By Greg DeVries
The old adage “defense wins championships” has held true throughout time. In the BCS top 15, 11 teams have a top 15-ranked defense. Last year, Alabama won the national title on the back of its defense, and it might win another this year. The Bears’ defense currently ranks dead last in points against, total defense, first down defense and third down defense.
The way that teams eat up yards and pile on points is demoralizing for the Baylor defense. These are not encouraging facts, but the season is still salvageable. If the problem with the defense is a personnel issue, then the offense needs to be on the field for more drives than the defense. The best way to offset this is the onside kick.
Down in Little Rock, Ark., there lives a man named Kevin Kelly. He is a football coach at Pulaski Academy, and his philosophy is simple: never give the other team the ball when you don’t have to. This means that on every kickoff, the Pulaski Academy Bruins try onside kicks. The team goes for it every fourth down, even in fourth-and-long situations. The strange thing is that Kelly’s system works. The Bruins have won multiple state titles under Kelly and have been nationally ranked in the past. Baylor’s record would probably be better if it implemented Kelly’s system. It certainly wouldn’t be any worse.
Let’s take the West Virginia game as an example. Baylor kicked off 10 times in that game. All the special teams would have to do is recover the ball twice to equal the output of the defense’s two stops.
According to Kelly, the likelihood of a team scoring from their own 40-yard line is only 15 percent greater than the likelihood that it scores from its own 10-yard line. In college, this disparity is even smaller because of the new touchback rule that brings the ball out to a team’s 25-yard line.
So not only is Baylor getting a chance to recover the ball, but the chance that opponents will score is only a little bit greater than it was when Baylor kicked it deep. The new rules give the receiving team the option of calling for a fair catch. This new rule all but nullifies the onside kick towards the sidelines. Solution: Dribble the ball up the middle.
The idea is that a kicker dribbles the ball straight ahead at a slow speed. The fastest players then outrun the ball and hit the first wave of opposing players going after the ball. As soon as the ball reaches the 10-yard minimum, the kicker dives on it and the offense takes the field.
Baylor has the speed to execute this play and the lack of results to give them reason to do it.