From Ant123: "David, If you could look back and report on something it would really help provide a clearer picture about our defense. In Richt's first four years here, what percentages of turnovers in our territory led to fieldgoals, touchowns, or nothing. Then do the same then for the last 3 years and compare."
Ask and you shall receive...
First, I couldn't get drive charts for 2001, so I had to throw that out in terms of in-depth analysis. If anyone knows where I can find the full drive charts, I'll be happy to update the stats down the road.
Anyway, one of the main explanations for the defense's struggles this season has been the high turnovers. It makes some sense. Georgia has turned the ball over a lot, and the D has been put in some bad positions. But do turnovers really have that big of an impact overall? Let's look at it by year:
*Note: Georgia has 21 turnovers so far this season, which would put the Dawgs on pace for 34 through 13 games.
So what do we learn?
From 2001-2005, there was little serious change in the number of turnovers by the offense or the overall points allowed by the defense. In 2006, Willie Martinez and the Georgia D probably deserved an award for their work. Turnovers increased a whopping 72 percent, but scoring only went up by a little more than a point per game.
But it's what happened in 2007 and beyond that seems to ruffle the most feathers among fans. In 2007 and 2008, the turnover numbers were essentially right where they were during the heyday of Brian Van Gorder's administration, but the points allowed increased by a noticeable sum.
But the truth is, even 2007 wasn't that bad. While scoring increased almost four points per game from Van Gorder's last season in 2004 to Martinez's third season in 2007, things had changed throughout the SEC. Yes, Georgia allowed more points per game, but the Dawgs still ranked third in the SEC in scoring defense. Everyone was scoring more.
So really, it's only been the past two seasons that have been dramatically worse for Georgia's defense -- but it is most definitely worse. This season, the Dawgs are allowing 13 more points per game than they did during their last SEC championship season. Of course, they're also turning the ball over a whole lot more, too. So let's look closer at things on a play-by-play basis.
(Note: "Stops" is any drive that ends in a punt, end of half, safety or a turnover on downs.)
|Year ||Turnovers||%TDs||%FGAs ||%TOs ||%Stops|
From 2002-2007, there was very little change in how the defense played following a turnover. In every one of those years, Georgia held firm on between 47 and 60 percent of all drives following a turnover. But in the past two years, the number of touchdowns allowed has gone up by 20 percent, while the number of stops has dropped by nearly that much. This year, the opposition scores (or at least kicks a field goal) following 76% of all turnovers.
Looking deeper at the individual drives, During the three years under Van Gorder, Georgia allowed only 10 drives of 30 or more yards following a turnover, and just four of 50 or more yards. Essentially, if Georgia's turnover occurred on the opposition's side of the field, it didn't really matter. On the other side, Van Gorder's D held the opposition to 10 yards or fewer following a turnover on 28 occasions -- i.e., not so much as a first down.
That's a trend Martinez's defenses carried over for the most part in the next three seasons, too. In the past two seasons, however, those numbers have changed. Of the 40 turnovers, opposition has been held to less than 10 yards just 13 times.
In short, when turnovers have happened, it's been more likely that the opposition would keep that momentum going in the past two years.
Of course, the obvious question is: Why?
For the first three years of his career as defensive coordinator, Willie Martinez appeared to be every bit as successful -- and maybe more successful -- than Van Gorder at limiting the damage that turnovers caused. Did he suddenly forget how to keep his defense motivated? Or did his players suddenly get much worse at handling adversity?
Well, there are also degrees of adversity, and as it turns out, Georgia's D has been a bit further behind the 8 ball recently. Of all the turnovers Georgia has had, check out the percentages of those that have occurred inside its own 35-yard line.
It has only been the past two years that the opponent has started more than half its post-turnover drives already in field-goal range. (Those numbers include pick-sixes, too.) This year, the D has been put in an almost impossible situation, with the opponent in scoring range before it even takes a snap two-thirds of the time.
So has Martinez suddenly forgotten how to rally his troops after a particularly bad play? Perhaps, a little. But the bigger issue is that the offense has set the D up to fail on a far more routine basis this season (and, to a lesser degree, last).
That doesn't necessarily explain the big increases in opponent scoring overall, but it's certainly a real factor. And situations like that have a lasting ripple effect beyond any eventual scoring. It changes field position. It forces the D to be on the field longer. It may cause the offense to adjust its strategy to play catch-up more. All things that work against the overall success of the team.
Obviously there's more that has gone wrong in Athens than just this, but Mark Richt is probably right when he says that, if the Bulldogs could simply cut down on those killer turnovers, things might look a good bit different.