Winning The Turnover Battle Remains A Priority For Penn State’s Defense
Quite often in football whoever wins the turnover battle ends up winning the game. Based off that, it’s no question why Penn State sits at 8-2 at this point in the season.
Penn State has always been notorious for having stingy defenses, and under James Franklin, it’s continued that streak of dominance. One major quality of a great defense is that it forces the other team to turn the ball over often, stopping a drive dead in its tracks and giving the offense quality field position.
In Brent Pry’s first year as defensive coordinator, he’s made winning the turnover battle a priority and it’s paid dividends for the Nittany Lions.
It’s rare when Penn State’s defense doesn’t force a turnover in a game — it’s happened just twice this year, both times against top-five teams. Penn State ranks tied for No. 28 in the nation in turnover margin thanks to a defense that has 19 turnovers to its credit this season — an average of nearly two per game. This ranks tied for No. 27 in the nation and third in the Big Ten.
Penn State is ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 12 nationally with 10 fumble recoveries which are primarily caused by the Nittany Lions’ fierce pass rush that helped force five fumbles against the Hoosiers over the weekend.
Early in the year, Brandon Bell said the defense had to step up in the turnover game and meet its quota of three per game. The defense averages two per game, but has stepped up the average since the early season — averaging more than three in its last three contests.
Perhaps the most important thing about all these turnovers is their timing late in games. The defense has managed to create a number of huge turnovers, such as the Jordan Smith interception late against Minnesota to keep the game tied or the Brandon Smith pick to open the second half in a tied game Purdue and start the run of 38 unanswered points for the Nittany Lions.
The defense has performed well in crucial situations, and it’s an aspect of its game that can’t be overlooked. Penn State’s kept itself in the game, changed momentum, and iced games out with clutch turnovers. Without some of these huge plays, you might not see Penn State ascend the national rankings like it has.
To finish the season strong, Penn State is going to need its defense to come up big with turnovers consistently. With the performances the Nittany Lions’ defense has given the fans in recent weeks, it would be hard to bet against this team winning the turnover battle with Rutgers and Michigan State ahead.