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Where Baylor vs. SMU Lands In the History of Baylor's Defense

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Baylor's defense threw down a performance for the ages on Sunday night against June Jones and the SMU offense. Where does it rank in modern Baylor history?

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On September 2, 1945, the Japanese officially surrendered to the Allies on board the battleship USS Missouri (BB 63), officially ending major hostilities in the Second World War.  20 days later, the Baylor Bears took on the West Texas A&M Buffaloes, winning 32-0 and holding the Buffaloes to a grand total of -15 yards of offense.  According to the 2014 Baylor Media Almanac (Section 6, page 171), that is the single lowest yardage total for any opponent in a Baylor game.  I've searched in vain for more information on this game and how it unfolded.  All I can say for sure is that the Buffaloes must have run more than 1958 Arkansas' 39 plays, since their total there isn't a record, and that their troubles mainly centered on the ground, where they racked up -43 yards for the game.  No matter what-- this is certainly the gold standard for defensive performance in any Baylor game in history.

Last night, August 31, 2014, the Bears played the SMU Mustangs, led by supposed offensive whiz June Jones, and held them to 67 yards on 64 plays.  The Baylor defense sacked the SMU QBs 8 (possibly 9?) times, hurried them 7 more, registered 11 tackles for loss, forced 4 fumbles, and intercepted possibly the worst pass I've ever seen.   As I sat here this Labor Day with basically nothing to do, I started wondering where that stacked up in the modern era of Baylor Football, both in terms of absolute yardage and points per play.  I figured that someone, somewhere had to have this information readily available.  I was wrong.

Whenever this type of statistical curiosity strikes me, my initial go-to is always the same: Sports-Reference.com/cfb. If you've been on the blog for a while, you've already seen their stuff, since I use them for everything from preseason Position Previews to our weekly previews of specific opponents.  Alas, in this situation, their game log data for Baylor only goes to the year 2000, and even though many of us would probably like to act like a lot of the time before (or after) didn't exist, that would not be sufficient.  Thankfully, that same Media Almanac linked above goes all the back to Bob Woodruff's 1947 team, so all wasn't lost.

To keep this a relatively small endeavor, I decided to define the "modern era" of Baylor Football starting with the arrival of Grant Teaff in 1972.  Everything before that was probably too long ago for reasonable comparison given the changes in football since that point, and you might be able to say the same about 1972, in actuality.

Here's what I've done: in the Google Docs spreadsheet linked right here, I compiled every game since 1972 in which Baylor's defense held the opposing offense at our around 200 total yards.  That was my cutoff for inclusion on the list.  I've then made it sortable by basically all of the yard-based offensive statistics, though that doesn't seem to be working the way it should at the moment.  No matter-- I'll post the Top 10 lists below.  But first, in case you were curious who coached the 48 games on the list:

Games by Coach
Teaff 36
Reedy 4
Steele 2
Morriss 1
Briles 5

Are you a little shocked Steele had 2 games on the list? Yeah, 1999 North Texas and 2001 Arkansas State must have been really bad.

Top 10 Games by First Downs:

Rank Opponent Year HC FD Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Rush Pass Att Pass Yds Yds/Pass Plays Total Yds YPP
1 UNLV 1988 Teaff 2 23 11 0.478261 22 39 1.77273 45 50 1.111111
2 Iowa State 1988 Teaff 5 36 51 1.416667 17 53 3.11765 53 104 1.962264
3 SMU 2014 Briles 7 25 -24 -0.96 39 91 2.33333 64 67 1.046875
4 Louisiana Tech 1986 Teaff 7 39 1 0.025641 22 55 2.5 61 56 0.918033
5 Houston 1986 Teaff 7 37 14 0.378378 19 89 4.68421 56 103 1.839286
6 Texas 1976 Teaff 7 37 14 0.378378 6 138 23 43 152 3.534884
7 North Carolina State 1995 Reedy 7 20 24 1.2 31 114 3.67742 51 138 2.705882
8 TCU 1972 Teaff 7 45 109 2.422222 19 44 2.31579 64 153 2.390625
9 Arkansas 1990 Teaff 7 32 97 3.03125 20 28 1.4 52 125 2.403846
10 Rice 1989 Teaff 8 35 65 1.857143 24 95 3.95833 59 160 2.711864

Two first downs.  Two. My gosh.

