While OSU's defense and the wide receivers were the favored targets for the Cowboys' failure to come away with a victory at Arizona this past weekend, I think a little more analysis shows that the defense might not deserve so much blame.
Join me for a little fun with numbers after the jump.
In preparing for our podcast reviewing the Arizona loss, I noticed something that made me reflect a bit on the nature of our defense.
If you recall, in 2011, that unit was not a brick wall. I wrote a post about how the way they played actually made some sense in helping to create turnovers. But the short of it is this...traditional defensive stats were not kind to our Cowboys, as they ranked 107th in total defense in Div 1.
That means yardage...a fair amount of it, in fact...was given up each game, although points were not, as witnessed by this same unit being the #1 scoring defense in the Big 12. A big part of that odd pairing of stats was OSU's #1 ranking in turnovers caused in Div 1.
There was no better example of this in 2011 than the game against Bob's Bears (Baylor). Little Bob moved the Baylor offense almost at will, EXCEPT when they reached the red zone. Turnovers and failed 4th down conversions doomed Bob and his minions. But Bob did move the ball...Baylor's drives totaled 474 yards by the end of the 3rd quarter. If you subtract yards gained by defensive penalty...30...then total yardage was 444. That's not shabby, but only resulted in 3 points. The big difference maker was 5 TO's. In fact, Baylor outgained OSU for the game, 622-601.
By contrast, Arizona had 469 yards in drives thru the end of the 3rd quarter. If you subtract yardage gained from defensive penalties...60...total offense becomes 409 yards. Not too bad for the Wildcats, and even better when you consider NO turnovers AND no drive-killing penalties. This resulted in 37 points at the end of three quarters. Arizona was outgained 636-501 for the game.
Now let's look at the offense.
Against Baylor, Weeden and company were surgical. It was rather easy to be so given the Bears' paper defense. The Cowboys had 10 possessions thru 3 periods, and converted 7 of those for TD's. The other 3 resulted in 2 punts and 1 fumble. OSU had 10 yards in offensive penalties (two false starts), and twice worked with very short fields due to Baylor turnovers.
This season, against the Wildcats, the Cowboy offense totaled 11 possessions thru 3 quarters, and no short fields. Four of those were converted for TD's, while 1 ended with a FG. Unfortunately, those scoring drives were on either end of a string of 6 consecutive fruitless possessions, all of which were in the first half. Those 6 drives featured 3 punts (2 were facilitated by offensive holding penalties), 1 turnover on downs (horrible play call), and 2 turnovers. If the offense converts just 2 of those drives into TD's, the score at the end of the 3rd quarter is 45-37 in favor of OSU. Hmmmmmm.
And while the offense was busy stumbling, the defense held Arizona to 3 consecutive FG's (2 of which came on short fields) and a punt. Despite not creating a single turnover (Az fumbled once and recovered), the defense held 3 drives to FG's, forced 4 punts, and 1 turnover on downs. Eight of the Wildcats drives resulted in 9 points, and I'm not even including 2 more forced punts on Arizona's first two drives of the 4th quarter.
It's not that surprising that the turnover battle was lost...the previous week, RichRod's boys committed 3 turnovers and had 2 TD's called back by penalties. Don't think they worked on that during the week? Given that, I don't care how improved the defense was supposed to be. We've seen what happens when they are on the field that much. Eventually they run out of gas.
I'd say the defense did pretty good under the circumstances. Imagine last year's Baylor game with no turnovers by the Bears. Exactly.
So, for me anyway, while the defense could use a turnover or two to help the cause and need to do away with the personal foul stuff, the offense self-destructing in the face of a freshman QB's breakout performance is much more of a concern. Monken needs to get the squad to focus less on the "whatever the fuck you want to call it" Walsh package and flea flickers, and more on catching and holding onto the football.
Keep in mind that thru 3 quarters, with what most of us would characterize as the most horrid stretch of offense we've seen since the end of 2009, OSU put 31 points on the board and amassed over 500 yards in total offense. Hmmmmmmm (I repeat myself).
Clean up the mistakes, and the rest of the Big 12 better be awake when the new kid shows up with his posse.