QB Tolzien making efficient use of his snaps

2009-09-23T21:30:00Z QB Tolzien making efficient use of his snapsTom Mulhern | 608-252-6169 | tmulhern@madison.com madison.com

Everyone on the University of Wisconsin football team knows junior quarterback Scott Tolzien is a smart guy.

So, who better to decipher the formula for the NCAA's sometimes maligned and rarely understood passing efficiency rating?

After three starts, Tolzien ranks second in the Big Ten Conference in passing efficiency at 161.4. Michigan State sophomore Kirk Cousins, who comes to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, ranks first at 164.3.

But what do those numbers mean? Tolzien and UW offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Paul Chryst believe they are a meaningful way to measure quarterback play.

"I don't know all that goes into it or how you get to it, but I do think that certainly is the one (important statistic)," Chryst said. "Something along those lines is where you've got to be going."

The NCAA formula, which is different from the NFL's, was devised in 1979. It takes into account a player's yards per passing attempt, completion percentage, touchdown percentage and interception percentage.

"This is good for me," Tolzien said when handed a copy of the formula. "I'm probably going to go Google this."

To put Tolzien's rating in perspective, it's ahead of the school's single-season record of 155.2 set by Darrell Bevell in 1993. The only other UW quarterback to top 150 was John Stocco in 2005 at 150.5.

A key to Tolzien's rating is his completion percentage of 69.1. Bevell holds the single-season record of 67.8 in 1993. Can Tolzien keep it up?

"I think he can," Chryst said. "I think he needs to. Certainly, he'll be challenged more than we've been. He's more than capable of doing it. He needs to be that kind of quarterback."

Tolzien completed 15 of 20 passes for 159 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against Wofford last week (two incompletions were dropped balls). He's starting to make that look routine. He was 15-for-20 for 257 yards in the opener against Northern Illinois.

"He's putting (the ball) where it needs to be," backup quarterback Curt Phillips said. "He's making the right reads, he's getting it out on time. That's exactly what we need."

Tolzien has a chance to keep a high efficiency rating if his interception percentage of 2.94 continues to drop. He threw two interceptions in his first 20 passes, but has not thrown one in his last 48.

He ranks No. 15 nationally in efficiency and only three quarterbacks in front of him have a higher interception percentage.

When the NCAA came up with the formula, it used statistics from the previous 14 years to arrive at a statistic in which the average passer had a rating of 100. Since then, quarterback statistics have gotten much better.

Louisiana-Monroe's Trey Revell is No. 50 among the top 100 nationally at 136.98.

Tolzien incorrectly guessed a rating of 120 is considered good for a college quarterback. He also guessed a maximum of 153.

That was something of a trick question. The NFL uses a similar formula but caps the maximum in each category. A rating of 158.3 is perfect in the NFL and 100 is outstanding.

The college maximum is 1,261.6, which would require a 99-yard touchdown on every pass attempt.

"We'll shoot for that next week," Tolzien said with a smile.

If Tolzien stays where he is the Badgers should have a chance to win a lot of games, which is the measurement UW coach Bret Bielema cares most about.

"I believe in two things in judging a quarterback: how he handles and manages the game, and then turnovers," Bielema said. "That's the thing I've been very excited about Scotty, just his awareness of ball security.

"Just because of the way the games have unfolded for us he doesn't have a (high) number of throws, which I know affects certain QB ratings. The big part that I like is three wins, zero losses."

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