The Washington Times - October 23, 2009, 07:26PM

Sometimes, you just find yourself trying to research things that are much more labor-intensive than you’d really like.

Like, say, the longest droughts between defensive touchdowns among major-college programs.

SEE RELATED:


Seems simple enough, right? ID the last time each team scored on a fumble or interception return, and go from there.

The impetus for this project, of course, is that Maryland has gone 40 games since its last defensive score. It was done in a week ago on an interception brought back for a touchdown. It has allowed 11 defensive scores since it last got in the end zone when the other team’s offense was on the field.

So there’s 120 teams, and let’s say the goal is to figure out who hasn’t scored a defensive touchdown in 2008 or 2009. Fortunately, the NCAA makes it easy to pare off teams with interceptions returned for scores.

(Yes, that doesn’t include fumble returns. But why not lop off a bunch of teams before going with a more limited look/)

Already this season, 56 teams have brought back interceptions for touchdowns. So nearly half the list melts away. Down to 64.

OK, on to last year’s interception data. This slices off another 44, and there’s only 20 teams remaining.

(This means Maryland is one of 20 teams without an interception returned for a score in the last two seasons. Which is a fascinating number in and of itself.)

That means it is time to hit the game notes in search of the last time any of the remaining schools scored a defensive touchdown.

In the course of research, it turned out Arkansas, Marshall, New Mexico State, Penn State and Southern Mississippi had fumble returns for scores this year. So that leaves 15 teams.

Buffalo, Colorado State, Indiana, Louisville and Utah State returned or recovered fumbles for scores in 2008. It’s down to 10.

And then there’s Western Kentucky, which returned an interception for a touchdown in 2008 but wasn’t included in the NCAA’s stats. And that leaves nine schools without a defensive touchdown in the last two seasons.

It also leaves two charts to compile – the chronological chart, and the total games chart.

Only one school has a longer drought, and that’s Syracuse. In the college football in the latter half of the 21st century’s first decade, being in the same company as the Orange is not a good thing.

CHRONOLOGICAL (longest drought by time)

SchoolLast D TD
OpponentFumble/INT ret.  
SyracuseSept. 23, 2006  
Miami (Ohio)
Interception
MarylandOct. 14, 2006
at Virginia
Interception
WisconsinOct. 14, 2006
MinnesotaFumble
Kent State
Nov. 17, 2006
Eastern Michigan 
Fumble
MemphisSept. 27, 2007
at Arkansas St.
Fumble
Central Michigan
Oct. 13, 2007
ArmyInterception
Eastern Michigan
Oct. 13, 2007
at Ohio
Fumble
UNLVOct. 27, 2007
at Wyoming
Interception
Miami (Ohio)
Nov. 14, 2007 
OhioFumble

That’s the quantitative analysis. But considering (a) Maryland’s played in three bowl games since its last defensive score and Syracuse hasn’t made once postseason appearance and (b) The Big Ten’s schedule tends to end a week earlier than the ACC’s, it seemed appropriate to come up with a games streak, too.

As it turned out, those suspicions proved extremely well-founded:

CONSECUTIVE GAMES, NO DEFENSIVE TDs

SchoolLast D TD
Games   
MarylandOct. 14, 2006
40
WisconsinOct. 14, 2006
39
SyracuseSept. 23, 2006  
38
Kent State
Nov. 17, 2006
32
MemphisSept. 27, 2007
29
Central Michigan
Oct. 13, 2007
27
Eastern Michigan 
Oct. 13, 2007
23
UNLVOct. 27, 2007
22
Miami (Ohio)
Nov. 14, 2007
20

There’s no telling how long Maryland has been atop this chart, and after investing more time than I care to admit just piecing this together, I’m not about to find out.

But if it seems like the Terps haven’t scored a defensive touchdown in forever, that’s because – at least relative to the rest of college football – they haven’t.

Patrick Stevens