DeKalb | Statistically, the Huskies’ (4-0) defense has been one of the worst yet one of the best units in the Mid-American Conference and the NCAA.
The Huskie defense surrendered 31.3 points per game through four games. That is currently 88th out of 123 FBS teams.
They gave up 499.2 yards per game this season. That is second-worst in the conference and 118th out of 123 FBS teams.
“… When it comes to the yards given up, that’s obviously a concern for our defense,” said redshirt junior linebacker Michael Santacaterina. “But on the bright side, we complete our goals and takeaways every game. When it comes to the red zone, we’ve gotten better as the season has gone on. We have a mentality of bend but don’t break, so if we do give up yards or give up a big play, we just want to live to play another down and try to get off the field.”
The Huskies gave up yards and points, but they have responded in other ways on defense. For the Huskies, it’s all about winning situational football.
“Situational football, today, is football,” said head coach Rod Carey. “What offenses are trying to do, they are trying make it situational all the time by going fast. That’s all football is. So if you’re successful on defense in situations such as red zone, third down, fourth down, third and long, and all those different scenarios, you are playing good defense.”
The defense has dominated in all those situations and more because it continuously practices situations each day during practice.
“You practice it,” Carey said. “That’s the only way you can do it ... you’ve got to practice it. We have third down drill every day. We have red zone drill every day. We have goal-line drill almost every day. And we have different first and second down scenarios every day. You can’t practice football today without being situational.”
The Huskies dominated the sack game this season. They have recorded 17 sacks in four games. That mark is best in the MAC and second in the entire nation.
They gained 13 turnovers — five fumbles and eight interceptions — so far. That stands as the best in the MAC and fifth in the country.
The Huskies held opposing offenses to a 35.8 third-down conversion percent and a 38.5 fourth-down conversion percent. Those each rank second among all teams in the MAC.
“Any time you get a sack you put the offense in a second and long or third and long situation,” Santacaterina said. “Those are so hard to overcome. The turnovers are huge. To me, the key to any football game is the turnover margin…. That’s the key to our defense. We want to put the offense in tough situations and force them to give us the ball back, because we know when we get the ball back our offense is going to go down and score.”
At the end of the day, the Huskies finished non-conference play 4-0, and their defense was a huge part of that. They start conference play this weekend at Kent State, and the defense will need to turn things up another notch.