October 31, 2012

FSU defense dominating, but lacking turnovers

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You can rattle off just about any defensive statics you want, and the Florida State Seminoles likely rank in the top 10 nationally.

Total defense? FSU is second in the nation, as it allows just 227.11 yards per game. Rushing defense? The Seminoles rank third nationally, giving up just 72.89 yards on the ground. Pass defense? FSU is sixth, as teams throw for an average of just 154.2 yards a game.

The only statistical anomaly for the Seminoles defense is turnovers forced. FSU has just 11 takeaways this season (five fumble recoveries and six interceptions), which puts it tied for 86th in the nation in turnovers forced.

"I think we need more turnovers," said safety Lamarcus Joyner when asked what the defense can improve upon during the bye week.

The turnover drought is a continuation of last season for defensive coordinator Mark Stoops' unit. Despite finishing the season with No. 4 total defense in the country (275 yards per game allowed), FSU forced just 23 turnovers (ranked 49th in the nation). The 23 takeaways was the Seminoles' lowest total since it forced just 19 turnovers in 2006.

Linebacker Christian Jones, who has two fumble recoveries this season-including one for a touchdown against USF-said the lack takeaways isn't because the defense isn't trying to get the ball.

"We have a lot of guys running to the ball," said Jones. "Every time we try to strip the ball out, but it's just not happening this year. We talk about it a lot; it's not something we forget. We always try to stress turnovers, hopefully we get some our way in the future."

In addition to defenders swarming ball carriers, FSU also thinks that with such a dynamic pass rush the turnovers are bound to come. Led by Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner, who have eight sacks each, FSU has recorded 21 sacks this season to go along with 26 quarterback hurries.

"They get a lot of pressure and (quarterbacks) hurry and make bad decisions, and those takeaways will come soon if we keep on doing what we're doing," said safety Terrence Brooks.

Jones also said that while forcing more turnovers is something the defense is striving for, that it looks at three-and-out possessions by opposing offenses as turnovers as well.

Against Duke on Saturday FSU held the Blue Devils to a season-low 232 yards of total offense in a 48-7 win. The defense forced seven three-and-out possessions that resulted in a punt. The season-high was nine three-and-outs against Wake Forest. FSU has gotten opposing offenses off the field in three straight plays a total of 51 times this season.

"It pretty much is (a turnover)," Jones said. "It helps us, especially when we go three-and-out we can help our team get refocused. It's always good to get those three-and-outs."

Still, Joyner said he thinks its time for the defense to start getting the ball back themselves to take the pressure off the offense as FSU gears up for the end of the season and tries to hold onto its spot in the ACC Championship Game.

"Three-and-outs are great and we're holding opponents and stopping key threats, but we have to get turnovers and help our offense when they play greater defenses," Joyner said. "I'm not sure how (Virginia Tech's) defense is, but when you play teams that's going to challenge our offense on defense, that's when we need to come in with the turnovers and be good in all three phases."

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