Texas Football: Why Turnovers Are Key to the Defensive Turnaround

Zach Shelton@@zachisagingerFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2013

Texas Football: Why Turnovers Are Key to the Defensive Turnaround

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    The Texas Longhorns need more turnovers in 2013. At least on defense, where forcing more of them will be a key factor in the team's defensive turnaround.

    Darrell Royal put it best when he said, "Luck doesn't go around looking for a stumblebum." In the case of forcing turnovers, that is pretty dead on.

    Forcing turnovers is as much about making a spectacular play as it is being in the right place at the right time. It may seem like luck, but it is really the result of each individual defender doing what they were supposed to do.

    That is why Texas went from 26 forced turnovers in 2011 in 21 in 2012, mostly because they recovered eight fewer fumbles. The linebackers' struggles, as B/R's Lisa Horne put it, threw the rest of the defense out of whack, and the team's proficiency at forcing turnovers suffered.

    Now the linebackers, and the rest of the defense, have taken their licks and it is time to get back to forcing mistakes at a higher rate. Not only will it be imperative in the shootouts and on the days when the offense is struggling, but it will also give a boost to Major Applewhite's hurry-up attack. 

Turnover Margin Matters in the Big 12

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    Winning the turnover battle is as necessary of a statistic to winning a football game as any. In the case of the Big 12, history tells us that having the highest turnover margin in the conference almost always puts you in the race to win the conference.

    As Burnt Orange Nation points out, since the Big 12's inception in 1996, only two conference champions have had a negative turnover margin. At the other end of the spectrum, teams that have led the conference in this category have finished at least tied for first 11 times, including the last six in a row.

    The 'Horns should be proud of their plus-five turnover margin after finishing dead even in 2011, but they were nowhere close to Kansas State's whopping plus-19 difference. The offense did its job in committing just 16 turnovers, but the defense was a bottom-four finisher in forcing 21 of their own.

    The offense, spearheaded by the conference's most experienced quarterback, should shave off a few mistakes. That means if the defense can do its part, the Longhorns have a great chance at having the best margin and winning the conference just like they did in 2009.

Turnovers Have Been Lopsided in Losses

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    In its nine losses over the past two seasons, Texas has turned the ball over an abysmal 28 times. And it has not helped that Manny Diaz's defense has only stolen it back nine times in those games.

    The offense's struggles aside, the defense is not forcing mistakes when Texas needs momentum. That side of the ball has only forced multiple turnovers once in a Texas loss since Diaz arrived, getting burned for more than 30 points six times in the process.

    The defense has to help out the offense when it struggles, and forcing more turnovers is the best way to do it. Carrington Byndom's interception return for a touchdown in the final A&M matchup is a great example of this.

    Those plays go a long way in giving the entire team a boost, and Texas will need them to win the more closely contested conference matchups.

Forcing More Turnovers Is Going to Put Added Pressure on the Opposing Defense

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    The opposing defense is always at a disadvantage when a turnover forces it back on the field early. That will be especially true for teams facing the Longhorns and their accelerated offensive pace.

    The Texas offense is going to be fast this season, aiming to snap the ball every 15 seconds. That pace will wear out the opposing defense and prevent it from substituting fresh bodies.

    So when the opposing defenders come off the field for whatever reason, the last thing they want is a quick turnover that sends them right back into the frenzy. Especially if they have to chase Daje Johnson or Mike Davis all over the field.

    If the defense can become a turnover-producing machine, the offense is going to enjoy picking apart some tired defenders as well as some green second- and third-stringers. Either way, the offense's job gets easier as a direct result of the defensive effort.

You Cannot Shut Down Big 12 Offenses Every Week

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    The final reason that turnovers will be key to the Longhorns' defensive turnaround is the offensive caliber of the Big 12. Forcing a turnover in a shootout can mean the difference in the game.

    What was the difference in Texas' 56-50 victory over Baylor last season? The answer is the two Baylor turnovers, one being a Josh Turner interception and the other being a fumble recovery by Mykkele Thompson.

    Without those turnovers, that track meet could have easily gone the other way. The same thing could have taken place against any of the other five Big 12 teams that averaged more than 35 points per game last season, not including the Longhorns themselves.

    The point is that these offenses are too explosive for a defense to make it through the entire season unscathed. Even Kansas State, the conference's best scoring defense, got 52 points hung on it by Baylor.

    But turnovers mean extra possessions, and sometimes that extra possession can make or break the entire season.