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Football's Ongoing Turnover Problem Pt. 1

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For some reason I got to thinking about turnovers this afternoon--sure does feel like we've been on the short end more often than not, doesn't it?--and so I went back to 2004 and compiled some numbers, not really sure where I was going with any of this.  There are two sides to the turnover margin coin, of course, but I'll get to the offense later this week.  Below I've broken down a few things: interceptions  caught by the defense, interception percentage (INT/OppPassAtt), opponent pass attempts per INT, total number of fumble recoveries, total number of forced fumbles, fumble recovery percentage.  How State's defense ranks among the rest of the ACC is in parenthesis for each category.  I've also broken it down by era--the Amato press-man years, and the TOB/Archer bend-zone years.

 

INTs INT% ATT/INT FumRec ForcedFum FumRec% LG AVG INT% LG AVG FumRec%
NCSU D 04-06 29 (10) 3.1 (10) 31.8 (10) 22 (10) 44 (12) 50.0 (3) 3.5 46.2
NCSU D 07-09 36 (7) 3.0 (8) 32.9 (8) 22 (12) 53 (12) 41.5 (10) 3.6 49.4
NCSU D 04-09 65 (11) 3.1 (10) 32.4 (10) 44 (12) 97 (12) 45.4 (10) 3.5 47.9

 

There's very little difference in the rates at which the different pass D schemes generated INTs.  Archer's defenses have generated a higher total, but that's simply because opponents threw the ball more often in those three years.  On a rate basis, the Amato defenses were (barely) better at making INTs happen.  Not that I mean to suggest anything about the man vs. zone turnover question here: these numbers are inconclusive, especially so since this is such a limited sample.  The whims of chance cloud everything, anyway.

The main thing is, good lord, we have not been good at creating turnovers for a long time now.  It baffles me to this day how bad the 04--such a phenomenal group on a down-to-down basis--was in this area.  O'Brien's defenses have been particularly unlucky in the fumble recovery percentage department, which only compounds the low number of fumbles they've forced.

If this team wants to surprise in 2010, it's going to have to make a lot more mistakes happen.  (I suppose that goes without saying considering the personnel on hand.)  Which is not out of the question when it comes to this sort of thing, and we saw it two years ago when the '08 team forced 12 more turnovers over the '07 team.  It's certainly no coincidence that that was O'Brien's most successful team.  But that year was an outlier in terms of both INT% and fumble recovery percentage.  So recent history doesn't suggest we're in for another marked gain like that, but the nice thing about the whims of an oblong ball is...you never know.