The turnaround in turnover margin keyed the Owls’ return to bowl eligibility and has them in the hunt for their second Conference USA title in three seasons.
The Owls are currently tied for third nationally in turnover margin by forcing 13 more turnovers than they’ve committed.
“We didn’t honestly know we were that high in the turnover margin, we do what we do in practice,” cornerback Meiko Dotson said.
The Owls have improved from 2018’s minus 7 turnover margin, and the 5-7 record it helped produce.
First year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has instilled a ball-hawking mentality in his defense.
“The coaches have put more emphasis on turnovers at practice and it has rolled over into the games,” said linebacker Rashad Smith.
FAU leads all of Conference USA and is tied for third in the nation with 21 turnovers created on the season. Dotson’s five interceptions are tops among a defensive unit that’s intercepted 14 passes this season, only three behind national-leader Oregon’s 17. Dotson’s five are tied for third most interceptions nationally.
The Owls have also recovered seven fumbles, with linebacker Rashad Smith jumping on three of them and fellow linebacker Keke Leroy forcing three.
Four times this season the Owls have reached their defensive goal of forcing three turnovers in a game.
“Early on, before we had a lot of turnovers, they emphasized the way you practice is the way you play,” Dotson said. “Doing it over and over in practice makes you want the ball.”
That the Owls’ defense is doing a better job of forcing turnovers is key, but turnover margin is a two-sided stat.
“Those are spark plays, they get a lot of emotion on the sideline,” quarterback Chris Robison said. “Our emotion goes up and their’s goes down, which can turn a whole game around.”
FAU’s offense is holding up his end of the deal by committing fewer than one turnover per game. The only two fumbles FAU lost all season came against Ball St., a game the Owls ultimately won. Last season FAU lost eight fumbles in 12 games.
Starting quarterback Chris Robison has thrown only four of the Owls’ six interceptions. Lst season 12 of the 15 interceptions thrown by FAU came off Robison’s arm. He’s yet to throw more than one interception in a game, and two of Robison’s four picks came at times where the Owls needed to take chances with the ball to win games.
With at least three games remaining, FAU is only five forced turnovers way from beating the turnovers gained by the 2017 C-USA title team. The offense has currently committed five fewer turnovers than the 13 they committed in 2013.