Loyal Cougars

By The Numbers: BYU’s defense is even better than in 2012

Examining BYU’s 2013 defensive performance this season compared to the historically-great 2012 defense.

The following tweet got my attention:

This got me thinking: is this edition of the BYU defense better this year than it was last year?

First, the stats. According to Football Outsiders’ S&P defense ranking (which takes into account strength of schedule and pace of play), the BYU defense is ranked No. 7 in the FBS. Last season, BYU finished 12th. Against the run, BYU is 7th this season, and 24th against the pass. Last season BYU was 4th against the run and 14th against the pass.

To Kevin’s point above, BYU’s front seven is awesome. He mentioned in later tweets BYU’s deep linebacker corps and specifically called out Eathyn Manumaleuna (though he didn’t attempt to use his name on Twitter for obvious reasons). This is someone covering a Big 12 team spontaneously talking up BYU’s front seven.

More stats: Last year, BYU gave up 4.6 yards per play, and this year the Cougars give up 4.1. And here’s a remarkable nugget: BYU is giving up only 20.2 yards per drive (versus 24 yards per drive last year). That’s amazing.

I think BYU’s defensive backfield is what most of us worry about. BYU is vulnerable to the long ball, as Georgia Tech and Utah showed. But Daniel Sorensen is an excellent safety, and Robertson Daniel is excellent in run support, one of the best BYU corners I can remember in that role. He sometimes gets beat on double moves in the passing game, but the young man knows how to come up and make a tackle.

When we started the season, I assumed the defense was going to take a step back. I believed that the losses of seniors like Ziggy Ansah, Brandon Ogletree and Preston Hadley would set them back, and that the injuries to the presumptive starting DBs would make that even worse. As good as Kyle Van Noy is, one man does not a dominant defense make.

But KVN has been awesome, the LB group as a whole is playing at a very high level, and Manumaleuna is dominating in the middle of the line. We’re now seeing the emergence of Marques Johnson as a load at nose tackle, too. Yes, there are games to be played and the full story is not written yet, but this defense has outplayed last year’s squad, albeit by the slimmest of margins.

What are your thoughts on this year’s defense?


  1. fdnman

    October 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    I am excited to see what a full game looks like with Johnson in and Manumaleuna allowed to move over to DE…

    • Brett Hein

      October 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      Me too. Manumaleuna has been great, but he looks like the best shape of his career right now and can be great on the end. Johnson is rounding into form. Anytime you can get a guy that big who is capable, it helps. Run defense should be even more stout.

  2. Tim Flaherty

    October 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Can anyone tell me what’s up with Bronson Kafusi? He’ll swat a pass attempt here and chase down a running back there, but you rarely hear his name called anymore. He moves well side-to-side but you just don’t see him penetrating deep into the back field with a bull rush or shifty moves. Is he soft? A guy with his size and athleticism should be dominating but he seems an afterthought out there. What gives?

    • Fierce 94

      October 15, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      To Tim Flaherty- Remember that in a 3-4, the DE position (Kaufusi’s/ZIggy’s position from last year) isn’t supposed to get pressure necessarily like a DE does in a 4-3. Ziggy only had 4.5 sacks from the DE position all last year. The DE job is to occupy the blockers so that the OLB (Fua+Van Noy) are freed up to rush the passer. Of course, the DE will sometimes get QB pressures, but that isn’t their primary role. If the run defense is stout, and consistent pressure is being applied to the QB, then that means that Kaufusi is doing his job, even if the stats don’t show it.

  3. Kaysvillecougar

    October 15, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    BYU’s defense is stout again this year but they are not as good as last year to this point in the season. The statistics above are mixed, but l underestimated how dominant Ziggy was in certain games. He absolutely terrorized Utah St. and Georgia Tech last yr. This yr., our D doesn’t scare anyone, except KVN but that’s part of what makes them so effective. As a team they play so well together and trust each other. Bronco has done a great job of fostering that trust. The exciting thing is that’s starting to develop on the offensive side. This should be a fun last half of the season!

  4. Ace Tomato

    October 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

    BYU’s defense is giving up 80 more yards per game and is ranked #25 in Total Defense. In 2012, they gave up only 266 ypg, which is a ridiculous number. The defense this year is great, but it doesn’t hold a candle to 2012.

    And I’m not sure where you’re getting your yards per play stats. The official NCAA stats show 4.38 yards per play in 2012 vs 4.50 this year. Both numbers are solid, but the case for 2013 being > 2012 is a weak one.

    • Adam Mangum

      October 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

      Yards per game is useless. BYU’s defense is on the field for 12 more plays a game this year.

      I got my data from FBS Drive Stats, which is not aligned with BYU’s official stats. According to BYU’s stats, the defense gave up 4.4 yards per play in 2012 and is giving up 4.5 yards per play this season. To say that the case is a week one is disingenious — you can certainly disagree, but the stats are close. And according to several advanced stats sites (including Football Outsiders), BYU’s defense is as good if not better.

  5. Ryan Smith

    October 16, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    You can’t forget that the Go Fast Go Hard is giving the opposition more scoring opportunities. I think it’s even more impressive that the D’s this stout. Think of the Utah game and all the 3 and outs. Even with that they only gave up 1 3rd down conversion. If spencer Hadley played vs. Utah that single conversion wouldn’t have happened. To bad cause that play lost the game I think. Can you imagine if Jordon Johnson and Trammel were playing the corner spots in addition to Rob Daniel. I bet that tweak which would take Povey off the field would make this D the scariest in BYU history.

    • Adam Mangum

      October 17, 2013 at 10:26 am

      I know — stronger cover corners might make this a top 5 D nationally. But Daniel has been awesome in run support, so you have to give him that.