Top 10 Games by Total Yards:

Rank Opponent Year HC FD Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Rush Pass Att Pass Yds Yds/Pass Plays Total Yds YPP
1 UNLV 1988 Teaff 2 23 11 0.478261 22 39 1.77273 45 50 1.111111
2 Louisiana Tech 1986 Teaff 7 39 1 0.025641 22 55 2.5 61 56 0.918033
3 SMU 2014 Briles 7 25 -24 -0.96 39 91 2.33333 64 67 1.046875
4 Texas Tech 1980 Teaff 13 47 -36 -0.76596 30 138 4.6 77 102 1.324675
5 Houston 1986 Teaff 7 37 14 0.378378 19 89 4.68421 56 103 1.839286
6 Iowa State 1988 Teaff 5 36 51 1.416667 17 53 3.11765 53 104 1.962264
7 Texas State 1988 Teaff 9 35 51 1.457143 23 73 3.17391 58 124 2.137931
8 Arkansas 1990 Teaff 7 32 97 3.03125 20 28 1.4 52 125 2.403846
9 Kansas 1989 Teaff 11 42 122 2.904762 14 7 0.5 56 129 2.303571
10 North Carolina State 1995 Reedy 7 20 24 1.2 31 114 3.67742 51 138 2.705882

I hope you're not surprised to see exactly one post-1995 game on these first few lists: yesterday's.  I don't need to tell you we've been horrid on defense for a while.

Top 10 Games by Yards Per Play:

Rank Opponent Year HC FD Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Rush Pass Att Pass Yds Yds/Pass Plays Total Yds YPP
1 Louisiana Tech 1986 Teaff 7 39 1 0.025641 22 55 2.5 61 56 0.918033
2 SMU 2014 Briles 7 25 -24 -0.96 39 91 2.33333 64 67 1.046875
3 UNLV 1988 Teaff 2 23 11 0.478261 22 39 1.77273 45 50 1.111111
4 Texas Tech 1980 Teaff 13 47 -36 -0.76596 30 138 4.6 77 102 1.324675
5 Houston 1986 Teaff 7 37 14 0.378378 19 89 4.68421 56 103 1.839286
6 Iowa State 1988 Teaff 5 36 51 1.416667 17 53 3.11765 53 104 1.962264
7 Texas State 1988 Teaff 9 35 51 1.457143 23 73 3.17391 58 124 2.137931
8 Kansas 1989 Teaff 11 42 122 2.904762 14 7 0.5 56 129 2.303571
9 Lamar 1980 Teaff 12 31 37 1.193548 42 132 3.14286 73 169 2.315068
10 Arkansas 1980 Teaff 11 44 116 2.636364 24 58 2.41667 74 174 2.351351

On a lark, I looked up that 1986 Louisiana Tech team in their 2014 Media Guide.  The Bulldogs finished 6-4-1 that season, putting up 2919 yards of offense on 778 plays.  55 yards was definitely their lowest output of the season, followed by 137 against Fresno State and 149 against ULM.  A powerhouse, they were not.

Top 10 Games by Total Rushing Yards

Rank Opponent Year HC FD Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Rush Pass Att Pass Yds Yds/Pass Plays Total Yds YPP
1 Texas Tech 1980 Teaff 13 47 -36 -0.76596 30 138 4.6 77 102 1.324675
2 SMU 2014 Briles 7 25 -24 -0.96 39 91 2.33333 64 67 1.046875
3 Texas Tech 1984 Teaff 13 31 -13 -0.41935 33 210 6.36364 64 197 3.078125
4 New Mexico 1984 Teaff 10 43 -3 -0.06977 25 189 7.56 43 189 4.395349
5 Rice 1976 Teaff 11 12 -2 -0.16667 34 155 4.55882 46 153 3.326087
6 Louisiana Tech 1986 Teaff 7 39 1 0.025641 22 55 2.5 61 56 0.918033
7 SMU 1989 Teaff 12 20 2 0.1 43 203 4.72093 63 205 3.253968
8 UNLV 1988 Teaff 2 23 11 0.478261 22 39 1.77273 45 50 1.111111
9 Houston 1986 Teaff 7 37 14 0.378378 19 89 4.68421 56 103 1.839286
10 Texas 1976 Teaff 7 37 14 0.378378 6 138 23 43 152 3.534884

The leading rusher for Texas Tech's 1980 football team: Wes Hightower with 515.  He actually averaged a respectable 4.1 yards per carry, if you can believe it.  That day, though, his Red Raiders would lose a hard-fought 11-3 game to the mighty Baylor Bears.

