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Pass Efficiency Defense

The formula for success
by: AFM Editorial Staff
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One of the more crucial categories relevant to the success of a team at any level is turnovers. No coach or even member of the media can argue that a team’s Turnover Differential at the end of a season is analogous to that school’s success or failure.

Even more sophisticated today is the statistical category, Pass Efficiency Defense. Important to every team, Pass Efficiency Defense evaluates the following categories that result in an overall PED rating:

• Opponents pass completion percentage

• Number of interceptions

• Interception percentage

• Opponents total yards passing

• Opponents yards per pass attempt

• Opponents touchdown passing percentage

Leading the nation last fall in this complicated formula were North Carolina State (Division I-A), Coastal Carolina University (Division I-AA), and Worchester State (Division III). According to Steve Dunlap, Defensive Coordinator for the Wolfpack, the key is third down plays. “Pass Efficiency Defense is an important stat, but what’s crucial is stopping your opponents third down plays,” says Dunlap. “Whether it be third and one or third and fifteen, your defense has to show their efficiency and force your opponent to punt.”

As a veteran college coach for over two decades, Dunlap spent 17 seasons as an assistant under legendary Mountaineer coach Don Nehlen including 10 as defensive coordinator. “As a defensive coach, we can’t control what the our offense does but it’s crucial to make every play count and force your opponent to punt as soon as possible on every possession. We try to be prepared as well as we can for every play that’s thrown at us and practice strip circuits daily in practice. We also have our players prepare for the mental side of playing defense.”

Brien Cullen, Head Coach at Worchester State since 1985, agrees. “From a defensive point of view, we have our players practice circuit drills to include tip drills, open-field tackling, and stripping the ball. Turnovers are a critical part of every game.” New England Football Conference Coach of the Year four times, Cullen serves as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach as well as being head coach. “Obviously, while a complicated formula, Pass Efficiency Defense is important to every team. It ties in with how effective you are in giving up rushing yards. You have to be effective in both areas – rushing defense and pass defense – to be consistently successful. If you’re strong in one and weak in the other, it could mean disaster.

“It also reflects what kind of a defense is most effective. Sometimes, varying defenses if you’re primarily a 4-4 team may make a difference. In building our defense, we try to place the best athletes we have in the secondary and built our secondary first, before other parts of offense and defense.”

First year Head Coach Tony DeMeo at the University of Charleston finished 8-3 this fall after the two previous seasons had the Golden Eagles finish a combined 5-16. A 30 year coaching veteran, De Meo spent 19 years as head coach at Iona, Mercyhurst, and Washburn. Most recently the offensive coordinator at Richmond, DeMeo’s Charleston team won 7 of their last 8 games with the triple gun option offense. But it’s on the defensive side of the ball where Charleston really excelled having a turnover differential of + 17. That number included 21 interceptions.

“There are so many stats used today with Pass Efficiency Defense one of them. A lot of offensive stats are overblown; it’s a matter, really, of getting yards when you need them. Having a low percentage of turnovers is certainly crucial as well as your Scoring Defense as a stat. Oftentimes you may be in a situation where you play an ugly offense but win the game by playing great overall defense.”

In February, AFM continues it’s 10-part series by breaking down each of the top ten statistical categories in building a championship team. February’s subject: Total Defense. To view the original article on ’10 Impact Stats to Build a Championship Team’ that appeared in the July issue of AFM, log onto


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