Hurry Up Defense (part 5)

We all use statistics to form our opinion.

We use statistics because we believe them to be objective and to tell the story from a point of view that cannot be disputed (sans Wilt Chamberlain’s claim, of course).

If I had to summarize what I have posted over the previous four parts in just two statistics it would be these.

The average scoring defensive rank of a “top ten team in plays run” over the past 5 years is 60.3

The average rank of the “top ten scoring defenses” in “offensive plays run” is 85.2

I like these two the best because they encapsulate 100 years of football evolution that says that a coach can choose to use his offense to control the clock and keep his defense off the field to keep them rested and hungry (Bryant, Ford, Saban).

Or, you can choose not to, as we have chosen at Clemson, and choose to win “Offense First.” You can take rest and opportunity from your own defense and use it to put more pressure on the opposing defense.

I’m not saying that when the defense gets mudstomped, it’s the offense fault. It’s not the offense’s fault.

It’s the offense’s fault when they don’t double-mudstomp the opposing defense.

This is our adopted style of football and I think it looks about like it should for a 10-4 team. If we want to go further than we did this year, I think it should look different.

Auburn showed us that you can win a National Championship in this system. They also showed us that based on our number of possessions:

We would’ve needed 23 more scores to equal Auburn 2010 on offense this year.

We would’ve needed 3 more stops to equal Auburn 2010 on defense this year.

On a side note: Gus Malzahn has left Auburn and has been replaced with Scot Loeffler. At his introductory press conference, Loeffler said he sees it as his duty to “protect the defense” in the new offensive system. Is this a not-so-subtle dig at Malzahn? At the very least this is acknowledgement that he thinks he can affect the defense with his offense. With Cam Newton not walking through that door, maybe this indicates the rift between Chizik and Malzahn. I don’t know but, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess he ain’t running the hurry up all night.

Now, after writing four parts on this subject, I want to throw out the most shocking statistic I found while doing this. On the surface, it contradicts everything I’ve written, and also contradicts what has been learned over the past 100 years of football. Here it is:

Oregon was ranked #1 in the country in “Scoring Defense in the 4th quarter” in 2010. What? The king of speed has the number one 4th quarter defense in the freaking country? How can this be?

Then, I started thinking back to all of Auburn’s miraculous come-from-behind victories in 2010 and noticed that their defense was ranked #15 in the country in the 4th quarter. I immediately went to find out where we were ranked.

And guess who had the #12 “4th Quarter defense” in the country in 2011…you guessed it, our beloved Clemson Tigers (85th in the 1st quarter, 100th in the 2nd, 79th in the 3rd and 12th in the 4th). How could this possibly be? ..and how could Oregon be #18, and Houston #6 this year too? How could we, and Oregon and Houston, possibly have an advantage over other teams in the 4th Quarter?

I, of course, checked it and realized that there is no correlation between teams that run a lot of plays and great 4th Quarter defense. Texas Tech, Oklahoma St. and Georgia Tech are all ranked in the bottom 20 in “4th quarter scoring defense” blowing that correlation out of the water.

So, does this mean that we aren’t tired? Are we just in better shape than the opposition because we practice this? Are Kevin Steele’s halftime adjustments this money? (pause for uncomfortable silence) Or, is this just the ability to man-up with the game on the line?

Or, is it possible that the game isn’t on the line in the 4th quarter? Could the breaking point in the game have already happened by the 4th quarter?

Has the advantage that one team has over another already been executed and exploited so many times that by the 4th quarter, one team’s spirit is broken, and everybody just wants to get the game over with?

Well, we played in 3 games that were within 10 points at the end of the 3rd quarter this year. Those three games were against over-matched teams where our best effort was not on display until right as the thought of losing was settling in (Wofford, Maryland, and Wake Forest).

The other 9 games went like this: In our wins, we imposed our will as a team usually in the 2nd or 3rd quarter, and by in large, ended the contest. In our losses, we had horrible stretches as a team, usually in the 2nd quarter where our opponent ended the contest.

In these 9 games, the losing team’s offense was usually rendered one dimensional and desperate by the 4th quarter. There were no comeback wins in any of these games (FSU had the only thing close to a comeback when they pulled to within 5 of us).

These important stretches in our games where one team completely dominates the other and ends the game I refer to as the “Snowball Effect” (because I can’t think of a better name and “Discount Double-Check” was previously copyrighted).

In parts 1-4, you might have seen me already mention the “Snowball Effect.” I brought up Bill Young’s philosophy and how he stresses turnovers. Lo and Behold, turnovers on either side are often the catalyst to bring on the “sudden change” situations needed to create this effect.

I looked at our “Turnover Margin in Wins” and. “Turnover Margin in Losses.” In our wins we were ranked 55th in the country. That means that we didn’t get or need the turnovers in order to win our games. In our losses we were ranked 115th. That means that turning the ball over affected us much greater than it affected other teams.

