BYU Defense 2011: Inside The Numbers

The strength of the 2011 Brigham Young Cougars football team was the defense. This unit allowed 313.4 yards per game (13th best nationally) and 20.4 points per game (22nd best nationally). While these numbers are impressive, they don’t adequately represent how well the BYU defense played this past season.

The BYU defense set the standard in the season opener. Kyle Van Noy’s game-winning fumble recovery for a touchdown was the exclamation point on a dominating day for the Cougar D. That game was against the Mississippi Rebels from the SEC. The SEC is regularly home to the nation’s most elite defenses. In four key statistical categories, the BYU defense played as well, or better, than most of the SEC defenses the Rebels faced in 2011.

The table below compares the offensive points allowed, total yards allowed, first downs, and third down efficiency for Ole Miss against BYU and its eight conference games.

BYU finished in the top half of every category except total offense where BYU was exactly in the middle.

One of the those SEC defenses that earned a reputation as one of the best in the land was the Georgia Bulldogs. In the SEC Championship game, Georgia did not allow LSU to gain a single first down in the first half. On November 5, Georgia played New Mexico State, the same New Mexico State team BYU played on November 19. Looking at the statistics from each game, BYU had the upper hand.

New Mexico State running back Kenny Turner had 221 yards of total offense against Georgia, but only 78 against BYU.

Another BYU opponent from 2011 that played some of the best teams in the country was Tulsa. Once again, for ease of processing, here is another table comparing how Tulsa fared offensively against the teams that finished the season ranked numbers 3, 6, and 15 in the nation and BYU.

Not only did BYU hold Tulsa to fewer total yards than these three teams, BYU held Tulsa to its lowest total yards for the season (272). The Golden Hurricane averaged 440.4 yards per game, of which 191.7 was rushing yards.

Perhaps, the most misleading stat about the BYU defense is the 20.4 points allowed per game. During the course of the season, the BYU offense or special teams had nine turnovers that opponents either returned for touchdowns or started with the ball in field goal range. Adjusting the points scored by opponents to remove the fumble and interception returns for touchdowns, to subtract field goals made when drives started in field goal range, and to subtract three points for touchdowns scored when drives started in field goal range, the points that the BYU defense allowed drops to 16.9 points per game. To put that into perspective, Penn State had the fifth best scoring defense in the nation allowing 16.8 points per game. Additionally, only one BYU team since 1985 has allowed fewer points per game (2006).

The 2011 BYU defense was very good. An in depth look at the numbers shows that the men on that side of the ball deserve special recognition for the way they played last year. Against common opponents, the BYU defense was on par with the nation’s elite.

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