Linked Up: UTEP Defense and the Matter of Luck

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Here's a quick look at the matter of "luck" for the UTEP defense as it relates to turnovers so far in the 2012 season.

With the new era of MinerRush and SB Nation now in full swing, it's time to take a look at the first "United" piece. In a segment called "Linked Up", the blogs from around the college network are pointing readers in all directions to make sure that the great work from around the way does not go unnoticed.

That said, here's a piece talking about how luck affects defense, and more specifically turnovers. We'll take a look at how the Miners have been affected by it so far this season, and over the last couple of years as well. This piece was inspired by the great guys over at Football Study Hall, SB Nation's site for NCAA Football statistics.

Here's the bottom line from FootballStudyHall:

"Forcing fumbles: not luck. At least, not for the most part...Going after the ball is at least partially by design."

"Recovering fumbles: mostly luck. When your team recovers a high percentage of fumbles, you claim it is because of passion and tenacity, but both teams tend to have that. The art of falling on a pointy, oblong ball is, really, not an art at all. It is lucky."

"Defending passes: not luck. As with stripping the ball, some teams are much more aggressive than others when the ball is in the air."

"Intercepting passes: mostly luck. Yes, some guys have good hands, while others are made of stone. That makes a difference. But for the team as a whole, your ratio of interceptions to passes broken up is quite random." On average, 21.9 percent of all passes defended are interceptions.

Here's a quick look at some of the numbers from the last four years as they pertain to UTEP.

Category 2009 2010 2011 2012
Opponent Fumbles 14 17 9 9
Fumbles Forced 8 10 6 5
Fumbles Recovered 7 5 7 4
Pass Deflections 37 52 41 20
Pass Interceptions 11 11 12 2

The first thing that we should should notice is UTEP's ratios of passes defended to passes intercepted. The Miners have had ratios of 22.9% in 2009, 17.5% in 2010, and 22.6% in 2011. So far in 2012, the defenses' ratio is only 9.1%.

Now of course, plenty of factors play into whether or not the defense comes up with a turnover. But one factor, almost certainly is luck. As stated, on average 21.9% of all passes defended last year turned out to be interceptions. For the Miners, so far in 2012, we're more than 12% below average. Luck or not luck?

One could argue that the fact that the Miners have not come up with as many interceptions compare to the national average from a year ago is more a matter of skill. But is it really? The average is one taken between all division 1 schools, and UTEP is arguably more skilled in the secondary this year (as a whole), then they have been in years past.

If the Miners were able stay on course with the national average, they would have likely come up with an extra 3 interceptions. Granted, they picked up half of their pass deflections against NMSU alone, so on average, two of the three might have come against the Aggies.

But, the next most pass deflections in a game came against none other than #4 Oklahoma. Let's remember that the Sooners were only up 10-7 basically midway through the 4th. Who knows, if the Miners were to have come up with a pick against OU, well maybe, just maybe we would've knocked off a top 5 team!

Now let's take a look at fumbles. In 2011, on a national scale there were a total of 2,341 fumbles. Of those, 1,377 were forced, and a total of 1,254 were recovered. Meaning that of all balls put on the ground a year ago, 58.8% of those were forced, and 53.6% of those were recovered.

Looking at the chart above, in 2009 the Miners forced 57.1% of opponents' fumbles in 2009, 58.8% in 2010, 66.6% in 2011, and 55.5% so far this year. 2011 is somewhat of an outlier, but for the mostpart the Miners fall within range when talking about forced fumbles compare to the national average.

However, let's see what the numbers say when talking about actually recovering those fumbles. In 2009, the Miners rocovered exactly 50% of opponents' fumbles. They recovered only 29.4% in 2010, 77.% in 2011, and 44.4% to date in 2012.

Again, 2011 was somewhat of an outlier, but as a whole the Miners are all over the map when it comes to recovering fumbles. Heck in 2010, they "should have" recovered 4 more than they did. Might not seem like a big number, but get them at a "lucky time" and it might just change a game or two.

As far as 2012 goes, the Miners have actually missed out only on a single fumble recovery, when comparing their average to the national number. But, that brings the total number of turnovers that the Miners "should have" recovered to 10, compared to the 6 they have.

I know that on paper Oklahoma, Ole Miss, and Wisconsin are supposed to be better than we are, but sometimes its better to be lucky than good. Who knows, maybe the extra turnovers wouldn't have made any difference in the outcomes of the games. Then again, maybe they would have.

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