Interestingly, most of the good HUNH teams are right there with us. Oklahoma is 120. West Virginia is 113. Baylor and Oklahoma St. are 102. I don’t think it’s off base to say that turnovers are affecting these type teams greater than others.

But, why?

When the game starts, the offense forces the issue immediately.

The best analogy I can use is that Clemson is like Mike Tyson and a team like Alabama is Lennox Lewis. Where Lennox extends his reach and throws heavy downhill jabs round after round, we come in aggressive and throwing haymakers. When we connect on a few of those, their defense gets fatigued and put on their heels, and their one-dimensional offense can’t catch up.

When we don’t connect and turn the ball over, it makes it easy for the opponent to score and puts their defense on the sideline. Their defense hits the reset button and the fatigue factor is diminished.

Therefore, in a span of about a quarter, games can go from competitive to blowout. You saw the repeated defensive breakdowns that allowed an onslaught of points at these times. What you might not have scrutinized enough were the offensive series surrounding these defensive breakdowns.

In our biggest wins this year we had turnovers. We had turnovers against Auburn, FSU, and Virginia Tech but we answered with offensive TDs shortly thereafter (on the very next drive against AU and VT and on the 2nd drive against FSU). In our losses, this was not the case.

I think if you know that the offense is taking liberties (rest time, extra possessions) that the defense would like to have and using them to create their own advantage, and if you know that when the offense runs more plays it diminishes defensive effectiveness, you should see things with your own eyes differently.

I want to put on a big pair of “Offense-First Glasses” and revisit sections in four games of this past season…yep, those four games.

Let’s look at those critical quarters in each of our losses where the “Snowball Effect” worked against us. Notice the summaries of three of these games.

First, Georgia Tech.

Summary: GT took an insurmountable halftime lead of 24-3 by dominating the later part of the 1st quarter and entire 2nd quarter. Final Score 31-17. (Zero 4th quarter points given up on defense)

The defense started the game with a 3 and out in dominating fashion followed by an over 4 minute drive by the offense that resulted in a FG. 3-0 CU. The defense came right back out and forced another 3 and out.

Then: 57 seconds later, D.J. Howard fumbled on our own 15 yard line creating a “sudden change” situation for the defense. 6 plays later, the defense gives up a TD, 7-3 GT. If the offense answers and takes control over the game on the next drive, this is just a blip on the radar.

Offense: 6 plays and a punt.

The 2nd quarter starts and GT drives to our 5 yard line and was held to a FG to make the score 10-3. Now, our defense could use a little rest time and our offense needs to score first, or with GT’s grinding offensive style, the game is in serious jeopardy.

Offense: 3 and out in 1:22 putting the defense back on the field. GT then went on an 80 yard TD drive to go up 17-3.

On the kickoff, Sammy makes a play and returns it to midfield. Our offense gets one first down and then has to punt. That drive also lasted 1:22. Tech got the ball back and went 80 yards for the 24-3 lead. Game.

Offense during the Snowball: 1 red zone turnover, 4 straight punts.

Next N.C. St.,

Summary: NC St. took an insurmountable 27-3 halftime lead by dominating the latter part of the 1st quarter and entire 2nd quarter. Final Score 37-13. (Zero 4th quarter points given up)

NC St. has had 4 possessions and been forced to punt 4 times up to this point. Up 3-0, Clemson’s offense has just had two 3 and outs lasting under 1:30 a piece heading into the 2nd quarter.

N.C. St. discovers we can’t cover TE George Bryan and rides him all the way down the field to go up 7-3.

On the 1st play of the next drive, Tajh Boyd fumbles at our own 6 and the snowball effect starts. N.C. St. scores to go up 14-3.

N.C. St. is a less talented team though and much easier to come back from (like Maryland), but it’s go time on offense right now. 4 plays later, Bellamy fumbles on our own 18.

Our defense steps up and holds them to a FG. 17-3 (Note: it is often series like these where the defense steps up with their back against the wall, gives full effort with the game on the line, and then come back on the next series with less energy. They need a little time).

The next offensive series: 3 and out. They return the punt to our 11. 2 plays later, TD NCS. 24-3

We get the ball back: 4 plays and punt.

Our gassed defense goes back out there and gets manhandled by giving up chunk yardage rushing all the way down the field for another FG before the half. 27-3. Game.

The offense during this crucial stretch: 2 red zone turnovers, 5 punts.

Next SC,

Summary: This game didn’t have the “Snowball Effect” because we answered the bell in the 2nd quarter. This game was more of a Lennox Lewis-style beatdown which means South Carolina imposed their will (we only ran 60 plays).

