“The Crimson Curtain?” – A (limited) historical look at Minden’s Defense – part 1 of 2

Someone once said that “the best offense is a good defense.”  I naturally thought the origin of this saying was from some crusty football guru.  After checking the Google machine, I discovered there is no original author of this exact sentiment as it applies to much more than football specifically.  In whichever way one chooses to view it, the phrase rings true.  In football, a team will typically win if they keep the other team out of the endzone.  Over the past century-plus, Minden has had its share of good offenses in the form of good defenses.  

In my previous few articles, I lamented over the lack of reported statistics, especially in the very early days of Minden football.  However, there are far greater canyons of missing or unreported defensive statistics.  Very seldom were a team’s defensive performance highlighted when it came to the yardage allowed.  Sometimes if Minden was on the receiving end of a woodshed whoopin’, the opponent’s gaudy offensive numbers were reported.  Don’t worry, I’m not going there for this installment.  I found that the most consistently reported defensive stat was interceptions.  Most times those reports merely acted as a preamble for the reporter’s account of the newly gained Tide offensive possession.  I also learned not all interceptions were credited to a specific player but as a team game accomplishment.  In those instances, it was difficult to ascertain to whom the interception belonged for record keeping.

One defensive metric on which I can fully elaborate regarding defense is scoring; rather, keeping rivals from scoring that is.  The 1916 team pitched five consecutive shutouts before surrendering thirty-two points in a loss versus the freshman team of Northwestern State University in the final contest of the season.  During the 1920s, the Minden Greenbacks’ (or “Greenies” for short) defense held their opponents scoreless in forty-three out of seventy-seven matches.  Furthermore, the stingiest Tide/Greenies defense was the 1921 state runner-up team.  That group o’ Greenies reeled off consecutive shutouts in their first nine games.  Their season came down to the state championship game versus Warren Easton in New Orleans.  The final score: 0-7 – in favor of the opponent.  This was the only game the 1921 team was held scoreless.  Conversely, this was the only game Minden allowed a score.  They had outscored their opponents 284-7 that year.  

In the early days, the football season schedule was somewhat haphazard and not formulaic like today’s slate of games.  There were several seasons where the Tide played anywhere from four to seven games.  In the late 1920s it became more common to have at least eight or nine regular season games.  During the 1950s and 1960s, the schedule swelled to eleven regular season games.  Then around 1970, ten regular season games became the standard.  This is important when deciphering the best Tide defenses of all time.  It makes a big difference in total points allowed when comparing a team that only played five games as opposed to twelve games.  When viewed on a per game basis, only six of the best fifteen Tide defenses are “modern-ish”.  The “-ish” here is due to the top 15 in points allowed per game features no team after 1980.  The other nine teams in the top fifteen are pre-1950.  As to the more modern teams that played at least the standard ten-game season, the 1976 squad allowed only 5.2 points per game but failed to make the playoffs with their six wins – the most wins the Tide had collected since 1967.  That year, the defense scored three touchdowns and snagged fifteen interceptions.  

Speaking of team interceptions, the 1985 defense is the king of the skies with twenty-one interceptions on the season.  Close behind with twenty interceptions is the 1963 state championship team.  However, when it comes to total defensive takeaways, the 1963 team ripped off forty-three for the top position with the 1985 team not far behind in fourth place with thirty-two.  These teams also boast of having top ten offenses as well.  

The 1976 team is the exception when it comes to the correlation between strong defensive teams and playoff appearances.  Seven of the top ten teams in defensive takeaways for the Tide all made the playoffs.  In team interceptions that margin rises to nine out of the top ten made the playoffs.  By the way, three of those teams won state championships.  What was I saying about a good offense being a good defense? 

I’ve spent the better part of the last two articles preparing you for the copious amounts of missing defensive stats and how difficult it was compiling individual defensive records. Next week, I’ll attempt to cover the best individual defensive players in Minden history.  

Historical footnote:  Minden’s school mascot was the Greenbacks (a.k.a “Greenies”) from its inception until 1934.

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