Top 10 Games by Yards per Rush

Rank Opponent Year HC FD Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Rush Pass Att Pass Yds Yds/Pass Plays Total Yds YPP
1 SMU 2014 Briles 7 25 -24 -0.96 39 91 2.33333 64 67 1.046875
2 Texas Tech 1980 Teaff 13 47 -36 -0.76596 30 138 4.6 77 102 1.324675
3 Texas Tech 1984 Teaff 13 31 -13 -0.41935 33 210 6.36364 64 197 3.078125
4 Rice 1976 Teaff 11 12 -2 -0.16667 34 155 4.55882 46 153 3.326087
5 New Mexico 1984 Teaff 10 43 -3 -0.06977 25 189 7.56 43 189 4.395349
6 Louisiana Tech 1986 Teaff 7 39 1 0.025641 22 55 2.5 61 56 0.918033
7 SMU 1989 Teaff 12 20 2 0.1 43 203 4.72093 63 205 3.253968
8 Houston 1986 Teaff 7 37 14 0.378378 19 89 4.68421 56 103 1.839286
9 Texas 1976 Teaff 7 37 14 0.378378 6 138 23 43 152 3.534884
10 UNLV 1988 Teaff 2 23 11 0.478261 22 39 1.77273 45 50 1.111111

There we go!  Counting sacks, SMU lost nearly a full yard every time their players decided to do something other than throw the ball.

Top 10 Games by Total Passing Yards

Rank Opponent Year HC FD Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Rush Pass Att Pass Yds Yds/Pass Plays Total Yds YPP
1 Kansas 1989 Teaff 11 42 122 2.904762 14 7 0.5 56 129 2.303571
2 SMU 1977 Teaff 12 41 141 3.439024 18 21 1.16667 59 162 2.745763
3 Arkansas 1990 Teaff 7 32 97 3.03125 20 28 1.4 52 125 2.403846
4 UNLV 1988 Teaff 2 23 11 0.478261 22 39 1.77273 45 50 1.111111
5 Louisiana Tech 1994 Reedy 8 38 141 3.710526 21 39 1.85714 59 180 3.050847
6 Arkansas 1976 Teaff 12 49 154 3.142857 3 41 13.6667 52 195 3.75
7 TCU 1972 Teaff 7 45 109 2.422222 19 44 2.31579 64 153 2.390625
8 Texas 1988 Teaff 8 36 115 3.194444 22 45 2.04545 58 160 2.758621
9 TCU 1985 Teaff 10 53 139 2.622642 17 45 2.64706 70 184 2.628571
10 Iowa State 1988 Teaff 5 36 51 1.416667 17 53 3.11765 53 104 1.962264

There's that UNLV team again amongst a horde of other putrid passing offenses.  At least Arkansas had the defense in 1976 that they didn't even try to pass.

SMU 2014 comes in 23rd on this list, if you were wondering.

Top 10 Games by Yards per Pass

Rank Opponent Year HC FD Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Rush Pass Att Pass Yds Yds/Pass Plays Total Yds YPP
1 Kansas 1989 Teaff 11 42 122 2.904762 14 7 0.5 56 129 2.303571
2 SMU 1977 Teaff 12 41 141 3.439024 18 21 1.16667 59 162 2.745763
3 Arkansas 1990 Teaff 7 32 97 3.03125 20 28 1.4 52 125 2.403846
4 UNLV 1988 Teaff 2 23 11 0.478261 22 39 1.77273 45 50 1.111111
5 Louisiana Tech 1994 Reedy 8 38 141 3.710526 21 39 1.85714 59 180 3.050847
6 Texas 1988 Teaff 8 36 115 3.194444 22 45 2.04545 58 160 2.758621
7 TCU 1972 Teaff 7 45 109 2.422222 19 44 2.31579 64 153 2.390625
8 SMU 2014 Briles 7 25 -24 -0.96 39 91 2.33333 64 67 1.046875
9 Arkansas 1980 Teaff 11 44 116 2.636364 24 58 2.41667 74 174 2.351351
10 Louisiana Tech 1986 Teaff 7 39 1 0.025641 22 55 2.5 61 56 0.918033

Yesterday's game is back to #8 on this list, which considers the number of passes thrown.  I feel pretty good about that.

-----

After all that, I decided that the true Best Defensive Game in Modern Baylor Football History had to be one of the following three:

Rank Opponent Year HC FD Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Rush Pass Att Pass Yds Yds/Pass Plays Total Yds YPP
1 Louisiana Tech 1986 Teaff 7 39 1 0.025641 22 55 2.5 61 56 0.918033
2 SMU 2014 Briles 7 25 -24 -0.96 39 91 2.33333 64 67 1.046875
3 UNLV 1988 Teaff 2 23 11 0.478261 22 39 1.77273 45 50 1.111111

Without some more technical way to rank these performances against expectations or season averages (which don't yet exist for the 2014 SMU Mustangs), there's no way to say definitively.  But I think we can say, based on everything above, that Baylor had one of its best defensive days in the modern era yesterday.  Personally, given the era and apparent quality of the opponent, I'd entertain arguments that it should be #1.

Regardless, it was a heck of a day.*