The offense did answer the bell in the 2nd quarter after a couple quick 3 and outs in the 1st quarter. We had a nice 5 minute TD drive and a blocked punt that kept things close for awhile (17-10 at half). But, that didn’t hide the fact that we were completely dominated up front the entire game (jab, jab, jab). South Carolina pulled away in the 2nd half en route to a 34-13 win.

This was more of your classic old-school drubbing on both sides of the ball for USC. We couldn’t run. We couldn’t throw. The defense was terrible in letting Connor Shaw wreak havoc all game long with his legs and arm. The 55 yard pass on the first drive of the 2nd half was a killer and helped take it to 24-10 USC.

Offense: 11 drives, 7 punts, 2 FGs, 1 TD, 1 turnover

Then we get to West Virginia

The “Snowball Effect” Hall of Fame Crapterpiece.

Summary: West Virginia took an insurmountable 49-20 halftime lead after dominating the latter part of the 1st quarter and entire 2nd quarter. Final Score 70-33. (Seven 4th Quarter Points allowed)

The first quarter started out with an insane pace of 51 offensive plays in the 1st Quarter. That put both teams on pace for 100 plays each. The conditions were right for “Snow.”

Although, our defensive energy level seems pretty good until the last series of the 1st Quarter when I notice some slowing down and hands on hips. We’re playing hard on defense. They are just kicking our ass. Their defense, on the other hand, looks noticeably slower and more tired than us.

The 1st quarter ends with us up 17-14 and West Virginia running 5 plays in the first 1:30 of the 2nd quarter. Tavon Austin scores from 27 yards out. 21-17 WVU.

The offense gets their noticeably gassed defense on the field next and is licking their chops. We run 8 plays in about 2 minutes and get down to their one yard line. Do I have to type this? You know what happens next. It is Snowing in Miami. 28-17 WVU.

Our offense gets their gassed defense right back on the field though so this should be a mismatch. Instead, we inexplicably go 3 and out and I don’t really see an excuse for why we can’t pound them with the run.

Our defense has gotten a little rest here but their backs are against the wall and the game is on the line. Watching the game, I remember the effort level went up right here. My lasting image of this drive is a-step-slow Andre Branch chasing Geno Smith to the sideline. The defense steps up, maxes effort, and gets the stop necessary to keep us in the game (Again, right here like N.C. St. I’m not sure the D has much left in the tank now. We need halftime).

The offense comes back out and has a 6 play drive for a FG.

We’re still in it if we can get a stop. The defense put a lot of effort into the first three plays but they gave up a 3rd and 4 and then added a 15 yard penalty on top. TD, Geno Smith. 35-20. Probably Game.

On the 2nd play of the next series, Tajh throws an INT in our territory. Our gassed D is back out there in “sudden change.” TD, West Virginia. 42-20. Ugly.

On the first play of the next series Tajh fumbles. Our gassed D is back for a curtain call and my airsickness bag overfloweth. TD, West Virginia. 49-20.

The offense during the Snowball: 3 turnovers, 1 Defensive TD, 1 “3 and out,” 1 FG and gave up more points than they scored in those 4 possessions.

So, in the critical parts of the GT, NCS, and WVU losses where the opponent took over the game and it went from “competitive to over,” the offense had:

17 drives, 10 punts, 6 turnovers (3 red zone, 1 Defensive TD), 1 FG.

You saw that with your own eyes.

You saw a team get drubbed, not a defense. More specifically, you saw a team that plays “Offense First” football get drubbed.


Thanks to STS for letting me post this even though there are some dissenting opinions. Very cool.

That’s one of the many reasons why STS is doing a great service for Clemson fans. They have already correctly honed in on the fact that we need to be stronger and tougher up front if we are to take the next step.

It's closer to the truth to say that the “Devil’s Playground” is big business college football that has made Dabo a rich man, not the internet. Ask yourself what’s more laughable; that Dabo is the 2nd highest paid state employee or that he publicly described fans who criticized him as “quitters?” The best thing for the program is for fans to support Dabo every way they can, demand the things we need to be successful from the Administration, and then hold everybody to a standard of “greatness.”

Part of competing successfully in college football today is with an entire network and community of donors, fans, and people of influence that direct that influence and their money to the places best needed for our program to succeed.

I just want this information out there and for Clemson fans to be the best educated. Even if this didn’t fully change your mind now, I want this bug in your ear. My goal here is that if you’re going to pull out the pitchforks and demand something, make sure you’re part of the solution.

I appreciate everybody who gave me feedback on this positive or negative. It was a lot of work doing this and also hiding this (I think) defcon 6 level geekage from my lady. Hey, I got an image to uphold around the house. Go Tigers!

PS. South Carolina must go down next November

These opinions are not necessarily those of the Proprietors of Shakin' The Southland.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Shakin The Southland

You must be a member of Shakin The Southland to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Shakin The Southland. You should read them.

Join Shakin The Southland

You must be a member of Shakin The Southland to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Shakin The Southland. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.