Football: A Hec check (Faulds vs. Brannagan)

Neate mused on Saturday that Mustangs QB Michael Faulds is probably the OUA's nominee for the Hec Crighton Trophy. Then he wondered whether Faulds or his Queen's counterpart Dan Brannagan actually deserved the nomination. Then he concluded you should double-check the numbers due to all the variables in the competition each player faced.

This is where I come in...

First things first, let's not have an apples-to-paleontology comparison. Let's throw out Queen's vs. Waterloo and Western vs. Toronto and Queen's vs. Western,* so that we have common opponents for both quarterbacks. Then let's ignore York because ... well, it's York. Anyone could pass for 400 yards.

Now we add up those remaining five games for both players (Ottawa, Guelph, McMaster, Windsor, Laurier) and here's what we find:
  • Brannagan: 90 of 149 (60%) for 1254 yards (8.4 per attempt), 4.0% interception rate (6/149), no sacks that I could find
  • Faulds: 120 of 192 (63%) for 1850 yards (9.6 per attempt), 3.1% interception rate (6/192), 13 sacks for 114 yards
* You might be wondering why we're ignoring their Oct. 17 head-to-head matchup; remember, we want to compare them against the same opponents. Faulds played against Queen's; Brannagan never did.

We see an early advantage on yardage for Faulds. (Even rushing yards, too: 178 vs. 29.) And even with the extra attempts, he's quite a bit ahead of Brannagan in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A, the basis for these rankings), with 8.9 vs. 7.4.

So Faulds is ahead here, but wait. We said five games for both; however, that's not totally fair: Brannagan, of course, didn't actually play against Ottawa. On the other hand, he had 41 pass attempts against hapless Windsor, but Faulds only got to throw 23 times. We should take that into consideration too. So we'll make it a more direct comparison and adjust their stats against each opponent to give both players the same number of attempts against each team. (This means Faulds loses his Ottawa stats and most of his McMaster performance.)

In the end, we get 116 attempts for both players, and the following adjusted totals:
  • Brannagan: 71 completions, 979 yards, 5 interceptions, 5 touchdown passes
  • Faulds: 77 completions, 1161 yards, 2 interceptions, 7 touchdown passes
In other words, even after we take away nearly two games from Faulds, he still ends up with 182 more yards and two more TDs. And the ANY/A advantage grows: 9.8 for Faulds, only 7.6 for the Queen'sman.

So who deserves it?

For my money, the debate ends there.

If you don't want to punish Brannagan for missing some time, it doesn't matter: we gave both players the same playing time against the same opponents and Faulds still came out on top. Granted, Faulds' receivers and offensive line and so on could have helped him out more than Brannagan's did, but without much playing time from other Western QBs, it's tough to figure that out.

Although both players had pretty good seasons, as best as I can tell for now, one QB deserves the nomination. And it's not the one wearing yellow.
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  1. I should point out that this works just as well for any same-conference quarterbacks (or any two players at the same position), in case someone has a similar question about two other players somewhere else in the country. Faulds/Brannagan just came up because of the passing records.

  2. The sad part for Brannagan is that he got hurt in the McMaster game near the end of the first half on a play that was unnecessary. He rolled right and took off and having a chance to go out of bounds instead drove himself directly headfirst into the Mac defender. Larry Moko of the Hamilton Spectator has an excellent article that followed the game. Saw Brannagan from several feet away as he went off to the dressing room and he looked fairly good and I believe Queen's held him back for that game and others more as precaution for future post season.

    The discussion of who is more deserving of Hec Creighton totally academic in nature. Neither likely to play pro ball after graduation and both probably more interested in the "final dance" for Yates and Laval/Montreal two headed monster subsequently just to qualify for Vanier.

    Ultimately it also brings to the front of whether the OUA should have an "A" and "B" conference with top 5 from previous year playing against each other and top 4 qualifying for playoffs. The top two of the B conference would then qualify for post season play and the 5th seed of "A" slipping down to the "B" conference the following year.

    Probably wouldn't work but just a thought......

  3. That's a really nice piece, good work.

  4. These QBs are by far the best in the OUA, but why does it have to be either of them? A very dark horse, and my personal pick is Nick Fitzgibbon of Guelph, this 4th year Rb has had an incredible year running the ball as well as recieving it. He is by far the best RB in the conference, and although his team didn't finish well. His numbers don't lie. His 4 TDs against a good Mac Defence this weekend put a cap on a great season

  5. I understand why you discounted the Queen's vs Western game but I think that is an important game to consider if one of these two individuals is to be the OUA nominee. Head to head, Brannagan beat Faulds.

