Is the defense as bad as we think?
On the surface giving up 13 first half points to NAU was not terrible and the second half saw the defense use a lot of back-ups and young players. But were there any good performances by the defense? I decided to break things up a quarter by quarter. A good defensive effort would be 75 yards or less and no scores. A decent performance would be 100 yards or less and surrender seven points or less.
In eight quarters of football the defense had just three quarters where they gave up seven points or less and just one where they have up 75 yards or less. Keep in mind that 75 yards a quarter is still 300 yards, which in modern football is a pretty good showing.
In the third quarter against Hawaii Arizona gave up just a single touchdown, but also allowed the Warriors to amass 151 yards. How did they keep them from scoring? They forced a trio of turnovers. It was also the only quarter that Arizona had the time of possession edge.
In the other three quarters they gave up 10-14 points and 111 yards or more.
Defensive numbers vs. Hawaii:
Against NAU the first half numbers are okay, but not good enough against an FCS opponent. In the first quarter the Wildcats gave up a single touchdown and 101 yards. The second quarter saw them give up two field goals and just 70 yards. I would argue that the defense was decent that half, though hardly dominant.
The second half was not as good. The third quarter was particularly rough as the Wildcats allowed two NAU scores and 158 yards of offense. It may have been worse had they not intercepted Case Cookus. The fourth quarter was much of the same, with two more touchdowns and 114 yards. One of those scores was by back-up Heath Beemiller who was the team’s No. 3 QB in the season opener against Missouri State.
Defensive Numbers vs. NAU:
That may be the most frustrating thing about the NAU game. The Lumberjacks put up nearly the same offensive numbers against their season opening FCS opponent as they did against the Wildcats. Against the Bears they scored 37 points and gained 439 yards. Against Arizona, 41 and 442.
Similarly, Hawaii had more trouble against Oregon State than they did the Wildcats. Against the Beavers they gained 488 yards (vs. 595) and scored 31 points (vs. 45).
Things may not get any better this weekend. Although it was against Montana State and UTEP, Texas Tech has scored 83 points and gained 1,115 yards. (For comparison Arizona has scored 103 and 1,259.)