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Digging A Little Deeper Into The Defense

Football Outsiders tracks some unique rate stats that I think provide a little more insight into what's going right or wrong with an offense or defense. In this case, I'm going to compare NC State's defensive performance in a few categories from last season to this one.

All stats and definitions can be found here. (They're straightforward, I promise.)

FD: First Down rate, the percentage of opponent offensive drives that result in at least one first down or touchdown.
AY: Available Yards, yards earned by the opponent offense divided by the total number of yards available based on starting field position.
Ex: Explosive Drives, the percentage of each opponent offense's drives that average at least 10 yards per play.
Me: Methodical Drives, the percentage of each opponent offense's drives that run 10 or more plays.

NCSU D FD (Rk) AY (Rk) Ex (Rk) Me (Rk)
2010 .623 (23) .379 (16) .082 (17) .082 (7)
2011 .674 (63) .536 (97) .174 (98) .130 (52)


While State's 2010 defense wasn't overly impressive in yards allowed per game or per play, it performed well in rate categories like these because it forced a lot of miscues and got itself off the field on 3rd down. No doubt those were big reasons why methodical, 10-play drives were so rare, happening just eight percent of the time. The same low percentage of opponents' drives were explosive, which suggests that the Pack also did a nice job limiting big plays.

This season...not so much. Not so much across the board. The defense is allowing 73 more total yards per game, which is reflected to some extent in the AY column, and the rate at which it has allowed explosive drives has more than doubled. In conclusion, it really helps to have a healthy and effective front seven. But I suppose that ship done sailed.