The Numbers Game: Dartmouth football's 10.1 scoring defense

by Vikram Bodas | 4/10/16 6:51pm

Each week The Numbers Game will break-down one Dartmouth sport’s statistic.

This week’s #: 10.1, Dartmouth football’s scoring defense

It’s an old adage in football that defense wins championships. In the 2015-2016 season for the Dartmouth football team, which captured the Big Green’s first Ivy League title since 1996, this tired expression once again rang true. Although the team featured a robust offense that was able to dominate opposing defenses through the air and on the ground, this iteration of Big Green football really hung its hat on the defensive side of the ball. Led by a talented defensive-line that featured A.J. Zuttah ’16, the Big Green were also fortunate to possess a ball-hawking secondary starring David Caldwell ’16 and Will McNamara ’16 that was able to take advantage of the pressure that the front four applied to opposing quarterbacks on a week in, week out basis. The Big Green led the Ivy League in total defense by allowing a stingy 277.7 yards per game. More importantly, the Big Green led the entire Ivy League in scoring defense — giving up 10.1 points per game on the year.

The scoring defense is simply calculated by dividing the total number of points a team gave up on the year by the number of games played. For the 2015-2016 season, the Big Green allowed 101 points in their 10 Ivy contests to give them an extraordinary 10.1 points per game overall scoring defense. This impressive number led the Ivy League by almost a field goal. Harvard University was second in the Ivy League with a defense that gave up 13.0 points per game, while Columbia University finished the season in third by giving up 19.8 points per game. The other five Ivy League defenses all gave up on average over 20 points per contest, illustrating the Big Green’s utter dominance on this side of the ball last season.

The Big Green’s defense, from a points perspective, was also impressive in terms of teams outside of the Ancient Eight. Out of the 125 teams that competed in the Football Championship Subdivision in the 2015 season, the Dartmouth football team boasted the best scoring defense in the entire conference. Take a look at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State University, who won their fifth consecutive FCS title last season, for comparison. They gave up 15.3 points per game on the season.

If we look at the National Football League, the 1985 Chicago Bears are widely considered one of the most dominant defenses in league history. Led by innovative defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, the ’85 Bears’ defense developed the revolutionary 46 defense that thrived behind a marquee aggressiveness at all three levels of their scheme. Boasting future hall of famers Mike Singletary and Richard Dent as well as stars Wilber Marshall and Otis Wilson, the ’85 Bears led the league in almost every defensive statistical category including total yards allowed, total points allowed and turnovers. Additionally, those Bears allowed 12.4 points per game on the season. Even the much heralded ’85 Bears defense gave up more points per game than the Big Green did last season. The argument is not that this Dartmouth defense was more dominant than their ’85 Bears’ counterpart, but rather the comparison helps to further exemplify what a special season the Big Green had from a defensive standpoint last season.

Head coach Buddy Teevens ’79, who is entering his 16th season as the head coach of the Dartmouth football program, will need his defense to play a big role next year as well if the Big Green hopes to repeat as Ivy League champions. That said, replicating the historical dominance of this year’s defense will certainly be a major challenge for the entire coaching staff and roster.