Turning Over a New Leaf

Cameron Jensen

Eight games into the 2006 season, no team is winning turnover battle more convincingly than BYU. The Cougars are +12 in turnover margin for an average of +1.50 turnovers per game—good enough for #1 in the country in that statistical category. BYU's offense is already among the most efficient in the nation, so the last thing opponents want to do is give the Cougars more chances to score.

"Coaches always emphasize turnovers," said linebacker Cameron Jensen. "You have to keep the ball on offense and create turnovers on defense. It's hard to be a good team if you're losing the turnover battle. Good teams always seem to win the turnover battles and we've been fortunate enough this year to do just that."

It is hardly rocket science. Teams strive to create as many scoring opportunities as possible while also trying to hold opponents' scoring chances to a minimum. When things are going really well it is the defense that is actually scoring points. The Cougars accomplish this feat twice this season on interceptions returned for touchdowns by Dustin Gabriel and Justin Robinson.

"I credit the defense and the system we're running," said Jensen regarding the sudden boost in Cougar takeaways this season to the tune of 2.5 takeaways per game. "We're making plays. It's such a great defense, and being where we're supposed to be consistently in turn leads to us being more consistent in making plays."

But not all the credit can be heaped upon any one unit for the weekly victories in turnover margin. Offensive players are quick to credit the progress of the defense, while the defense in turn credits the offense's refusal to relinquish the ball to the opposition.

"It's all the defense," said running back Curtis Brown. "We're doing about the same we did last year on offense. It's the defense that has really stepped up big this year making it easier on us. They're doing a great job this year in all areas."

The players on the team all use last year's conference champions TCU as a ready reference to what winning the turnover battle can do for a team. The Horned Frogs did not put up particularly gaudy numbers in total offense or total defense, but their turnover margin – which led the nation throughout the year – led them to a conference championship.

"Oh, you just look at what TCU did last year," said safety Dustin Gabriel. "They were winning the turnover battle in every game they played. That's what we were striving for at the beginning of the year. Coaches have stressed it to us, and so far we're doing pretty well."

"We go into every game knowing that ball security is very important," said quarterback John Beck. "It's important to make plays consistently, but it's just as important to keep the ball and not turn it over."

With each unit is doing their job in securing and taking the ball away with each game, they have also learned to build of the other unit's success.

"The offense is never putting us in bad positions, which has been awesome," said Jensen. "It seems like we're never having to defend against a short field unless it's us that allows the offense to have long drives."

The same goes on the other side of the ball where the Cougar defense has provided their share of opportunities to the offense.

"I love it when the defense gives us opportunities to score pretty easily," said Beck. "Just this past Saturday against Air Force you saw that. They got turnovers to put us in a good position. That's how you win football games."

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