Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 14, 2007
BOCA RATON — During pre-season scrimmages, FAU's defense learned the value of the turnover.
The defense got three points for a turnover and one point every time the offense failed to convert a third down. FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger got the idea from former Alabama coach "Bear" Bryant, who used the scoring system when Schnellenberger was an assistant to Bryant in the early 1960s.
Now, creating turnovers is translating into real points and real wins.
"That's a statistic that usually determines who wins or loses a game," Schnellenberger said.
This season, the Owls (3-3) have forced 10 fumbles and have 12 interceptions for 22 takeaways. They've turned the ball over seven times and before Saturday, were tied with Cincinnati for the national lead in turnover margin at plus-2.50 per game.
"(The defense) loves Gatorade and the way they figure they can get over to that cooler quicker is to take he ball away," FAU defensive coordinator Kirk Hoza said. "It's more inspiring for the defense than a three-and-out and much more devastating for the offense."
FAU's ability to defend the spread offense is a big reason for the turnover margin. Against the spread, a trend this season, FAU has been able to step in front of quick passes.
"We always strive for those turnovers," said FAU freshman cornerback Tavious Polo, who led the nation with seven interceptions and was named a mid-season All-America by Phil Steele's magazine. "That raises the momentum not only for the defense, but for the whole team because the offense is excited they get to go back out there."
The spread features multiple receivers, but FAU senior linebacker Cergile Sincere said he can adjust to any offense.
"We get a chance to make interceptions and I can cover receivers, but I'm also down with the smash mouth and can put on my hard hat and knock heads," Sincere said.
However, if a team throwing the ball more often means a better chance at a turnover, the Owls welcome the challenge.
"It forces you to defend the whole field and it is harder to get a three-and-out, but the negative of that offense is that if you don't take care of the ball when you are throwing the ball around, turnovers result," Hoza said. "There's no magic there. It results from guys being in close proximity to the ball."