Friday, November 10, 2017

UConn pass defense putting up historically bad numbers

The struggles in pass defense have been well documented but it's time to break it down statistically.

Since UConn made the move to the FBS level in 2002, the most passing yards per game allowed in a season was by California which gave up 4,406 yards in 12 games, an average of 367.2 per game. The Bears also gave up a staggering 42 touchdown passes that season with five games with at least 5 TD passes surrendered. Last season Arizona State allowed 357.4 passing yards per contest and in 2002 Purdue gave up 356.5 yards a game and those are the only teams I could find allowing at least 350 passing yards per game. Well, with three games left to play the Huskies are sitting at 378.6 passing yards allowed per contest heading into tomorrow's showdown with UCF, which happens to be the highest scoring team in FBS.

I looked back at that Cal team, the Bears had nine defensive backs with at least 15 tackles and five of them were either freshmen or sophomores which is somewhat similar to what UConn is dealing with this season. It should be noted that two years later when the sophomores and freshmen were seniors and juniors, Cal allowed only 245 passing yards per game, 12 fewer TD passes and the passing completion percentage of the opponents dropped from 65.4 to 59.7 percent.

At Tuesday's media availability, we got to interview the two coordinators for the first time since the season began. Obviously there were plenty of questions to be asked and I thought one of the best points that defensive coordinator Billy Crocker made is that as young as the Huskies are in the secondary (5 freshman and 1 sophomore are among 11 defensive backs with at least 10 tackles this season) it's made it difficult to disguise the defensive looks because the players are still learning the defense. That doesn't even take into account that the Huskies will likely be starting their eighth different combination in the secondary this season although much of that is by UConn's doing as they move players in and out of the starting lineup.

With a death in the family resulting in Brayden Brown returning home to be with his family and Jordan Swann no longer a starting cornerback, UConn is not expected to have a true freshman starting on defense for the first time since the Virginia game. We'll see if having a more experienced group of defensive backs will aid the cause of the struggling defense.

There are so many frightening numbers associated with this year's defense. Here are some:

UConn is giving up an average of 22 plays from scrimmage of at least 10 yards which is not only the most at the FBS level but the highest total in the last eight seasons.

UConn has already given up more passing yards, completions and touchdowns in its program history with three games left to play

From 2002-2016, UConn allowed opposing teams to have a passer rater higher than 190.0 four times but it has already happened four times this season. With UCF ranking second nationally in passing efficiency, the Huskies will have their work cut out for them to keep from adding to the tally.

If there is a silver lining, it should be noted that Boston College ranks 13th among 14 ACC teams in passing yards per game and completion percentage trailing only the triple-option Georgia Tech team that has only attempted 11 passes per game this season while Cincinnati has the lowest passer rating of any team in the American Athletic Conference so perhaps there will be a chance for Huskies' struggling secondary to catch their breath after tomorrow's game.

Unfortunately, the practice of not releasing kickoff times until a week or two before the game will prevent me from covering tomorrow's game. I also cover the UConn women's basketball team and at the time that I needed to book my flight to Columbus, Ohio for Sunday's season opening basketball game, I had no idea what time the football game would be starting. If I had known it was going to be a noon start, I might have been able to be in Orlando tomorrow and then fly to Columbus Saturday night.


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