Defense struggles to produce turnovers
Junior outside linebacker Kevin Snyder cannot quite figure out why the Rutgers football team’s production in forcing turnovers has dropped off from years past.
Junior cornerback Gareef Glashen also had a hard time when asked about the secondary’s lack of interceptions.
“I’m not sure, I have no explanation for that,” Glashen said. “I can’t speak on it.”
In their first seven games last season, the Scarlet Knights forced 21 turnovers.
This season, they recorded just 10.
“You can’t create turnovers, you can’t get the ball on the ground and get fumbles if you’re not around the ball,” Snyder said. “Everything happens around the ball, so that’s when you’ll have a better chance to get turnovers.”
The lack of turnovers is prevalent at all levels of the Knights defense.
Rutgers posted 13 interceptions in its first seven games last season, starting the campaign, 7-0. In two of those games — South Florida and Connecticut — the Knights picked off opposing quarterbacks a combined seven times.
But the secondary has just four this season, including one — an interception by former Knight Ian Thomas in the opener Aug. 29 against Fresno State — by a cornerback.
In Saturday’s game against Houston, the Knights cornerbacks had opportunities in the end zone to intercept quarterback John O’Korn on fade routes but failed to produce an interception.
“We’ve had some good coverage at times and their player made the play,” said head coach Kyle Flood on Monday. “They won the oneonone. We didn’t win that oneonone.”
Rutgers’ front seven also created no turnovers against the Cougars.
“You’re looking for that spark, and we missed it,” Snyder said. “We never quite got it, and attribute that to them.”
Facing spread offenses could explain the lack of turnovers. Spreads provide less opportunity to get multiple defenders on the ball, Flood said.
“That’s generally where you see the ball get dislodged and get knocked out,” he said. “For whatever reason, the teams we’re playing, everything is so spread out. A lot of the tackles are oneonone. That’s just the nature of the offenses we’re playing.”
But another reason could lie in who made those same plays last season.
Of the 21 forced in the Knights’ first seven games in 2012, 17 came from players no longer with the program. Former linebacker Khaseem Greene even forced three fumbles himself against Syracuse.
The instinct this season has been keeping the ball away from opposing offenses, and when it has, Rutgers has failed to capitalize.
The Knights generated three turnovers Oct. 10 against Louisville, but turned those three plays into just three points.
Snyder knows how important turnovers are to Rutgers and understands the skill might have left when the defense’s veterans graduated or were drafted.
“That might be part of it,” Snyder said. “I think it just came down to guys having the nose for the football. I think that could have been it and we’re not quite there yet.”
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