What theme regarding Arkansas’ Defense was repeated in every spoken breath since the end of last year?
Arkansas’ Defense ranked a rank 89th out of 120 Division I schools. It’s been difficult to get away from the point. Had they really been in tune with making a point, they might have added “an 89th ranking is 73 spots below Army and 59 teams below Northern Illinois.” Specifically, the ranking came in Total Defense which sounds practically the same as an overall evaluation of defensive effectiveness. Hold that thought.
Shift over to numerous close games which Arkansas didn’t win over the years. Invariably the announcers, looking for something good to say, would point out that the Razorbacks won in about every statistical category except the scoreboard. For winning in every category except the scoreboard, Arkansas would make another mark under the column marked “Loss,” but all Arkansas had to do was to turn the corner. “It’s all there, it’s just not producing the result we wanted.”
Against Arkansas’ 2009 Defense, a squad which returns almost intact for 2010, the “Total Defense” criticism is the flip-side of the same reasoning as we heard after Razorback losses. “Total Defense” is based solely on “net yards per game” and completely ignores touchdowns, PATs and field goals allowed.
If we’d rather have better performance in terms of scoring before, why not now? The real stat we should be considering is Scoring Defense.
On occasion, through the cacophony about the Defensive players being mad, players switching positions to shore up the linebacker corps, etc., occasionally someone will mention Arkansas’ middle-of-the-pack rank in scoring defense of 58th nationally and 9th in the SEC. It’s a ho-hum kind of number.
But there’s reason for the Defense to be mad.
As a Fan Base we failed, probably reasonably so, to see through all that was happening and assess the Razorback Defense for what it actually did. We should not have saddled the Hog D with first impressions and numbers which weren’t attributable to them.
In eight of the ten games following the Hogs’ loss to Alabama, the Arkansas Defense alone allowed 24 points or fewer through 4 quarters of play. The 27 points Eastern Michigan scored was still logged as a win and the 30 point at Ole Miss is the lone black mark. Even then, in the Eastern Michigan game, the Hog Defense scored 6 points to offset 6 points it allowed. Hog Fan Randy Reece gets credit for the observation as to points allowed solely by the Defense for each game. The numbers are confirmed below.
|Year||Opponent||W||L||Rush Pts||Pass Pts||PATs||FG Pts.||D. Pts. Allowed||D. Scores||Net. D. Pts Allowed|
|2009||Missouri St. (48-10)||1||6||0||1||3||10||10|
|2009||Texas A&M (47-19)||2||0||12||1||6||19||6||13|
|2009||Eastern Mich. (63-27)||4||6||18||3||0||27||6||21|
|2009||South Carolina (33-16)||5||6||6||1||3||16||16|
|2009||Mississippi St. (42-21)||7||18||0||3||0||21||21|
|2009||East Carolina (20-17)||8||6||6||2||3||17||6||11|
Opponents’ other points were scored in overtime or at the expense of some other unit. In the LSU game, Trindon Holliday scampered an 87 yard punt return. The three points scored in OT is excluded because the focus of this is on Arkansas’ Defense for four quarters.
But their importance rests here.
Since Arkansas entered the Southeast Conference, there were winners in 812 of 816 SEC regular season conference games. Of those 812 games, Winners managed victory with 24 points or fewer in 35.85% of the 812 games. 23 points or fewer accounted for only 28.33% of all Winners’ scores while Winners’ scored 22 points or fewer in only 24.88% of all games.
|Winner's Pts.||# of Games||Percent of Winners at or Below Score|
After the Alabama game, the points which the Defense itself gave up were good enough to keep opposing offenses from winning most games by a 17 year historical standard. While we can always want, ask for and probably expect more, the Defense which returns in 2010 held up its side of the ball for the last 10 games of the year by an objective, measurable standard.
As far as the yardage allowed and the 89th ranking, many of the yards were only marginally productive because Arkansas took the ball from opponents a total of 30 times last year. It’s not a particularly comforting way of going about things, but we’re not in it to win the stat category, are we?
Last year’s biggest unreported story for most of last season was that Ryan Mallett was draft eligible.
The biggest unreported story of 2010 is that Arkansas returns a defense that’s better than anyone thinks.