Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sweet Victory: The Defense

Let me give you a stat you would not expect to hear.

OU ran 110 plays yesterday.

So, when we see that they got 513 yards in total offense, let's remember that they had to run 100 plays to get it, leaving them at 4.7 yards per play and less than BG.  Now, 500 yards is 500 yards, except that it shows that BG was forcing them to make a lot of plays to get their yards, and when you force a team to make a lot of plays then the odds increase that you can win a battle here and there or they make a mistake and the drive ends.  Which is pretty much what happened.

No doubt, the defense is playing better and can continue to improve.  Ryland Ward played with a soft cast and I thought he made a difference.  This was an improved performance and I think we all look forward to seeing our guys continue to get better.  As I said in the recap, we have gone from bend-and-break to bend-and-don't-break, which is an improvement.

OU primarily wants to run the ball and I think that is truer with their backup QB in there.  Even with sacks factored out, BG held OU to 4.1 yards per carry, well below the MAC average and a clear victory for the D.  That is 1 yards less per carry than Buffalo got.  Furthermore, their long run from a RB was 13 yards.  They had some success, but OU did not establish a dominant running game against BG.

That, and the deficit, forced OU to the air.  (Football is a completely different game if you are ahead).  JD Sprauge threw 56 passes and he completed only 48% of them.  If you factor sacks in, OU had less than 5 yards per passing attempt.

So, how did they keep those drives alive?  Most importantly, they were very good on 3rd down--they were 12 of 24.  In a way, it reminded me of the "close the deal" drive back in 2013.  Solich is 100% comfortable setting up a makeable 3rd down with a safe 2nd down play, unlike many teams that are trying to convert on 2nd.

Note:  my grandfather who played football in the pre face mask era used to tell me that you should never pass on 2nd down, so he and Frank would have been bros on this.

Anyway.  OU was able to convert that minimal efficiency into 39 minutes of possession, 29 first downs, and 13 points.  And yes, they lost some efficiency pressing to score but they also had 7 completions for 61 yards in garbage time at the end.

You throw about 6 more offensive first downs for BG into the mix, and the defensive picture would have looked completely different.

For all their success on the 3rd down, OU was 0-4 on 4th down, which were huge plays for BG.  There was a 5th stop on 4th as well that was negated by a penalty.

One thing I liked was that BG seemed intent on bringing pressure.  BG was blitzing a lot on key downs to pressure OU's inexperienced QB and they were rewarded with 5 sacks on the day and some other wrecked plays.  Coach also said that our corners are beginning to play more aggressively, which is something that was needed pretty badly.

Individually, BG had some guys make big plays.  Sutton had 11 tackles, 2 TFL and a forced fumble.  Martin had 11 tackles and a half sack.  James Sanford had 11 tackles and a half sack.  Jude Adjei-Barimah had 11 tackles, a sack and 3 pass break ups.  Darrell Hunter had 4 break ups.  Paul Seen had a sack and a break up as did Bryan Thomas.  Shannon Smith had a sack and a break up in his most extensive action of his career.  Nick Johnson had 11 tackles and 10 solo.

And I get that when there are that many plays, the tackle numbers are going to be high.  Just pointing out that the defense did make some plays--sacks, break ups, turnovers.  There were 4 TFL on top of the 5 sacks as well.

Again, there is still plenty of room for the defense to get better, but they are getting better and for everyone who thought we don't focus on defense or our coaches don't care about it or understand it, here is proof that they do.  OU is not a great offensive team or maybe even a good one and BG will need continued improvement against a much better WMU team next week and I'm looking forward to seeing us put it together.

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