KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee has spent months practicing to force turnovers, and it finally seems to be yielding positive results.
The Vols have forced 6 turnovers in the past two games. The defense has been particularly good at ripping the ball loose as 5 of those turnovers have been fumbles.
The rash of forced turnovers coming to fruition is because of groundwork laid in spring practice, according to redshirt sophomore linebacker Quart’e Sapp.
“Our tendencies and habits we’ve formed since the spring,” Sapp said Monday. “We’ve stressed about the turnover ratio and being able to turn over the ball. Just follow the ball and picking at the ball. Being more aggressive at the football.”
Tennessee forced only 8 turnovers in the first eight games. The uptick comes from a re-emphasis at practice.
Tennessee scored 14 of its 24 points against Southern Miss on Saturday off forced turnovers. Both touchdowns came in the third quarter, which helped stretch out the lead for the Vols. Safety Emmanuel Moseley had an interception, and defensive end Darrell Taylor forced a fumble on a sack.
“It’s been positive,” defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. “We always emphasize it, but we’ve really taken it to the next step with regards to emphasizing it. I think we had 8 in the last three games, including a touchdown. This week, I think the key was the offense capitalizing on both of them and scoring touchdowns instead of field goals, and I think [offensive coordinator] Larry [Scott] would say the same thing.”
Tennessee coach Butch Jones said the little things are beginning to add up. The turnovers are helping the entire team play better.
“I think it’s just constantly stressing it every single day in practice, in our video study,” Jones said. “I think what you make important is going to be important. We always talk about takeaways and hunting the football. They’ve done a very good job and it’s starting with their habits in practice. When you start to create turnovers it also generates a level of confidence as well.”
Tennessee travels to Missouri this weekend and the game might be ripe for turnovers. The Tigers have a -9 turnover margin this season.
If the Tennessee defense can keep forcing turnovers at a high level, then the Vols could be in store for their first SEC win of the season.