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Bye Week Stat Round Up: Defense

BSU LogoNormally on Tuesdays we regale you with fun little items like stat comparisons and the like for the coming Cardinal opponent. As this week is the challenging opponent Open Date State, there is no substantive data to pour over. Except our own. Hence, the offensive and defensive production… presented in fancy graph format. Ballin’.

Part 2: Defense
The old adage goes something along the lines of “Defense Wins Championships” but there is no adage that explains what wins you a 1-8 start to your season. Plenty of blame to go around, a considerable margin of which goes to the offense (which we get to in our previous post), but there is still some level of responsibility for this start that falls squarely on the defense.

At face value, the defense hasn’t been dreadful. Being ranked 82nd in the nation in total defense is certainly not awful, and in reality, not all that different from last season’s 69th. However, and this is quite a sizeable however, is that this is the area of the team that most people pointed to before the season as the sole reason why these Cards wouldn’t have an epic sort of drop off. Experience, returning starters, and players capable of big plays all were sort of the life preserver that nearly every fan clung to in the spring and late summer.

Questions? Of course. Corner play for one, but really, that was about it. The safety corps was arguably tops in the MAC, the linebacking unit and front line was experienced and stout, and the recruits that garnered much of the attention were on the defensive side of the football. Suffice to say that this was the saving grace in terms of 2009. That was before the formation shifted from the 3-4 front of years past to the 4-3 of this season. Resulting in…

def prod

What good is there to take away from this graph? Well… after North Texas the rush never was as bad. PROGRESS! To be truthful, the graph above tells nothing of the defensive story this season. Frankly, Ball State in 2008 was one of those teams whose statistics and graphs was nowhere close to indicative of the success of the unit. The 08 Cards bent but rarely broke, and usually always found a way to come up with some sort of stop, turnover, or momentum shifter. This season? Not so much.

We’ve certainly mastered the bend part, unfortunately, that “don’t break” memo apparently didn’t get transmitted correctly. Big plays, a lack of turnovers, and an overall inability to get any sort of important stop is what colored the early season losses and the defensive failures. In what I like to call the Buffalo Principle, you could point to maybe 5 plays that if they go the other way, we’re at worst 4-5 right now. That’s a much different tone, attitude, and feel around this program and in the fanbase.

So where does the defense go from here? With remaining games against the 4th, 5th, and 6th ranked total offense statistical leaders in conference, it doesn’t bode well for 2009. Against NIU, the Cardinals are looking at an opponent with a run-first mentality. Against Western, a pass happy approach. In Central, a hybrid of sorts that usually gives defensive units fits and required a nail biter last season.

As if the opponents themselves and the talent lining up against the defense wasn’t enough to worry the Cardinals fans, the creation of gameplans so vastly different is compounded by the short mid-week schedules the Cards now have to battle. For a coaching staff raising questions about the ability to adapt, this may prove to either be a chance to prove folks wrong or the chance to many to say, “I told you so” in quick fashion about the entire Parrish regime.

Ironic that the coach known best for his offensive attack and schemes may very well find the ease of the offseason dictated by the performance of the unit he is virtually hands off with.

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