Giving up the big play is not Arizona’s style (plus poll on UA-UW)by Anthony Gimino on Oct. 09, 2009, under Sports
The unofficial motto of the Arizona defense: Make ‘em earn it.
That’s the thing defensive coordinator Mark Stoops likes best through four games.
“I think every team we’ve played, they’ve earned every yard they’ve got,” he said. “I think that’s a sign of a good defense — just not blowing things and giving things. They’re earning their yards.”
Translation: The other team isn’t getting long, cheap plays that can be back-breakers, momentum-changers and game-winners.
Is he right?
Arizona has allowed only four big plays (three came against Iowa, which helps explain the loss):
–A 43-yard run to Iowa running back Adam Robinson.
–A 34-yard pass to Iowa’s Marvin McNutt.
–A 29-yard pass to Iowa’s Allen Reisner.
–A 25-yard pass to Oregon State’s James Rodgers.
That’s it. One run of 20-plus yards. Three passes of 25-plus yards. We’ll use those lengths as definitions of big plays.
Compare that to Washington. The Huskies have allowed 11 big runs and 14 big passes. Not even Washington’s difficult schedule (LSU, USC, Stanford, Notre Dame) can account for the difference in those two defenses.
Checking all of the Pac-10 in combined big plays, the list looks like this, using per-game averages (I’d like to say I spent hours looking through every box score, but it’s a lot easier to do the research on cfbstats.com):
1. Arizona, 1.0
2. USC, 1.2
3. Oregon State, 1.4
4. Oregon, 1.6
5. UCLA, 1.75
6. Stanford, 1.8
7. Arizona State, 2.0
8. Cal, 3.2
9. Washington, 5.0
10. Washington, 5.4
“Surely, I would like some plays back, I would like some points back,” Stoops said.
But it’s hard to complain too much about UA’s defense. It’s working. Make the other team try to put together long drives. If they can do so without breaking down with a penalty or turnover or dropped pass or whatever … more power to them.
Sometimes, the opponent can do it. But at least Arizona is making those guys on the other side earn it.
Oregon State scored four touchdowns against Arizona, but had to be consistently efficient to get into the end zone. The Beavers’ TD drives:
–14 plays, 83 yards
–11 plays, 71 yards
–9 plays, 65 yards
–12 plays, 62 yards
Iowa’s three touchdown drives averaged 10 plays, 73 yards.
NAU had a touchdown drive of 14 plays and 79 yards. The Lumberjacks also scored late after an interception on a 19-yard drive.
Other than that, the UA offense has been doing its part, too — not putting its defense in bad field position.
Washington offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier had this to say about Arizona to the Seattle Times:
“They run around and play very, very aggressively. They have very good team speed. They play a lot of zone coverage with their eyes on the quarterback — they’ve got six interceptions — so they are very talented in the back end and their up-front guys get after the passer. They get after you, but they cover in the back end so it’s hard because you want to get the ball off but they cover well.”
Arizona’s big-play stinginess stacks up favorably against the nation’s best.
–No. 1 Florida has allowed four long plays in four games … the same as Arizona.
–No. 2 Texas has yielded five big plays in four games.
–No. 3 Alabama has allowed eight long plays in five games.
“I think we’re playing up to expectations,” Stoops said.
“I don’t think we have the kind of defense that all of a sudden is going to wow you and be No. 1 in the country in total yards. That’s not us. Be we need to be good and sound and tough, and I think we’re doing that.”