enCYCLONEpedia: Second Half Adjustments

By Kirk Haaland of enCYCLONEpedia.comFollow Kirk on Twitter @Khaal53

The mark of any great coach is their ability to not only make adjustments on the fly and in preparation for the second half of individual games, but also to make adjustments as the season wears on. If you were to grade out the Iowa State coaching staff on that alone this year — especially the defensive staff — we would have some honor roll students as coaches in Ames.

The improvement of the defense since the debacle in Columbia, Mo. has been noted multiple times and the data to support that is significant. So, I went ahead and “DWID” (Gene Chizik reference to his team’s motto last year, “DWWD (Do What We Do) — The most unnecessary acronym of all-time since it takes longer to say the letters than the phrase itself) and compiled all of the key stats of the first and second half of the season as well as game by game for analysis.

There are numbers compiled on a per game basis but also on a per possession basis, which is more real world, especially in terms of points given up. For instance, due to the varying number of possessions in a game, the scoring defense performance against Kansas (10 points in 9 possessions) is very equivalent to UConn (20 points in 17 possessions), even though the total points allowed was doubled. That same theory holds true for turnovers and explains why I show them and how often they occur as a percentage of possessions as opposed to just the raw turnover numbers.

Here are the game by game stats for the Iowa State defense:

defense game by game1 550x153

The season totals comparison for the first six games to the last six games:

defense 1 vs 21 311x350

Every single game in the second half of the season resulted in Iowa State holding the opponent to fewer points than their season average, while that only happened three times in the first half (Iowa would technically qualify if you only consider the points given up in regulation).

In the second half of the season, only Kansas State scored more points per possession against Iowa State than they averaged for the entire season.  In the second half, the Cyclone defense held high powered offenses like Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma to astoundingly low scoring numbers. Tech scored 2+ points per possession less versus Iowa State than their season average while OSU and OU were held to more than 1 point less than their season average.

Through the first half of the year,ISU was notably shredded on the ground and gave up 218 yards per game.  While that number lowered to 177 yards per game in the second half of the season, the average given up per rush actually climbed from 4.48 yards per carry to 4.82 yards per carry.

The notables:

  • The Cyclone defense allowed 7.64 pass yards per attempt in the first half of the season and just 6.64 pass yards per attempt in the second half of the season.  Interestingly, the second half of the year faced some of the more high powered throwing teams like Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
  • The defense improved from 10 turnovers to 14 turnovers but it is even more noticeable in terms of percentage of possessions that a turnover was created.  In the first six games, the defense was only able to get a turnover on 11.11 percent of possessions. In the second half of the year, they were able to get 18.18 percent (that would put the ISU defense 4thin the NCAA when compared to the rest of the team’s full schedule performance).
  • In the first half of the year, the defense gave up 24 touchdowns as compared to just 13 in the second half of the year.  Again, when you look at it as a percentage of possessions, the numbers are even more staggering. In the first six games, opponents scored touchdowns on 26.67 percent of their possessions but in the last six games, opponents scored touchdowns on just 16.88 percent of possessions (that would put ISU 31stin the NCAA when compared to the rest of the team’s full schedule performance).
  • In games five and six, the ISU defense gave up 13 total touchdowns to Baylor and Missouri.  Over the course of the next six games they gave up just 13 more.
  • The Cyclones first six opponents finished the year scoring an average of 30.78 points per game and when those teams played ISU they scored an average of 35.17 points.  In the back half of the season, opponent’s average scoring 36.4 points per game for the whole season but when they played ISU, the Cyclones gave up an average of 21.67 points.
  • Similarly, the first half of the schedule saw opponents that averaged as a whole 2.37 points per possession and ISU gave up 2.34 points per possession.  The opponents in the last six games averaged 2.63 pints per possession and Iowa State held them to 1.69.

One thing to point out is that while there were times in the first half of the season that the defense was gashed, by the numbers they still performed relatively well.  Despite all of the improvements made over the second half of the season, the ISU defense still held opponents to less than their average points per possession in the first six games.

What I didn’t use for comparison to how the defense improved is how the offense played.  We all know that the two are linked at the hip, especially with turnovers and scoring.  Iowa State was able to cut the turnovers from the first six games to the last six games.  I didn’t include the offensive numbers for comparison partially because with all of the potential variables you can get lost in a swirling vortex of information when trying to find THE ONE difference to note the improvement.  So, I just stuck with the defensive numbers that speak largely for themselves.

For the most part, I don’t think you need a blogger hack extraordinaire to point out the many major improvements, so take a look for yourself.  I think the improvement itself is quite remarkable but what I am most impressed by is the teams that they did it against.  The perennial offensive juggernauts like Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.  All while two of those three games were on the road.

It’s a credit to everybody involved in the program, but the defensive coaches along with Paul Rhoads and obviously the kids the execute the schemes and fundamentals have done a masterful job keeping opponents from scoring and out of the endzone.  There’s still one more game this year to further that improvement and still a long way to go for this program as a whole.  But the longer that guys like Paul Rhoads, Wally Burnham, Bobby Elliot, Shane Burnham, and Curtis Bray are coaching up the defense the better off the Cyclones will be.