Saturday was quite an epic explosion when it comes to scores, point totals and the like. In addition to the 70-63 West Virginia track meet against Baylor, Georgia beat Tennessee 51-44, Miami beat NC State 44-37 and there was a slew of games with scores into the 40's and 30's. If you're a defensive football-loving being, like myself, the good thing is, we don't have to bank on the entire season going this route.
For many teams, the explosions were more about miscues than just being flat-out bad on defense. The early games in the conference season saw teams come out on their heels as offenses out game-planned their defensive counterparts.
Now, it is time for the defenses to catch up.
From a football X and O's standpoint, look for the defenses to go back to the basics, starting with limiting explosion plays. Explosion plays are runs that go for longer than 15 yards and passes that get longer than 20-25. There are three ways explosion plays happen: blown assignments, missed tackles and bad technique.
Getting back to basics addresses all of these points.
Conference football is a new season, and while that caliber of play worked for the non-conference slate, stepping up against better competition is a must. Getting back to basics means playing assignment football and using good technique.
Expect your defenses to sit down and go over their assignments. Blown coverages against quality competition turn into six points. Blown runfits against high-caliber running backs become momentum-swinging runs. We saw plenty of both of these on Saturday afternoon.
Another egregious sign of teams being not quite ready to start the hard road of conference football: poor tackling. Tackling is not just getting guys on the ground. Tackling starts with the approach, with the positioning, with the striking and with putting the ball-carrier into the turf.
Do you expect to see defenses improve going forward?
Saturday was painful to watch: poor angles, overrunning, players lunging, guys stopping their feet and a plethora of athletes grabbing for the strip instead of getting the ball carrier on the ground. Part of practice this week will be working angles, making sure players are keeping their head behind the football, using the sideline as the extra defender and closing the gate on opponents.
All of the defenses are not as bad as what we saw out of West Virginia and Baylor; this week in practice, look for teams to focus on the basics. There are going to be some point explosions, especially with the high-flying teams of the Big 12, but don't expect this weekend to be the norm. Defensive coordinators take as much pride in their work as the offensive guys that average fans love to see put points on the board.
As a fan, watch for improvements defensively: better angles, better tackling and more communication as teams settle into full-time big boy football now that conference play has arrived.