Column: The (college football) times are changing


Jackrabbit freshman defensive back Joshua Manchigiah (3) runs with the ball during the first half of the Salukis’ 45-39 loss to South Dakota State on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, at Saluki Stadium. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

By Sean Carley

I’m really starting to feel for college secondaries. There’s not much they can do anymore.

On Saturday, SIU football gave up 466 yards passing to South Dakota State sophomore quarterback Taryn Christion, a Jackrabbits single-game record.

While this number is extreme and should be considered a poor performance by the Saluki secondary, is it really unexpected anymore?


Maybe it’s not SIU’s fault. Maybe it’s college football’s fault.

College defenses have taken the brunt of a lot of rule changes in recent years — most dealing with player safety — that have forced players to adjust the way they play.

Defensive players, defensive backs in particular, are now being practically forced to play conservatively to avoid penalties.

MORE: South Dakota State’s offense too much for SIU football

Cornerbacks are more often playing off of wide receivers, instead of the physical coverage fans could have seen just eight to 10 years ago.

These style changes have made it easier for offenses to get quick completions to receivers in space.

Entire offensive schemes such as the spread option have been created in the last 10 years to exploit this.


When teams do play press coverage, it seems like they’re penalized for pass interference or defensive holding more often than not.

Penalties have gotten so rampant on college defenses that I can’t even tell you what pass interference is defined as anymore.

Every game I’ve watched this season, at SIU or elsewhere, I find myself wondering what defensive backs are doing wrong to draw these penalties.

Meanwhile, offenses have been taking advantage.

NCAA football saw the highest scoring season ever last year, with teams scoring 29.65 points per game on average.

Just this week alone, 39 teams across Division I football scored 40 points or more.

One of the most exciting games of the day nationally, Navy’s upset of No. 6 Houston, saw 86 combined points in 60 minutes of play.

SIU’s defense has given up 32.8 points per game this season. As terrible as that sounds, it’s only the fourth-worst in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The Salukis’ average of 276.4 passing yards allowed is also just fourth-worst.

Don’t take this as an excuse for SIU not performing defensively. The Dawgs still need to improve not just in the secondary, but all around the defense.

This is more of an open letter to fans to maybe begin to change their expectations of what a modern defense is even capable of.

Football has become an offensive-dominated sport, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon.

Sports editor Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SCarleyDE.

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