Giving Up The Big Play

COLUMBIA MISSOURI - OCTOBER 23: Kendial Lawrence #4 of the Missouri Tigers gets past Jonathan Nelson #3 of the Oklahoma Sooners at Faurot Field. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Stoops today (h/t Jake Trotter):

"Expect defense to be significantly better from a year ago. D-line, d-ends much better than they've been billed to be."

As I'm sure a lot of you will remember, our defense wasn't an elite unit last year in terms of traditional statistical measures. They were 53rd in total defense (361.9 yd/gm) and 33rd in scoring defense (21.8 ppg). However, they were very opportunistic - 8th nationally in forced turnovers (32), 8th in sacks (37), and 3rd in tackles for loss (106).

How was a ball-hawking defense that was so good at making plays in the backfield coming up short in the traditional methods of ranking defenses?

Big plays.

The Sooners gave up 33 plays of over 30 yards from scrimmage last year, which was tied for 11th worst, and second worst in the Big 12 behind only Kansas State. In a lot of the big play statistics, they were giving up big plays at approximately 1.5 to 2 times the rate of the "elite defenses" in college football.

If you look at our two losses from last year, Texas A&M and Missouri picked up yardage in chunks on some critical scoring drives. The Aggies got 29% of their yardage in the game on two plays of over 30 yards (48,64). Missouri got 23% of their yardage in the other game on three plays of over 30 yards (35,38,39). And, this does not factor in the plays of 15-30 yards that aided scoring drives, as well as kickoff or punt returns.

If Stoops is right, I think the biggest gains on defense could be made by cutting down on the number of big plays that we give up.

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