In the days leading up to Saturday’s 34-15 victory over Western Kentucky a wooden baseball bat with the words “TURNOVER BAT” etched into the blue barrel suddenly appeared.
“I don’t know where that came from,” senior linebacker Andrew Soroh said. “That surprised me.”
Soroh wasn’t the only surprised FAU defender.
“I thought we were Owls, so I don’t know where that bat came from,” defensive end Ernest Bagner said. “I’ve never seen an Owl with a bat but, shoot, I like swinging on people. That’s fine with me.”
FAU already has a Touchdown Chain, a gaudy necklace presented on the sideline to anyone who scores a touchdown, but at this point anything that might produce more turnovers should be welcomed by the Owls. In 10 games this season the Owls have only created 11 turnovers, tied for No. 103 nationally.
More than half of those turnovers came in three games – three against FIU, and two apiece against against Bethune-Cookman and Old Dominion. FAU won all three of those games.
When a player recovers a fumble or intercepts a pass, he gets possession of the bat until the next turnover. The player who creates a game’s final turnover keeps possession of the bat into the next game, which is why safety Ocie Rose, who intercepted a late FIU pass the previous week, carried the bat onto the field prior to kickoff against WKU.
What the players do with the bat when it’s in their possession appears to be up to them.
“We carry it, but if I get it I’m just going to walk away like a pimp cane, you feel me?” Bagner said. “My pimp name is Midnight Sugar because I’m dark and sweet, you feel me? So if I get the bat I’m definitely going to walk with it like a cane.”
FAU’s only recovered three fumbles this season, which doesn’t sound so low when considering they’ve only forced six. By comparison, four teams nationally have recovered at least twice as many fumbles as FAU has forced. Only six teams nationally have recovered fewer fumbles than FAU.
The reasons behind the lack of fumbles forced by FAU this season mystifies some Owls.
“Maybe the other teams [are] just doing more curls, more push-ups,” defensive end Ernest Bagner said. “They’re holding onto the ball tighter. We’re definitely going after it. They’re just not letting it go.”
Looking to correct the dearth of forced fumbles, Lane Kiffin’s Owls placed extra emphasis over the past couple weeks on going after the ball and ripping it away from opposing ball carriers.
“These past two weeks we’ve been trying to strip at the ball, we’ve been trying to take the ball out of the air when it’s in the air,” Soroh said.
Linebacker Rashad Smith has one of the Owls’ three fumble recoveries and leads FAU with three interceptions. Cornerback Shelton Lewis’ pick against Western Kentucky drew him within one interception of Smith.
Because of that pick, the lone turnover produced by FAU on Saturday, Lewis will carry the Turnover Bat when FAU takes the field on Thursday against North Texas.
“I don’t even know where it came from,” Lewis said. “I like it, though.”