    I concur with the last comment. I think Fitzbiggon has had an amazing year on a team that has shown hints of being a very good football team but for the most part has been medicore.

  6. How about considering a player like Gary Ross at Mt A? He is playing on a terrible team and they have had to play SMU 2x, X 2x and Laval and this guy has played great all season long? I could only imagine what he could have done had he played in the "Stat Padding Division OUA" playing even worse teams the Mt A?

  7. Quick, name the last player who won playing on an 0-8 team. Ross is a fabulous player, if they had a "long list" of 10, he'd be on it, but his best chance was in '07 and '08 when Mount A was competitive.

    Sorry, if Mount A or Acadia took Toronto, York, or Windsor's place in the OUA schedule, they're not in the playoffs.

  8. Make me wonder why last years HEC winner is not the leading CIS passer of all time given he has played for the best team in Canada for the last 5 years? Could it be that he could not build his statistics up playing against watered down teams in the OUA?

  9. Fitzgibbon got almost half his rushing yards (352 of 736) and receiving yards (185 of 400) vs. guess who, York and Toronto. He's a good player, but that's a little hard to ignore.

    Riva was spotted vs. those teams (14 of 606 rushing yards, 94 of 401 yards). He did his damage in the other 6 games, though granted, he did have more than 200 total yards and 5 TDs vs. Windsor, which Guelph did not play.

    That being said, Fitzgibbon is a superb player and the exact kind who would benefit if we did pick 10 semi-finalists from across the country. The current system pretty much ensures the recipient will be a QB or running back from a team that was near the top of its conference. Guelph is 3-5, so that tears it. However, if it was thrown more wide open, his school could highlight him from the start of the season and he'd have a better shot.

    Realistically, for the OUA nom it's Faulds.


  10. @ Anon. 11:08: You need to stay healthy to have a shot at a career mark. Benoit Groulx missed more than half the regular season in 2007. That hurt his chances. He has a chance at a third Vanier Cup and he won a Hec, so cry not for him!

    Suggesting Faulds only did this because of the watered-down OUA is pretty ignorant. The old record was set just last season by a Quebec conference player, Matt Connell from McGill!

    Please keep in mind, "most yards" does not equal "best now," let alone "best ever." It's just a record. Chris Flynn is probably the best CIS quarterback of all time.

  11. I'm new to all this but running up stats on a team out of the playoffs is I think different than playing them week 1 to 4 when there is hope of a playoff birth. Just seems unfair that one QB who missed 1.5 games but beat the other guy head-to-head is not being considered because the others stats are slightly better.

    If I'm not mistaken, Western played both Toronto and York. Please don't insult Waterloo by saying they are close to a Toronto. Waterloo is a far better program than Toronto this season.

    But who said this stuff is always fair or always right.

  12. I understand the concept of a head-to-head matchup, but does everyone realize that this only works as a narrative device for the game story and not as a basis for comparison? Maybe if we're talking about Faulds the running back and Brannagan the linebacker, sure.

    @Anon 4:50 - The only non-playoff team I considered here, the Lancers, were 2-0 (over Toronto and York, ahem) when they played Western and 2-2 when they played Queen's. If losing to Waterloo takes you out of the playoff race, then that's a pretty sad playoff race.

    If I'm not mistaken, Western played both Toronto and York

    They sure did! It's also totally irrelevant to this discussion:

    Let's throw out Queen's vs. Waterloo and Western vs. Toronto and Queen's vs. Western, so that we have common opponents for both quarterbacks. Then let's ignore York because ... well, it's York.

    Please don't insult me by commenting on my article without actually reading it.

  13. For the fellow who said 'throw out Queen's vs. Waterloo':

    Waterloo had the number 1 OUA defence against the pass. Something to consider...

  14. keep in mind as 8 time Stanley Cup winner Serge Savard said, "statistics are for losers". Not sold on Brannagan but he did win the big one.
    We now how far stats got the Gaels the last few yrs. see my post in the roundup. As for Flynn he didn't win a Vanier but he came close and was dominant.

  15. Waterloo didn't have No. 1 pass defence. Ottawa and Laurier were each more efficient.

  16. Chris Flynn should have won 4 HEC's as his best season was his first but back then you could not be a rookie and win it, Flynn is by far the best QB to ever play in the CIS!

  17. A head-to-head matchup may not be the basis for comparison, however, not only did Brannagan win that game, he also out threw Faulds by over 100 yards in that game. Also, Fitzgibbon, or Ross, or anybody on a poor team should not be considered for an award titled "most VALUABLE player", a player holds much less value when he can't lead his team to any, or many, wins.