There are some issues that don’t need to be mentioned over and over and for Jeff Quinn, his defense’s inability to create turnovers falls in that category.
The University at Buffalo has forced just one turnover through four games this season, which ranks 119th nationally, and places the Bulls in a class with the Oklahoma Sooners, who have also come up with only one.
Now factor in that the Bulls are tied for 47th in the country in turnovers lost and UB is indeed a team that giveth, but seldom taketh away.
“Those quick, split second moments in the game when those opportunities present themselves, we have to be opportunistic and we have to be positive about it,” Quinn said. “There’s no question this was not the direction I expected our turnover/takeaways to be at this point but what can you do? You have to change at this point.”
An offense’s best friend is a defense that provides a short field and more scoring opportunities.
Turnovers gained commonly equates to success. Fresno State (3-2) leads the country in takeaways with 16, while top-ranked Alabama ranks second with 15. Oklahoma State was the national leader in the category last season, generating 44 and finished 12-1, while Hawaii was 10-4 in 2010 after leading the country in takeaways with 38.
“It’s attitude, No. 1, and they have it and we work on it every day,” Quinn said. “It’s being communicated and we spend a lot of time in drills. We do it in demo squad periods, 11 on 11, nine on seven you see it out there. It’s like anything: You have to keep pressing the positives of what we have to continue being mindful of those moments.”
The members of the Bulls’ defense, which yielded several big plays in the first two games against Georgia and Morgan State, have improved at fulfilling their assignments, and came up with key three-and-outs in last week’s game at Connecticut.
When it comes to turnovers, though, they must play with a more aggressive approach.
“It’s definitely a mind-set, it’s definitely something you can work on and prepare for but it’s an attitude,” UB linebacker Lee Skinner said. “You want everyone to get it and you want everyone to embrace it.”
Said Quinn: “When we have one guy wrapping the ball carrier up, the other guy has to go get the ball. When the ball is in the air, we have to compete for it in the air and we have to be in the right position. We have guys systematically and scheme wise in that position, we just have to execute.”
The Bulls had the right template in 2008 under the direction of defensive coordinator Jimmy Williams, who constantly harped on the virtues of the scoop and score. Buffalo piled up 33 turnovers, finished in a tie for seventh in the country en route to the Mid-American Conference championship.
The lack of turnovers isn’t a new problem. The Bulls have finished 89th, 36th and 114th in the country in turnovers gained and are a combined 10-36 over the last three seasons. UB is 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference going into Saturday’s game at Ohio University (5-0, 1-0). A rewind to the ball-hawking ways of four years ago would likely go a long way to a return to the win column.
“We have a great group of leaders and they’re putting out the game plan,” Skinner said. “We know what we need to do.”