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By the numbers: Run defense lost in the shuffle

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Amid the outrage over the Bearcats offense and the countless message board posts spent complaining about the new coaching staff, the bright spot of the 2010 UC team has been lost in the shuffle.

Has anybody noticed a defense with zero senior starters and one of the youngest secondaries in the country has been significantly exceeding expecations.

This was the same defense called into question as the only reason UC wouldn't be able to duplicate 2009. They lost too many starters. They don't have enough experience. They have no depth.

Hogwash. Balderdash. Poppycock.

The Bearcats run defense has not only exceeded what were average expectations of the fan base, but become one of the better units in college football. No, seriously.

Let's start with what occured against Oklahoma.

Many UC fans might not understand the enormity of what the Bearcats did to DeMarco Murray. The senior RB is among the best pass-catch combos in Oklahoma history. That includes the likes of Adrian Peterson, Quentin Griffin and Billy Sims.

He will own the OU record for most receiving yards by a RB by the end of the season and moved into the top ten in their history in rushing yards.

Entering the game he has 5,197 career all-purpose yards in his career.

The Bearcats held him to 28 rushes for 67 yards for a 2.4 yard average.

They also held him to seven receptions for 21 yards and a 3.0 yard average.

They combined for his lowest total this season. 

Murray didn't manage one reception or run of double-digit yardage. Let me repeat that again. One of the biggest home-run hitters in OU history, as healthy as he has ever been in his senior season of an explosive offense, touched the ball 35 times and not once gain even 10 yards.

Want to know how often that has happened?

Twice. Ever.

Against Texas Tech last year he only had 11 touches and hardly played in the second half of a 41-13 loss to the Red Raiders.

On Oct. 4, 2008, the Sooners blew out Baylor, but Murray had 94 yards on 26 carries with a long of nine.

The Sooners continually tried to establish Murray and break a big run Saturday, but he never did against the Bearcats defense.

I talked to J.K. Schaffer about it after the game and mentioned that before game if you'd have said they would hold Murray to under three yard average on 35 touches, you'd probably have said I'm crazy.

Schaffer didn't agree.

"I wouldn't say your crazy," he said. "We pride ourselves in stopping the run. We work real hard on that. We don't care who it is or what your name is, we are going to do our best to stop em and that is that. It was just everyone being in posion and playing hard every snap."

 

Schaffer was chief among those as he continues to be a dominant player at middle linebacker. He leads the Big East in tackles at 11.2 a game. That number is good for 10th overall in the country.

It goes beyond Schaffer, though, who moved the middle backer position in the preseason. The man who replaced him on the outside, sophomore Maalik Bomar, has turned into a star on the defense. He had his best game yet on Saturday with 10 tackles, one for a loss and a forced fumble.

"I want to say that the defense had a mindset tonight that we were going to go out there and throw the first punch due to the fact that the only thing about Oklahoma is the hype of their name. The hype of their school," Bomar said. "They bleed, they sweat, they practice just like we do. We are just going to go play ball."

 

As great as the Bearcats defense played on Saturday, this hasn't been an isolated incident. It was their best moment, but even in defeat, the defense has carried this team through the first four games of the season, especially against the run.

Through four games, UC ranks No. 11 in the country in average yards allowed per run at 2.71 an attempt.

Those don't come against slouches, either. Fresno State returned its entire offensive line from a team that sprung Ryan Mathews to school rushing records.

N.C. State had the combination of Russell Wilson's running ability with Mustafa Greene and Marcus Haynes. Oh by the way, NC State is 4-0 and now ranked No. 23 after posting 45 points on Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Now, the Bearcats are in the middle of the FCS pack when it comes to points allowed, at 24 a game, but the turnovers by the offense have put the team in difficult situations. Also, the pass defense hasn't had near the success of the run defense. They've been gouged for a few explosive plays. But even they took a big step against Oklahoma, not allowing any long plays after the first two drives of the game when the Sooners scored two quick touchdowns.

As soon as the young secondary continues to come along, the UC defense could become one of the best all-around in the Big East. Even better than that? They'll all be back next year.

"We are defientiely young," Schaffer said. "Guys are learning every single day. Guys are really coming togther. I think we are going to have a great defense by the time this year is over. I think we are really good right now, you can see everybody growing each week."

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