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Kansas Football: Reviewing the Defensive Performance against Texas Tech

A look at how the Kansas defense performed against the Red Raiders.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Over at, Jesse Newell posted his look at the box score from Saturday's game against Texas Tech.  Using the adjusted box score, Newell believes the defense performed reasonably well considering the hurdles created by the offense.  As a writer, I love what Newell does most of the time but this is one instance where I have to question the approach used to come to this conclusion.  There's no question the offense created issues for the defensive side of the ball.  Short drives to keep them on the field and short fields being handed to Tech causes problems.  I'm just not convinced the defense did a good enough job to lay almost all of the blame at the feet of the offense.

Newell's box score makes a few adjustments to account for some of the context that gets lost in the traditional box score used in college football.  The adjustments include focusing on yards per play and yards per possession, putting sack yards on the passing stats, and ignoring things like penalties and time of possession.  After doing this, Newell states:

Texas Tech's yards per play (5.2) and yards per possession (30.5) were actually below the NCAA average.

It's true that Tech's yards per possession ended up below the NCAA average when counting all drives on Saturday.  However, as Newell points out, Texas Tech had great field position throughout the day.  On two of their possessions, they started at the 16 and the 4 yard lines.  Subtracting those drives because they're guaranteed to hurt the average regardless of outcome, ups the average to 33 yards per possession.  Not a big change but I think there is one more adjustment we can do that gives an even better look at the defensive performance in terms of yards per possession.  That adjustment is eliminating the possessions that began in the 4th quarter entirely.  It was garbage time against Tech's second and third string players.  During those 4 drives, Tech ran 13 plays and gained 13 yards.  After these adjustments, Tech's yards per possession jumps all the way up to 47 yards.  Yards per play after taking out the 4th quarter possessions goes up to 6 yards.

The other curious thing I noticed from his box score were the averages shown for yards/carry and yards/attempt.  On the yards per carry, Newell's box score has 3.0 and I'm not clear where he gets this number.  Looking at the traditional box score, Tech gained 114 yards on 43 carries.  That's not accurate because it is counting sack losses as negative rushing yards.  Newell's box score correctly attributes that to the passing game.  The traditional box score also includes a -43 yards attributed to "team".  If we're going to adjust the box score, I don't think we can reasonably conclude horrific snaps are attributable to the defense.  So after accounting for that, we see 4.3 yards per rush.  Not terrible but nowhere near as good as 3.0 would lead you to believe.  On the yards per pass, the difference isn't a lot but I'm not really worried about anything other than how the defense performed against Mayfield.  Newell's box score shows 10.9 yards/completion and 6.8 per attempt. Looking only at Mayfield, we have 11.2 yards/completion and 7.2 per attempt.  Both of those numbers are still slightly below Tech's average on the season, just not shiny as the simple adjusted box score would have you believe.

Overall, I recommend reading Newell's box score every week.  He gives a unique insight into what happened and uses it to draw solid conclusions from the game.  I just think this week required a bit more context to put some of the numbers closer to reality.  I do agree with his conclusion that the defense played reasonably well considering the circumstances but I don't think they played well enough to be close to satisfied or to say with an average offensive performance, we should have expected a win.  What does everyone else think?