Johns Hopkins has opened the season with back-to-back wins, marking a third consecutive year in which the team is 2-0. But early success has masked a troubling trend.
Thus far, the Blue Jays' offense has committed five turnovers, while the defense has forced zero takeaways. The team’s turnover ratio of minus-5 is one of the worst in Division III, and it has caught the attention of coach Jim Margraff.
“It’s a problem,” he said Wednesday. “Right now, we’re last in the conference in turnover margin. So it’s nice being 2-0, but we’ve pointed out to our guys that if we want to be successful, that’s got to change. I’m not overly concerned about the defense. Those [takeaways] will come. The offense has turned the ball over or come close to turning the ball over too many times in the first two games. The first game of the season, I look at that as a preseason-type game because we need to get rid of all those jitters and knock the rust off. Our defense works hard trying to create turnovers. We haven’t yet, but we will. We’ve got to hold the ball offensively a little better.”
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After losing a fumble in a season-opening 38-14 thrashing of Randolph-Macon on Sept. 7, the offense lost two fumbles and was intercepted twice in a 24-7 victory over Susquehanna on Saturday.
Asked whether there was a re-emphasis in practice this week about the need to protect the ball, Margraff said: “There’s always an emphasis. I think some of that has to do with us not going live so much in the preseason anymore. So the first few games, the ball tends to be on the ground a little bit more. But that’s got to stop now. There’s been a huge emphasis all year long, but it’s definitely been a major focus this last week and a half.”
Margraff would like to see the defense come away with turnovers, but he also understands the line between forcing takeaways and failing to make the fundamental plays that stop opponents’ drives. And ultimately, Margraff said, there is one statistic that is more important than turnovers.
“The bottom line is, I think we’re first in the league in points allowed. That’s the main thing -- to keep folks out of the end zone,” he said. “We’re also playing a lot fewer snaps than other people right now. Our defense has done a good job of getting off the field in some three-and-out situations. So there are a lot of things that go into stats, but it’s not something that we’re worried about right now. We might be having a whole different conversation if things don’t change in a couple weeks, but I feel really good about the way our defense is playing.”