The numbers behind the defensive surge, punt returns, and sacks

Defenders swarmed to the ball all night vs. Navy / Photo by Mario Puente


 
Go beyond the box score to look at the Navy game, the season in total, and UH’s longer-term trends:
 

MasseyRatings.com says UH’s strength of schedule played is 126th in the country. That means only four teams have played a worse schedule than the Cougars.

UH’s SOS for the entire 2021 season is #117. That would be, by far, the worst schedule in UH history.
 

The Cougar pass defense has been among the best in the nation. Of course, that comes from playing Navy, Grambling, and Rice – three programs that just can’t throw the ball.

That said, UH has allowed under 100 yards passing for three straight games. That just doesn’t happen. Like, ever. The only time in the last two decades that UH has held three teams to less than 100 yards passing yards in a season was in 2003. It hasn’t happened in back-to-back games, much less three-straight, in (at least) the last 22 seasons.

Before the Rice game, UH had held a team under 100 yards passing just 16 times in the previous 20 years (250 games).

Rice was the first time UH held a team under 100 yards passing since Army to end 2018. Before 2021, UH had held only four teams below 100 yards passing in the previous decade.

This year, UH is 3rd in passing yards given up.
 

In the second half of Grambling and the first quarter of Navy, the two opponents combined to go 0/1 for 0 passing yards. In the last 12 quarters, UH has given up 0 yards passing five times and given up 14 or fewer passing yards eight times.
 

UH quarterbacks have been sacked 13 in four games. UH is 112th nationally in sacks given up and 113th in sacks given up per game. UH has surrendered 66 sacks in 24 games under Dana Holgorsen (2.75 per).
 

In 2021, the Coogs are 118th in TFL given up. UH was 124th in TFL given up in 2019, the last full season played.
 

The Cougars are sixth in total defense in 2021, giving up 245 yards per game. The year before Joe Cauthen, Doug Belk, and this staff came here, UH was 126th in total defense giving up 496.5 ypg.

UH has given up under 300 yards three times this year, twice to FBS teams. When you include the last two games of 2020, four of the last five games are among the best in terms of yards given up in the last 15 years.

Fewest Yards Given Up To FBS Opponent (2007-2021)
Rice (2021): 212
UAB (2007): 224
UCF (2014): 228
SDSU (2016): 255
UTSA (2014): 264
Hawaii (2020): 267
Navy (2021): 288
Memphis (2020): 310
 

The year before the staff change, UH was was 118th in scoring defense, giving up 37.2 ppg. This year? UH is T-23 in scoring defense at 16.3 ppg.

This year’s numbers have come against a bad schedule, to be sure, but real progress on that side of the ball.
 

A lot has been said about Clayton Tune and his issues this year and there are a lot of valid criticisms. But Tune has been remarkable on throws that travel 10 yards or less. Tune is 56/65 (86.2%) from 10 yards or closer. To compare, in the first four games of 2019, D’Eriq King was 47/60 on those same throws (78.3%).

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The short passing game does come at a price: UH is 111th in yards per completion.
 

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