With Bear Bryant in his houndstooth hat on the sideline, LB Barry Krauss ran head-first into Penn State RB Mike Guman on fourth-and-inches from inside the one-yard-line. The stop gave Alabama the first of what would be back-to-back national championships, the last two for the legendary Bryant. The final score of that Sugar Bowl? 14-10.
That was 1979 when a 14-10 game was common. Playing defense was common. Teams still play defense today. They just aren’t very good at it. How about these scores from last weekend: 56-35, 59-56, and everyone’s favorite, 74-72. What happened to the defense? Put simply, it died.
Oklahoma-West Virginia No. 6 Oklahoma laid their defense to rest earlier in the season. The Sooners became the first team in FBS history to give up 40 or more points in four straight games and win them all. When the little rubber pellets underneath the artificial turf settled last Friday, the Sooners and the 12th-ranked Mountaineers had run 155 plays for a grand total of 1,372 yards of offense. There were only three punts the entire game. Final score: Sooners 59, Mountaineers 56. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen continues to lose more hair. His team has scored 41 and 56 points the past two weeks. The Mountaineers lost both games.
LSU-Texas A&M Aggies QB Kellen Mond threw an interception as he was trying to mount a last-minute, game-tying drive against then-7th ranked LSU. Good thing for Mond his knee had hit the ground when he fielded the shotgun snap from center. Texas A&M kept possession of the football and on the game’s final play Mond threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Quartney Davis. The resulting extra point tied the game at 31-31 and sent it to overtime.
Ahhh, overtime. What transpired after regulation play was seven overtime periods that saw the Aggies and Tigers combine for 10 touchdowns and three field goals. When it was all said and done, the Aggies emerged from the turf as 74-72 winners. Oh, as a point of note, LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda – whose defense gave up 74 points! – is the highest paid assistant coach in the nation. He makes a cool $2.5 million a year.
The Nation’s Best Defense A fourth-ranked Michigan traveled to Ohio State for the two teams’ annual season-ending rivalry game. In the 115th edition of ‘The Game’ Michigan was actually favored to win … on the road. Big mistake. Michigan and defensive coordinator Don Brown entered last Saturday with the nation’s best defense. The Wolverines allowed opposing offenses just 234.8 yards per game going into last week. After scoring twice near the end of the first half, Michigan trailed 24-19 at the intermission. Then, the nation’s top defense died as well.
Brown’s defense gave up 38 points in the second half for a grand total of 62. The Michigan defense was torched for a season-high 567 total yards and QB Dwayne Haskins threw six touchdown passes, the most ever allowed by a Michigan defense. Somehow, Michigan still leads the country in total defense now giving up an average of 262.5 yards per game.
A Slow Death In the 2000s, more teams began using some form of a spread offense, which forced defenses to defend the entire field. Near the end of the 2000s – 2009 to be exact – another factor helped bring on the death of defense at the college level. On downfield pass plays, officials would now allow offensive linemen to be three yards downfield. The result has been the rise of the RPO, or run-pass option. Quarterbacks read a defender and decide whether to run the football or pass it. In essence, the defense is always wrong.
It will continue to be wrong as fans of the game love offense. Even Army, connoisseurs of the triple option, love offense. They love it so much that the Black Knights lead the country in time of possession – 39 minutes, 15 seconds per game. Controlling the ball that long means you don’t have to play defense as much. That’s okay though. Defense is dead anyway.