Farewell To Mark D’Onofrio’s Atrocious Defense (FREE)


By now you know the scoop that Ryan Monceaux and GoCoogs dished Sunday afternoon: Mark D’Onofrio is out as defensive coordinator at the University of Houston.
D'Onofrio Fired Twitter Reaction

Most of us saw this coming and we all know the horrific defensive stats by now. 
But here’s a quick refresher: out of 129 FBS teams, in the regular season our defense ranked:
106th – Scoring Defense

129th – Passing defense

124th – Total Defense

129th – 1st downs allowed

112th – 3rd down percentage

97th – Rushing Defense

124th – Red Zone Defense

Mark D’OnoPlayDefenseo

The one stat that doesn’t show up in the NCAA’s defensive rankings is the one that explains a lot of the injuries as well as our late season diaster: number of defensive snaps.
In 12 games, the defense played a total of 1025 plays – the most in the country.  The closest to UH is New Mexico State with 961. The second-worst played almost a full game of snaps less than UH.
The FBS average number of snaps was 830 – 195 plays less than UH.  Our defense has played the equivalent of 15 games. That goes to scheme, teaching, and execution.

Miami Fans Warned Us

On Twitter and on talk radio, Miami fans warned us. Miami fans flocked to all the message boards to tell us we made a mistake.  They warned us that his style was passive, that it was a read-and-react system, and it was the worst bend, bend, bend but don’t break system.
I’ve seen these types of warnings before about coaches but never this intense for a coordinator.  The typical reaction from the UH fan base was that these were just upset fans of a bad team.  Well the Miami fans were right, and then some.  
The only thing they were wrong about is what we found out this year: it’s really a bend, bend, bend and then break system. 124th in the red zone means you done broke.

Let’s Play Great Defense Again

Once upon a time we actually played defense at UH.  Brian Stewart showed us a glimpse in his 2nd year in 2011.  We weren’t great by any means but we were top 30-50 in most defensive categories. 
Stewart proved that a pressure-defense that thrived on forcing turnovers, making plays in the backfield, and getting off the field were keys to fielding an effective defense. That was the defense that could balance a fast-paced, high-scoring offensive system. 
After a brief experiment in failure under Jamie Bryant, David Gibbs came in and ramped-up the defensive pressure even more. Pressure with a variety of defensive looks and an emphasis on turnovers spawned the birth of the 3rd Ward Defense. 
After Tony Levine was blown-out, we made a seamless transition to Todd Orlando. The UH defense became just as much of a calling-card as our high-flying offenses.  All of it based on aggression and an attacking style that forced mistakes and created turnovers.

Drops 8 into coverage

Major Applewhite brought in Mark _’onofrio and all of that success went out the window.  We played soft off-the-ball and rarely brought pressure.  When we did it was usually in the form of a delayed blitz.
Gone were the multiple-looks and disguised coverages. Gone were blitzes from multiple angles. Instead, ‘onforio deployed a scheme meant to try and keep the ball in front of the defense.  You might be able to get away with that when you have a more traditional offense but it’s a recipe for disaster here when paired with a fast paced offense.
The numbers don’t lie: the D’Onofrio experiment was an abject failure. Major has to find a way to hire a new DC with gravitas and an aggressive approach. Anything less and Applewhite will be out of work, too.

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