When grading the WKU defense, it's vital we look at "per play" stats, instead of "per game".
For access to the full Excel sheet with stats, including "per play" percentiles, "Havoc", and more, CLICK HERE.
Overall rankings: If you look at "per game" stats, WKU's defense will be among the worst in FBS. But it's vital to acknowledge the fast pace of WKU's offense means the defense will also face more plays--meaning more yards, more points for the opponent, in addition to one of only three games played so far going into triple overtime. "Per game" stats are an unfair ranking, "per play" is more accurate.
• WKU points per play allowed: 0.46, No. 93 in FBS.
• WKU yards per play allowed: 6.2, No. 98 in FBS.
• WKU yards per rush allowed: 4.1, No. 68 in FBS.
• WKU yards per pass attempt allowed: 8.7, No. 113 in FBS.
So through three games, we see the WKU rush defense is actually not too bad so far (thanks mostly to a Hercules effort against Illinois.) Pass defense obviously can improve.
Passing downs: The yards per pass allowed is magnified when you dive into WKU's defense against second/third-and-longs. WKU ranks No. 93 in FBS in standard down defense, compared to No. 117 in passing down defense. Passing downs are defined as second-and-8, or third/fourth-and-5 or longer.
How to improve: Three WKU defenders were drafted into the NFL in the last two years. That's a big loss for many Power 5 schools, let alone WKU, in addition to numerous other all-conference players like Xavius Boyd, Tyree Robinson and Kiante Young gone.
Despite the loss of talent, there's enough tools to work with here. WKU is playing well enough on regular downs to win more games than they lose, given the talent on offense.
The key word going forward for WKU is "finish". Get a big stuff on first-and-10? Don't give up a 12-yard pass on second-and-11. It doesn't matter that you're serviceable on early downs if you can't get off the field.
Just a few more "finish" plays could pay huge dividends going forward.
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