because when the weather is clear the offense is passing the ball more. Greater passing leads to more opportunities for interceptions. There is less of a difference between rainy weather and clear weather with fumbles. However, there were slightly more fumbles per game when it was clear compared to when it was raining.

The weather and temperature are two factors that affect the style of play.  When it is raining outside, offense tends to rush the ball more. When it is clear outside, offense tends to pass the ball more. It will be interesting to see if these statistics hold up going forward as Mendenhall continues his time at UVA. 

Data from all the games

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