Only one unofficial statistic is kept in the final game books from most college football contests: quarterback hurries.
It’s usually the final column listed in the individual defensive statistics. Hurries are awarded to individual players but not tallied as a team total. Because it’s an unofficial statistic, there is no written definition for hurries in the NCAA scorer’s manual.
There have been other unofficial statistics. Sacks, tackles and other numbers now considered standard weren’t considered official until 2000, when the NCAA began collecting defensive statistics. Other unofficial statistics are also kept today. Knockdown blocks are often counted for offensive linemen, tight ends or other players. Drops for receivers and running backs can be kept, too. But none of those unofficial numbers appear in the game book, which serves as the official record of the game.
The Tuscaloosa News asked all 14 SEC schools for their own definition of a quarterback hurry. We also examined the box scores of every SEC game in 2017 to count how many hurries were awarded for every team.
Twelve of the 13 SEC schools that responded had a similar definition: A hurry is awarded to a defensive player who pressures a quarterback into an incomplete or intercepted pass before he otherwise would have thrown the ball. Hurries cannot be awarded on completed passes for these teams. Hurries are also not awarded as part of a sack or for forcing a quarterback to scramble rather than pass.
Even among those 12 schools, there are still minor differences. Some schools said multiple players could conceivably receive credit for a hurry on the same play if they both reach the quarterback. Some said only one player would receive credit. Others were unsure if there was a policy in that situation.
Georgia’s statisticians don’t record hurries at home games in the official game book, but box scores published later include them. These come from their coaching staff, which recognizes “pressures” rather than hurries. Pressures were also awarded as part of sacks, according to a Georgia spokesman. LSU did not respond to two emails requesting information about how it defines and records hurries.
Despite the larger consensus on the criteria for a hurry, the application of the definition in games still varied widely. The criterion for a hurry is more subjective than other stats, leaving room for scorekeepers and stat crews at games to award them at their discretion.
Auburn defenders were credited with 58 hurries at home on 104 incomplete passes in 2017, by far the most of any school in the conference1. Visitors to Jordan-Hare Stadium also received credit for more hurries than any other SEC venue, receiving 31 in 7 games. Alabama had the second-most hurries at its home games, awarding 38 on 105 incomplete passes. Visitors to Bryant-Denny Stadium were credited with 12 hurries in 2017.
Tennessee, Texas A&M and Kentucky awarded the fewest hurries to their players at home. Their defenses received credit for 13, 12 and 10 hurries at home in 2017, respectively.
Other schools had significant disparities in the number of hurries awarded to their own players at home when compared to visitors. Ole Miss defenders had 32 hurries in seven games at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in 2017 while visitors had five, fewest of any team in the conference. Kentucky, Mississippi State and Texas A&M were the only SEC schools to award visitors with more hurries than the home team at their stadium in 2017.
Of course, several factors could mean that home teams are more likely to record hurries than visitors. An offensive line at home should have an easier time communicating protections and signals than visitors. Several SEC teams also have multiple nonconference games against programs from Group of Five conferences that might be at a talent disadvantage against major conference opponents.2
Some games didn’t include hurries at all. They weren’t recorded in the game books for the College Football Playoff in 2017-18. Some other neutral site games or bowl games didn’t record them, either. Coaches can keep their own stats as well: defensive lineman Quinnen Williams had one hurry at Tennessee this weekend, but the UA staff credited him with four pressures in the same game.
Stat crews and coaches aren’t the only ones that may measure hurries, or apply their own definitions. Outside sources, like Pro Football Focus, also measure similar plays and record them. That can create even more variance.
Hurries may not carry the same weight as sacks or interceptions, but they have some significance. A Mississippi State spokesman said that they’re part of the Bulldogs’ efforts to publicize the play of defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons. His official statistics credit him with two hurries, while Pro Football Focus had him at 10 in the first six games of the season.
Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen had 15 official hurries in 2016 when he was named national defensive player of the year. This season, Williams leads the team with nine (official hurries rather than pressures awarded by the coaching staff).
There may be a standard criteria for a quarterback hurry, but the results of that definition can still vary widely.
2017 quarterback hurries
*Only includes road/neutral games where hurries were recorded.
1Auburn was among the schools that did not award hurries to multiple players on the same play, which could have accounted for some of its higher-than-average total.
2The numbers didn’t always make sense, though. Texas A&M led the conference with 43 sacks in 2017, yet was awarded fewer hurries at home than on the road. The Aggies’ opponents at Kyle Field also received credit for more hurries than the home team.