OSU defense struggles on long drives

Written by Kyle Porter
Photo Attribution: USATSI

Photo Attribution: USATSI

I think I’ve found the answer to our (sometimes hostile) questions about the Oklahoma State defense.

Your answer to me and my answer to you.

To this point we’ve been unable to agree on the Oklahoma State defense from the last few years — most of you thought it was atrocious, I thought it was pretty good and sometimes great.

But now I have something to show you that reveals why our perceptions are what they are and why we’re both kind of right in a way.

Brian Fremeau — he of Football Outsiders and ESPN employment — has a really wonky football stats site called BCF Toys. This weekend he posted some figures on points per drive for 2012 and which teams were good, which were horrendous.

Again, points per drive is a much better measure of how good or bad a fast team’s defense (and offense) is than total points or points per game or anything like that. It shows how much you’re giving up every time the other squad gets the rock.

So what did it reveal for OSU’s much maligned D?

Let’s take a look at total points per drive given up for the last five years (national rank in parentheses):

2008: 2.41 (86th)
2009: 1.58 (22nd)
2010: 1.67 (25th)
2011: 1.53 (17th)[1. LOL at Alabama having a 0.51 PPD defense this year. Next closest was LSU at .95. Bama is a joke.] 2012: 1.93 (46th)

The reason for the dropoff in 2012 is, obviously, OSU had its lowest turnover creation mark (22) since 2007 (19). They turned teams over 44 times in 2011 which was a ridiculous amount (and not sustainable) and the reason you see the jump from the mid-20s to nearly the top 15 that year.

But here’s the thing that shocked me — the thing that you’ll look at and say “SEE, I TOLD YOU!”

OSU gave 2.20 points per drive on long drives, or drives that started inside the other team’s own 20 — good for 96th in the country.

Here’s a look at the last five years…

2008: 2.43 (112th)
2009: .75 (18th)
2010: 1.36 (58th)
2011: 1.65 (75th)
2012: 2.20 (96th)

Gosh that 2008 defense was awful — truly an abomination. It surrendered more points per drive when teams started inside their own 20 than it did overall.[1. This actually happened in three of the last five years which is insane.]

And the 2012 version of OSU’s long drive defense wasn’t much better. This is often what you get with a turnover-heavy, bend-but-don’t-break defense and why it often looks worse than it is. When teams are stringing loooooong drives of 80+ yards against you it certainly feels worse than if a team gets the ball at your 30 and punches it in with five plays.

It’s also probably a little demoralizing for the offense — not to mention throws off their rhythm when a team strings together multiple 15-play drives against the OSU defense. Gundy to Monken: You want Chelf out there? Oh yeah, he graduated while Baylor was on that 21-minute drive.

It’s crazy to me that OSU has been able to sustain a really good overall points per drive defense while being pretty horrendous at long drives.

In the end it doesn’t much matter what the breakdown as long as your overall total is pretty good (last year’s was average) but it might be the reason none of us can agree on OSU’s D. I look at our overall total and say “ok, I can live with that.” You look at our long drive total and say “yiiiiikes.” I understand both sides.

However, I bet Quinn Sharp would not be excited to read this post:


Last note: the last time we didn’t have Bill Young coaching our D?


  • Orangestateofmind

    Good post, nice write-up.

    It’s gonna be an interesting season, I am optimistic that our defense can get off the field better this year with the subtle changes in philosophy.

    I will also be comparing our d rankings to TCU’s defensive rankings as Patterson is well regarded as a defensive mastermind and I believe TCU ranked pretty favorably last year, another reason why I am more worried about TCU as a sleeper this year in the big 12

  • Cozmo23

    Bill did a great job but I was pulling my hair out watching the huge cushions he always gave on 3rd down plays. When the defense could have got off the field on 3rd and 8 and we gave up the first down to a wide open reciever who just ran to the marker I file that under “break”, not “bend”. http://www.cowboysrideforfree.com/2012/12/1/3715422/full-recap-baylor-41-oklahoma-state-34

    • Cozmo, you beat me to it…I had the link copied and was ready to paste…

  • cowpoke

    Patient qb’s ate our lunch. Our d philosophy was to let offenses self deduct over a drive… Which works fine against inexperienced qb’s. But Klien, a Sr Landry, Florence etc could just march down the field on us.

  • Nate

    Can someone remind me how the hell Tim Beckman got a head coaching job after that 2008 season? I wish I could do my job that poorly and get a promotion…

  • Mark

    Like everyone else, I really think this is a product of the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy. And I do remember lots of frustrating long opponent drives.

  • adam

    My conclusion from that interesting statistical breakdown is that in 2008 we should have had less than 10 punts the whole year.
    Why punt when poor field position has no impact on a team’s scoring chances and when it just makes your defense tire out more quickly

  • Tone

    Good stuff, basically the extra turnovers were the difference between ’11 and ’12? if so, ’12 wasn’t so bad ’11 was just luckier (wasn’t as good as people believed). Explains the divide in opinion. For what’s its worth, I think ’11 D would have made that goal line stop in Norman ’12. That team got stops when it had to have them, more times than not.

  • OSUaggie

    Excellent perspective, nice job. I am hoping and praying that if they just don’t give those 8-10 yard cushions on every friggin’ 3rd down play we might get enough 3rd down stops to turn this stat 180 degrees. I also don’t want to see them in the receiver’s face every single down because there are actually a few QB’s that can fling the ball and we run a risk of seeing those long grueling drives by the opposition turn into quick 60 yard strikes….Hopefully our D find balance this year; Lord knows we’ve got a few athletes with the skills.

    • Mark

      Yes, I totally expect to see a few more dynamic plays by the opposition this season, as a sacrifice for more aggressive coverage. I’m gonna try not to panic, and if our offense is putting up big numbers again, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it gets the defense off the field without wearing them out.

  • ChanceDM

    I like this article. I think it would have been easy to just leave it at the couple of defensive articles you posted in the last week, but you explored this issue further.

  • OSU-Bill